Participant Needs: Thinking Outside of the 40 Hour Work Week (Part 1 of 2)

As a plan sponsor, how well do you have a grasp on your participants’ needs?  From retirement readiness presentations, to save more campaigns, and just the day-to-day contact, many plan sponsors feel fairly connected. However, that connection is limited to what happens in the 40 hours per week employees are at work. 

In recent years, plan sponsors have made a push to offer financial wellness programs to assist with their participants’ financial challenges away from the workplace. Examples of these resources can include online tools and mobile apps that assist with calculating healthcare expenses in retirement, comprehensive financial planning, student loan debt repayment, and much more. While it is not necessarily your fiduciary responsibility to do so, service providers, specifically the recordkeeper, now can implement a variety of different methods to help you engage your particpants “outside of the workplace.”  In part one of this blog series, we will share three areas where a plan sponsor can do a little extra to add more interest to their financial wellness program.  In part two, we will provide examples of what a high performing program looks like and give recommendations on best practices.  Remember that while none of these programs or “extras” are required under ERISA, once provided, they must be monitored. 

Below are three possibilities for adding participant engagement outside of the workplace:

  • Branding
    Considering many of the wellness programs from recordkeepers are non-custom, plan sponsors can engage employees by branding the program in-house. This gives your app or web portal the same look and feel as as other corporate communications. A key component of launching a successful program is to connect to the participants early and often.  Participants are often most receptive to in-house messaging vs. messaging from a third party.  Develop a name for the program and small actionable steps for employees to complete.
  • Digital Rather Than In-Person
    There is no "one size fits all" delivery solution. Most often, financial wellness programs are offered in a digital platform provided by the recordkeeper.  This allows flexibility with the use of mobile and desktop platforms.  While this might allow for flexibility some employees may appreciate in-person delivery.  Take the pulse of your organization to determine the best method.  A hybrid approach could yield the best results.
  • Measure Early Usage Rate
    Noted in a recent Plan Advisor article, of the employers who are offering financial wellness, only 19% of the employees are utilizing the program.  Gathering this detail early in the life of your program can be key for plan sponsors to begin to determine the type of communication needed to engage the population more effectively.  Understand that most programs are broad and your organization may need a more custom solution to gain traction.

Although these steps seem common, starting with a strong foundation can lead to desirable results. In part two, we will provide an example of a high performing program and how these steps have been deployed.


Multnomah Group is a registered investment adviser, registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Any information contained herein or on Multnomah Group’s website is provided for educational purposes only and does not intend to make an offer or solicitation for the sale or purchase of any specific securities, investments, or investment strategies.   Investments involve risk and, unless otherwise stated, are not guaranteed.  Multnomah Group does not provide legal or tax advice.  Any views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of Multnomah Group or Multnomah Group’s clients.

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