When it comes time for retirement, having a solid plan in place is key. As HR professionals, we have a great responsibility to ensure that our employees are aware of their retirement options and have familiarized themselves with their retirement plan. Whether professionals are in their first or 20th year, empowering your employees to know their options and understand their financial plans will help them succeed.
So what can your HR department do to educate employees?
1) Do your homework.
As the representative of your company you are uniquely situated to facilitate communication between the retirement provider and your employees. Whether you are picking a new provider or working with an existing relationship, knowing all that is being offered will help you articulate this important subject when sharing with your employees.
If possible, be familiar with the following:
- How robust your provider’s products might be compared to competitors.
- Which rates/fees are charged for the normal cost of transactions/balancing; the typical contract with a plan provider will have this covered internally, but if it isn’t, be up front with employees to avoid potential future dissatisfaction.
- Availability of retirement “check-ups”, account rebalancing, and financial planning support from the provider ongoing. Most of the major providers will offer these as part of the fee structure and can be a great ongoing resource for employees.
In addition, make sure that you are well-versed on corporate policies, such as:
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- Matching (including profit-based matching or a annual bonus payout).
- Timeframe for vesting (including how you compare to others in the same industry or local economy).
- Pension structure and performance history of the current pension plan (if your company provides one).
2) Host a lunch and learn to discuss retirement plans at your organization.
Most organizations offer some type of retirement savings and employees should be familiar with the basic terms of their 401(k), 403(b), or pension, yet many have never sat down to really go through the details or speak with a professional. Lunch and learns are a convenient opportunity to connect your employees with a retirement professional.
To help prepare your employees for this type of seminar, provide them with thought starters and potential questions to ask the advisor:
- What services do you offer as part of my investment?
- How often will I be updated about my investments?
- How does Social Security play into planning for my future? Should I even consider that when setting up my plan?
- Do you set up your plans based on income goals or based on portfolio performance?
- Are my investments secured/insured?
- How often are you reviewing your plans against market performance?
- How much flexibility do I have to move money between funds?
3) Make sure retirement plan information is easily accessible online and clear to understand; offer bi-annual updates to answer questions.
After opening the door on retirement, you will want to make sure your employees have access anytime. Your corporate website or portal should have a space dedicated to retirement planning where your current plan and corporate policies for matching/vesting are available. Transparent policy breakdowns of concepts should be front and center, as should links to the plan providers corporate retirement portal and contact information for immediate support.
In addition, be sure to offer ongoing updates and support to demonstrate your own investment in your employees’ well-being. This could be done face-to-face or through webinars, but should be targeted for twice a year. While participation in most retirement savings plans are not bound by a yearly renewal phase, having a refresher a few months before your normal annual benefits renewal with a second, more focused meeting during the renewal period itself will keep this on your employees’ minds while looking at other long-term planning decisions.
4) Offer 1-on-1 sessions with a retirement professional.
Even with all the information you may offer, there will be some questions that employees would like to discuss in private with a professional. Help encourage this as an option with your employees to give them the freedom to ask the questions they need answered about their own personal goals. If beneficial, set aside a day when a professional is available onsite for an extended period of time and employees can meet with her or him directly.
A Shared Future
As an HR leader, you know that your employees are essential to the future success of your company. By taking the time to be prepared and help our employees plan, we can ensure that we become essential to their future success, as well.