Determined to make its annual retirement plan meeting with employees a little more fun, Griffith Foods International Inc. last year decided to introduce a game.
The goal was to engage employees and get them to optimize their 401(k) plan, said Sue Corbett-Florian, the company's now retired payroll and retirement benefits manager who ran the three-month employee competition.
The Monopoly-like "Retirement City Game" was introduced in September as Raymond James Financial, the investment adviser to the company's $230 million 401(k) plan, gave employees an update on the plan and overall market conditions, Ms. Corbett-Florian said.
The grand prize winner of the game received an Amazon Echo. Second- and third-place winners took home Bluetooth headphones and speakers. "They were motivated right off the bat knowing what the end prize was," Ms. Corbett-Florian said.
Also, since there were leaderboard winners announced each month, it created a sense of competition that drew and kept employees engaged, she said. As a result, participation in the game was high with more than a third of the plan's 954 participants completing the game over the three-month competition.
Much like Monopoly, players would "run down the street" of the interactive online board game and come to financial decision points, such as deciding whether to buy a new car, a used car or perhaps even a bicycle, Ms. Corbett-Florian said. They would get points or dollars based on the answers they gave.
The idea, she said, was to get people to start thinking about actions they need to take to ensure a more financially secure future. Perhaps they'd realize they "really didn't need the $75,000 car" and that "maybe the $25,000 or $30,00 car would do," she said.
Because the game was provided by Wells Fargo & Co., the company's record keeper, there were no significant cost hurdles for the Alsip, Ill.-based manufacturer of food ingredients. It was provided as part of the record-keeping fee that Wells Fargo charges the company on a per-participant basis. Apart from that, the only additional costs revolved around the communications that went out to employees for three months, according to Ms. Corbett-Florian. (Wells Fargo's record-keeping and trust business was acquired by Principal Financial Group in July.)
"All we had to do was create a competition out of something that was already available," she said.
For very little extra cost, the game helped the company achieve its goal to get employees to better leverage the retirement savings plan. The participation rate in the plan increased to 88.25% from 86.5%, while the average savings rate climbed 1.5 percentage points to 8.32% during the three-month duration of the game. The percentage of participants on track to replace at least 80% of their income also inched higher to 61% from 59% before the game started.
The greatest metric of success, however, came direct from the mouths of employees. "It's fun when you walk down the hallway and someone makes a comment about 'I bought the wrong car' or 'I made the wrong decision and now I'm living in a box,' " Ms. Corbett-Florian said. "You get a chuckle out of it knowing that people found it fun."