Driving 401(k) engagement

Their story

Thanks to automatic enrollment, ITW’s 401(k) participation rate hovers around an impressive 95%. Yet the benefits team saw signs that participants were not making the most of their 401(k) accounts in other respects. With ROC's help, the team wanted to drive much more active engagement across the workforce. Specifically, they wanted to see:

  • More frequent reviews of contribution rate, account balances and investment strategies
  • Increased use of financial modeling tools and resources available on the website
  • Greater ownership by employees in preparing for retirement and improved financial literacy

How we helped

  • Messaging and story
  • Concept development
  • Theme and approach
  • Postcard series
  • Writing, editing, graphic design


ROC created a five-postcard series using a simple game theme to engage employees, and their spouses, in solving word puzzles and entering an online contest. Each postcard focused the game on a different topic, ranging from how to use investment tools to understanding the difference between stocks and bonds.

The campaign drew on our TAANSA approach by:

  • Relying on the visual to convey challenging concepts and simplifying complex investment-related messages. Each postcard was graphics-led, rather than text-heavy.
  • Linking to real-life motivations in a technique we call motive matching that focuses on immediate, near-term incentives, rather than far-off goals like retirement.
  • Spacing for greater learning by sending one postcard every other week for 10 weeks.
  • Using “tiny steps” to drive behavior change by identifying small, simple actions that lead to long-term positive change.

The contest itself drove visits to the plan website to enter a key word for the chance to win prizes, which encouraged interest and invited engagement at home.


Notable behavior change comparing pre-campaign data to post-campaign results:

  • Up 91% account balance visits (employees actively checking their individual account balance)
  • Up 70% fund election reviews (employees checking their individual investment elections)
  • Up 30% contribution percentage reviews (employees checking their current contribution percentage)
  • Up 14% immediate use of retirement income projection tool
  • 2,815 game entries
  • 1st place Eddy Award winner, 2019: Pension & Investments created the Eddy Awards more than 25 years ago to identify and reward best practices in providing investment education to defined contribution plan participants. The awards are judged by an independent panel of plan sponsors and consultants.

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