How employers’ motivations influence employee education

Employee benefits advisers approach employee education with company-sponsored plans based on the size of the company, the plan specifics and most importantly, the employers’ needs. However, it is crucial to take a step back and understand the employer’s motivations for establishing the plan. Their reasoning will influence your communication with them and their employees moving forward.

To keep the employer satisfied with your service, remind yourself of their motivations in each step of your relationship with the company.

Understand the employer’s perspective

An important first step to take with a new client is to understand the employer’s underlying motivations. Find out what they want to get out of the plan, both personally and for their employees. As an adviser, you must work in the spectrum of employers – from those who want to have high employee participation to minimalist employers who prefer you appeal to key employees. I tend to see two main employer motivations that influence how you approach enrollment meetings, continuing employee education and structures of plans.

The first is an altruistic employer. They want their employees to be very successful with their savings and encourage them to take advantage of the company-sponsored retirement plan. As an adviser, you should strive to educate these employees with enthusiasm and strongly encourage employee participation. If you incorrectly assume this type of employer is concerned by the plan’s cost, you may hesitate to push participation and unfortunately undersell.

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The second type of employer may be more interested in a plan they can personally maximize that meets the legal minimum for their employees. This influences their choices regarding the type of plan and employer matching contributions. Typically, the more employees that participate, the more expensive it is for the employer. These employers may prefer that you set up one-on-one meetings with a few key employees rather than encourage mass participation. If you lack this understanding and push for participation in an enrollment meeting, you may upset the employer who may want you to focus on higher-level executive plans.

Refine your presentation and follow-up processes

As you work on your presentation over the years, you learn what resonates with each audience and what questions to expect. If you work with an employer who is eager for high participation, following up with employees is a key step in the process to ensure they take action. On the other hand, employers who are concerned by the increase in cost for employee participation may only want you to follow up with key employees.

Follow ups do not have to be a time-consuming step as many of these tasks can be automated or delegated. For instance, I use a dictation service to capture the names of employees who indicate they have additional questions during or after the enrollment meeting. I then delegate the task to my team who coordinates a time for us to meet. My team also uses routine calls and emails to follow up with all employees at these companies and encourage further action with their retirement plans.

Go beyond the workplace

Employees are on the clock during enrollment meetings, which means the employer pays them for the length of the meeting. Because it is an expense to the employer and a period of lost productivity, your presentation must be effective and efficient. To mitigate this challenge, I strive to connect with employees beyond the workplace and provide them with educational resources to inform their decisions. To help achieve this, I built a mobile application for employees and the general public. Employees can use this in advance of enrollment meetings and come prepared with questions or can reference the app afterward to solidify their personal financial decisions. While not all employers expect this level of service, think of how you can set yourself apart and enable employees to educate themselves independently. While our presentations and advice must be generic due to liability reasons, an app or outside resources can make your relationship more meaningful.

While benefits advisers are challenged with the complex task of educating the masses, you must find a way to establish an impactful relationship with employers and employees. At the root of this relationship are the employers’ motivations. Once you understand their objectives, you can grow in your role and establish credibility with the intended plan participants. Through meaningful communications, you have the ability to help employees set themselves up for a successful financial future.

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