Every single day, I work with people in HR and finance. I talk to CEOs and their benefits advisers. And every single day, I find new ways to appreciate the responsibilities, challenges, and art behind creating a place where employees are happy and appreciated. For all the HR, finance, and leadership teams out there wondering how to crack the code to keeping employees happy: this is for you.

The Big 401(k) Problem – Employee Participation

When I talk to executives at small businesses about their company’s retirement benefits, do you know what their number one concern is? 401(k) participation – employees are not contributing to their retirement plans. All that effort that the finance and HR teams (and often the CEOs) put into getting this awesome benefit set up, and a large percentage of eligible participants do not use the benefit.

I can feel the frustration everyday.

I can’t profess to having the answer (I wish I did!). But after many, many conversations with people administering cutting edge participation techniques, I’ve been able to identify some common themes I’ve seen among the best of the best.

  1. ****Eliminate the paperwork; make registering as easy as a click of a button. You’d think money would be the largest barrier to using the 401(k)… Nope! According to a survey ForUsAll conducted, 59% of employees cited hassle and time as the major barrier to utilizing the 401(k). Empower employees to sign up in under five minutes and you’ll be genuinely surprised by how it increases employee participation.
  2. **Communicate to employees with something they’ll actually check: text messages. **90% of text messages are viewed in the first 3 minutes. This is especially powerful for millennials and employees who lack internet access. Even better, mass text messaging is incredibly easy to set up if you’ve got the right 401(k) plan – ask your provider if they offer text based onboarding!
  3. Treat a benefit like a benefit… have some fun with it! Help employees celebrate the 401(k) by serving 401 cupcakes OR a 401 cake! This excitement will generate the momentum necessary to push employees to save.

Let’s face it – planning for retirement is hard. But if you’ve got a retirement plan set up for your company, you’ve already taken the right first step. The next step is knowing how to get your employees to engage with the benefit and start putting away savings.