PNC Financial Group Inc. opted for posters of sunflowers. McLaren Health Care Corp. provided wildflower seeds. And MGM Resorts International sent seeded postcards that could be torn up and planted to produce wildflowers.
While the tactics differed, the sponsors' goals were similar: Encouraging employees to grow their retirement savings.
Those garden-themed campaigns were among 46 education programs honored in the 22nd annual Eddy Awards sponsored by Pensions & Investments. Other winning efforts, highlighted March 7 at P&I's Defined Contribution East Conference in Miami, included one that featured retirement lectures by a so-called 9-year-old professor and another that used retro board games to help a software company's employees learn more about retirement savings.
To promote electronic delivery of retirement information, Las Vegas-based MGM sent participants postcards saying that paper statements were as passe as Lava Lamps or Pet Rocks. MGM's seeded paper postcards strategy earned a first-place finish in the special projects category for corporate plans with more than 5,000 employees.
“There's a lot of paper in 401(k) plans,” said Julie Donohue, benefits director, who confessed that her husband has a Lava Lamp. “This was a new approach to a standard message of growing green. Our goal is to change the way we do business.”
MGM stood out from the crowd in another aspect: its other entry tied with its postcards campaign for first place in special projects. Prudential Retirement was the service provider for both.
MGM presented a “Ready, Set ... Grow” theme, as it demonstrated how contribution increases over time can produce greater retirement savings.
“Small adjustments can make a difference in how your plant will grow — water, sunlight, climate,” said a brochure sent to participants that features drawings of plants in increasing stages of growth. “Just like small changes to your lifestyle can allow you to save more and grow your 401(k) account.”
At annual enrollment events at several MGM casinos, participants received a planter kit with soil and seeds. “Go plant your seeds,” said MGM, which staged a contest for participants to submit photos of their plants.
Ms. Donohue said the plants and photo contest helped reinforce the savings growth message. “You care for your account just like you care for your plant,” she said.
McLaren Health Care Corp., Flint, Mich., told participants to “Seed it. Feed It. Water It. Grow It.” in brochures that featured pictures of seeds, plant food, a watering can and a flower-filled pot.
“We wanted something very eye-catching and simple,” said Donna Aho, corporate manager of retirement services for McLaren, a health-care system that includes hospitals and physicians' practices.
McLaren sent seeds or gardening gloves to participants in its campaign to get them to raise contributions to take full advantage of the company match. “You're growing a wonderful asset for your future,” one brochure said. “But we want to remind you not to just set it and forget it.”
The education campaign targeted two groups — people who hadn't enrolled in the McLaren 403(b) plan and those whose contributions remained below the company match.
Ms. Aho credits service provider MassMutual Retirement Services for the gardening-theme strategy that enabled McLaren to place first in the special projects category for not-for-profit plans with 1,000 to 5,000 employees.
PNC Financial Services Group Inc., Pittsburgh, featured a field of sunflowers in an education campaign that told participants “your future is looking brighter,” especially if they contribute enough to meet the employer match.
The campaign was aimed at employees who hadn't contributed to the 401(k) plan or hadn't contributed enough to qualify for the full corporate match.
“A lot of the problem is due to inertia,” said Sharon Hazy, vice president and manager of the PNC retirement plan. “If we could get their attention, we could get them to join.”
PNC sent direct mail and e-mail appeals to employees, mailed a personalized retirement statement to participants, held employee meetings and conducted webinars.
Its education campaign also cited typical excuses for missing the full match — such as “I'll start later” and “I just haven't gotten around to it” — with responses to each excuse.
“We tried to identify the barriers based on what we heard from employees, what we read and from talking to consultants,” Ms. Hazy said. Among its responses to the excuses, PNC cited auto enrollment for convenience, the availability to take a loan or hardship withdrawal for participants concerned about emergencies, and the “magic of compounding” for the “I'll-start-later” excuse.
For its efforts, the PNC campaign boosted participation in the 401(k) plan and led to more employees qualifying for the full match. PNC and its service provider, Buck Consultants LLC, earned a first place in the auto re-enrollment category for plans with more than 5,000 employees.