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Kerstin Aiello, Synopsys

She challenged the workforce with strategy they couldn’t resist

Synopsys Inc.’s Kerstin Aiello gave engineers an intriguing way to educate themselves on retirement.

Seeking to increase participant engagement with an attention-grabbing strategy, Kerstin Aiello, senior benefits manager for Synopsys Inc., tried an interactive financial/retirement quiz for the San Francisco-based software company.

"Engineers like to test things," Ms. Aiello said. "They like to test themselves."

Older ways of communicating information about the $1.4 billion 401(k) plan weren't effective, she said. Printed booklets "were thrown out or set aside to read later," she said. "I don't know if 'later' ever came."

Even email — the normal source of corporate communications — produced less-than-hoped-for results. "Email doesn't lend itself to bullet points," she said.

Working with Benz Communications, Synopsys settled on an eight-question quiz. Questions included what are the ways to contribute to the 401(k) plan, what are target-date funds, how often should you review your account, and what is the size of the company match. The company match is 40 cents on the dollar, up to $3,000 each year.

The quiz's multiple-choice answers occasionally offered some tongue-in-cheek responses. "What's the best thing about turning 50?" was one question. One answer was "nothing." The correct answer was the ability to add $6,000 to your 401(k) contribution.

The quiz produced welcome results as Synopsys compared participant actions during September-October 2017 when the quiz was offered vs. April-May 2017. Changes to asset allocations rose to 363 during the quiz period vs. 125 in the other period. There were 135 deferral increases during the quiz period vs. 90 deferral increases for the other period.

"The execution and rollout were done extremely well resulting in a high-impact marketing campaign," one judge wrote in support of an Excellence Award.

Ms. Aiello said 25% of 4,200 employees took the quiz last year. The quiz is now a permanent fixture on the company's website, but Ms. Aiello said Synopsys will roll out the quiz again with an education campaign in February.

The average test score was six out of eight correct. Ms. Aiello added that some employees retook the test until they scored 100%.