While organizations want to help their employees prepare to retire comfortably and on time, they know too many of those employees are saving too little for their retirement. Worse, some are not engaged with the plan at all. One way for plan sponsors to change employee behavior is to regularly evaluate their employee education provider’s service team to determine if the tools and resources they provide are doing enough to improve retirement outcomes. The following characteristics should be considered when assessing the quality of your retirement plan’s employee education provider:

Service Team

Dedicated: Is the plan employee educator always changing or randomly assigned from a large pool of instructors? Have they had time to truly develop an understanding of your organization and its employees? A committed educator who works in collaboration with a plan sponsor can better customize content and choose delivery methods that effectively engage each distinct workforce. An education provider that is committed to delivering consistent support to the plan over time is key, as individuals are much more likely to engage an educator they know, are familiar with, and can build trust with.

Experienced: How long has the plan educator worked in the retirement industry? How focused on the retirement business is the employee education provider? An employee education provider that serves retirement plans exclusively will more likely provide knowledgeable educators able to provide training on the intricacies of the retirement industry and the plan. The educator should be accomplished and qualified to provide appropriate support and useful resources that drive positive outcomes for all employees.

Noncommissioned: Is your employee educator encouraged to sell products during training sessions? Do educational materials or websites include advertisements or links to add-ons? Organizations should work with providers whose service teams are not incentivized to do anything other than provide employee education. Using education as an opportunity to sell additional services both distracts from the training and decreases the likelihood employees believe the educator is working in their best interest. Further, commissioned educators can focus too much of their attention on highly compensated employees rather than the employees who often need the most support.

Proactive: Does the employee education provider take the initiative to communicate with the plan sponsor? How about employees? It is a bad sign if the onus is on the plan sponsor to initiate contact with the plan education provider, or if employee access to the educator is only offered via a call center or voicemail box. Planning and conducting regular meetings is essential, as is providing employees the opportunity for individual interaction with the plan educator. However, proactively conducting outreach shows a willingness to go the extra mile for plan sponsors who have a multitude of responsibilities, many of them separate from the retirement plan.

Representative: Various groups tend to have less access to financial resources or training, leaving them underprepared for retirement. Certain workforce demographics are often underrepresented in the financial services industry, creating barriers to engagement with employee educators. Working with an employee education provider that understands these challenges, can assist plan sponsors with strategies to reach these groups, and/or employs a diverse group of educators can boost efforts to adequately support all employees, including those from historically underserved backgrounds.

Tools and Resources

Comprehensive: Does the employee education provider offer comprehensive financial training beyond the retirement plan? Is the educator focused on addressing the root causes of an employee’s inability to save for retirement? Employees often face a multitude of challenges related to their personal finances, all of which can make it difficult for them to properly plan for retirement. Knowing this, top educators take a holistic approach to retirement education and cover a wide range of issues to improve overall financial wellness.

Customized: Is the provider’s employee education program offered in a one-size-fits-many format? Does the educator use relevant plan data to personalize materials to fit each employee’s specific situation? Each employer is unique, as is every employee base. It is important to work with an employee educator provider that can create a tailored program designed to achieve specific plan goals while taking the organization’s complexities and voice into consideration. Communications should always be clear, precise, and relatable as employees will be more receptive when they feel seen as an individual.

Flexible: Can the provider deliver education to fit the needs of all employees? Is the employee educator equipped to quickly adapt when the unexpected inevitably occurs? Many employees embrace technology, but others may not have access to a computer or smartphone. Some employees prefer in-person group seminars, others like virtual one-on-one meetings, still others want to learn on their own. Often a workforce includes personnel who can only meet after hours. The ability to deliver education in a wide range of mediums and at a time that works for everyone is essential and, as the last few years have displayed, the ability to adapt is sometimes not just a preference but a necessity.

Measurable: Are thorough reporting and analytics provided by the employee education provider to help measure the success of the plan? Does the plan educator regularly review this data and use insights derived from it when creating future campaigns? The employee education program should be process-centric; meaning plan goals should be established, a strategy for achieving those goals should be set and followed through on, and success should be measured using appropriate metrics. A good educator will use this process to revise and recalibrate the employee education program on a regular basis.

Accessible: Employee communications, educational materials, websites, and videos must be designed for use by your entire workforce, including employees with varying accessibility or non-English language needs. It is important to consider whether the employee education provider offers training with features that are ADA compliant, include closed captioning, and more. 

If, after considering the above, you are left with more questions than answers regarding your plan employee education provider, it might be time to consider whether a different provider would be a better fit. 

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