Society management

Virtual 401(k) education expected to continue post-pandemic

Last year, more workers took advantage of the convenience of virtual and on-demand 401(k) training sessions, and it looks like this trend will continue even as workplaces return to in-person work.

According to data from Schwab Retirement Plan Services, attendee audience for virtual live and on-demand sessions grew 33% year-over-year in 2021, while the number of in-person on-site meetings is dropped to near zero due to the pandemic.

Among workers who attended Schwab training sessions in 2021, 42% chose to watch via on-demand sessions instead of attending live virtual meetings, up from 33% in 2020. Cancellations and postponements also decreased significantly, down 69% from 2019, when 76% of training sessions were delivered in person.

Lower cancellations and increased on-demand engagement have led to a big increase in efficiency, with 48% fewer meeting days scheduled by employers, while reaching 43% more attendees in 2021 than in 2019, according to company data.

“The pandemic has accelerated the migration to virtual education, but the trend has been building for several years as workers and employers have discovered the benefits of digital delivery,” says Nathan Voris, chief investment, information and communications officer. consulting services at Schwab Retirement Plan Services. . “Increased attendance and fewer cancellations prove that a combination of live and on-demand virtual sessions is engaging for employees and allows employers to reach their workforce more effectively and efficiently.”

Engagement Opportunities

Meanwhile, even as many employers have begun encouraging workers to return to the office in 2021, they have seen the value of keeping education virtual rather than in-person. Almost 100% of training sessions for Schwab customers took place virtually in 2021, compared to 82% in 2020 and 24% in 2019.

General retirement education and financial wellness sessions have been particularly successful in the virtual format, the firm notes. Wellness-related topics, such as college savings and debt management, attracted more than four times as many attendees per session as topics focused on specific features of corporate pension plans.

“Virtual meetings require less logistics, giving employers more time to thoughtfully plan content for workers,” Voris notes. “A successful virtual session can’t just use the same slides and voiceovers from an in-person presentation. We build virtual content differently, with shorter sessions that promote interactivity through polls, links, and suggestions. Smart, consumable content encourages workers, who are already on their devices, to take action.”

In fact, in post-session surveys, 93% of respondents said they were better prepared to take their next financial step after attending virtual training meetings, and 95% were confident they knew where to find the resources they needed to take this step.

While virtual education appears to be here to stay, Schwab also notes that in-person meetings can still play an important role in educating attendees, especially when covering more complex topics such as design changes to the provider and plan or the introduction of more complex plan features, Voris explains. .

move the needle

Schwab’s findings appear to be supported by a recent EBRI study, which found that employees who use financial wellness webinars can make significant changes to their 401(k) plan. The challenge, however, is persuading employees to use webinars, as age and asset levels appear to be strong factors in predicting which employees will attend.

Yet, when estimating the impact of attending just one of the financial wellness webinars examined in the study, EBRI found that employee contributions increased between $649 and $988. $ depending on age and initial contribution level. The EBRI study also included unexpected findings, including that participation in some webinars seemed to lead to changes that were not always in the positive direction.