Innovator Award winner: Bernie Knobbe

Used technology to raise worker awareness on retirement

It should be no surprise that Bernie Knobbe took a multimedia approach to improving employees' awareness about retirement, financial and wellness issues.

That's because Mr. Knobbe works at Yahoo! Inc., Sunnyvale, Calif., where he is senior director of global benefits and global mobility.

Judges of the Innovator Awards named Mr. Knobbe an innovator in the new media category for an approach they said was eye-opening, yet logical for the company.

One judge said the customized technology-based education approach used by Mr. Knobbe and his team was “fun, innovative communication that yells "Yahoo!'”

Other judges said they hope Yahoo! can use its technology to change participant behavior as well as increase participants' education.

“We said the best way to communicate with employees is (to communicate) the way they think and learn,” Mr. Knobbe said in accepting the award on Nov. 5 at the Pensions & Investments' West Coast Defined Contribution Conference in San Francisco. Company officials would not allow him to be interviewed for this story.

Mr. Knobbe's team, along with consultant Towers Watson & Co., assembled an education campaign that included a mobile phone text-messaging-based game in which employees communicate with, and challenge, each other about their knowledge of benefits and wellness issues.

They also developed a quick-response code for mobile devices, giving employees greater access to benefits information. And Yahoo! publishes an electronic magazine for employees presenting benefits information interactively.

Mr. Knobbe and his team developed the program because company executives were concerned that many employees weren't aware of all of their benefits or how to use them, according to the Innovator Awards nomination form that was submitted by Towers Watson. The campaign's goal was to “attract, motivate and retain key talent,” according to the form. n