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Kathleen Long, The Farfield Co.

Being direct with staff to increase participation

Kathleen Long made sure she was at every employee session to explain design changes to the plan.

Kathleen Long says the best way to help participants understand the value of DC investment and design changes is to take the conversation to them directly.

"I will go to every employee encounter," said Ms. Long, vice president for human resources at The Farfield Co., Lititz, Pa., who won an Award of Excellence. "I need to put my name behind it. It builds trust."

Ms. Long said she made sure all 144 contributing employees of Farfield, an electrical/mechanical contractor, understood a series of plan design changes the company made last year. Farfield has construction sites from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh and occasionally does work in West Virginia and Maryland.

"I liked the high touch that was given to all employees," a judge wrote.

Plan design changes include improving auto enrollment and auto escalation, revamping the fund lineup and adding a retirement income product from Prudential Financial.

The initial auto-enrollment contribution was raised to 5% of annual pay from 3% for new and rehired employees, she said. The auto escalation amount was elevated to 2% of annual salary from 1%, and the total cap of auto features was elevated to 15% from 10%.

Farfield's effort was impressive especially for a company that doesn't provide a corporate match, one judge wrote. The participation rate is 85.7%, and the average deferral is 11.1% of pay, Ms. Long said.

"This is a clear example of bold efforts by an individual to improve employee outcomes," another judge wrote. "This was an initiative to help employees recognize the potential to save for their retirement," Ms. Long said. "We want to make employees aware of what they can do."