Want More Impactful Participant Communication? Get Personal.

Participant Communication

Want More Impactful Participant Communications? Get Personal. You’ve heard the same refrain a zillion times: You have to personalize your retirement plan participant education and communications if you want them to get the message. But what does it really mean to personalize your participant engagement, and why is it so darn important, anyway?

Let’s start with the latter. Every individual’s journey to retirement is unique, and everyone is at a different place on that journey, depending on their age and where they are in their lives and careers. Taking that into account, it stands to reason that a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all approach to retirement plan education and communication is, obviously, not all that effective or impactful. It may have worked for the Baby Boomers (sort of), but a generic approach isn’t going to cut it anymore.

A big reason for this is that Millennials are drastically changing the communications landscape. The first “digitally native” generation comprises roughly 25% of the population. Soon they will account for half of the workforce, and 85% of millennials rely on smartphones, according to research cited by Broadridge Financial Solutions. What’s more, they are more likely to be concerned about their debts (40%) — student loans and otherwise — than setting aside money for retirement, and retirement plan providers are struggling to communicate with them effectively, gain their trust and assist them in achieving financial security, according to Broadridge.

Needless to say, there is an outsized focus on this young generation because they are slated to become such a significant portion of the workforce and because communicating with them is a tough nut to crack. In other words, millennials are a mighty big, uber-important audience with a limited attention span and legit (as they would say) financial concerns. How can plan sponsors address these challenges and personalize their communications for maximum impact? Here are some ideas:

  1. Hit ‘em from all angles: If you want to reach Millennials, multi-channel, predominantly digital, communication is where it’s at. Your best bet is to reach participants where they are across mobile, social media, email and web interactions, digital mailboxes, and cloud solutions, according to Broadridge. You can mix it up with traditional print communications as well. Even with a multi-pronged approach, the experience still has to be cohesive and consistent across all of the different media that you choose to use. This helps to avoid participant confusion and allows them to easily identify that the communications are related to the retirement plan.
  2. Hit the mark: Individualized, targeted communications are the way to go. If you want participants to care, give ‘em something to care about. Show them their personal progress in reaching their retirement goals, and make customized suggestions to help them reach those goals. Many providers offer tools and options, such as retirement income planning that accounts for participants’ specific circumstances, projected income sources, outside savings, age, anticipated retirement age, etc. Some retirement income planning tools also let participants model different scenarios so they can see how subtle changes will affect their cash flow. Also, giving participants a “nudge” and delivering the message “just in time” can make an impact when it comes to getting them to take action.
  3. Keep it simple: Clear, easy-to-understand communications with engaging, colorful graphics are more likely to be absorbed and acted upon. In addition, make it easy to for participants to access their retirement plan information, and if there’s an action that needs to be taken, make sure they can complete it in a click or two. In short, less complicated equals better.
  4. Focus on engagement: Recent Forrester research cited by Broadridge found that 56% of respondents indicated that retirement savings communications from their employer did nothing to change their behavior. Disheartening, to be sure. That said, retirement plan providers are getting better at collecting participant data and learning their preferences, which means they can help deliver “intelligent” communication programs that are targeted, personalized and timely.

Granted, it seems we still have a lot to learn when it comes to figuring out the “right” way to deliver education and communications program that truly engage participants and motivate them to take action. That said, we know personalization is more effective than generic approaches, and as an industry, we are taking steps every day to improve based on what we know works. If you want to step up your participant communications efforts, and you’re not currently using a personalized approach, look into your options. Increased personalization is the wave of the future in retirement plan education and communications, and the future is now.

Robyn Kurdek

Robyn Kurdek

Freelance writer with nearly 2 decades of financial industry experience, with niche expertise in the defined contribution (DC) industry. I also have defined benefit (DB) plan knowledge. I write all types of content for retirement plan participants, sponsors and advisors, including web copy, newsletters, white papers, fact sheets, blog posts, financial wellness articles, and more. "I speak DC."
Robyn Kurdek
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