Financial Wellness in a Digital Age: Actionable Ways to Engage Participants

January 14, 2021

Originally published in 401(k) Specialist Magazine on December 21, 2020

Implementing financial wellness programs with plan sponsors was already hard. Cue COVID-19 and the challenges have multiplied. Advisors are no longer able to gather employees around pizza in a conference room to walk them through a PowerPoint presentation.

In fact, it seems like most financial wellness programs have completely ceased as a result of the pandemic. At a time when many people are struggling financially and stress is at an all-time high, it’s important to ramp up financial wellness programs, not shut them down.

Since employers who offer financial wellness programs are significantly more satisfied with their total benefits program than those who don’t, it’s an important aspect of your business that shouldn’t be ignored. And since we’re doing everything else virtually, why not get creative with financial wellness programs?

Leverage technology

The bad news: presenting for 45 minutes from a PowerPoint deck no longer works. Keeping people engaged isn’t as easy as it used to be. The good news? There are a lot of great platforms you can use (even beyond Zoom!) to engage your audience.

For example, the new video communications app, Mmhmm, creates a more immersive, collaborative, interactive, and even fun experience. Of course, there are plenty of other options too – check out a broader list here.

Once you’ve got your tech platform sorted, you can leverage different tools like breakout rooms and whiteboards. Additionally, any video conferencing software will have a chat feature, but we’ll get more into that in a moment.

Engage your audience

Given that our attention spans are now less than a goldfish’s (really!), making your presentation engaging is a crucial part of any financial wellness program, especially a virtual one. Luckily, there are many different tools you can leverage to engage a remote audience.

To start, it’s important to make sure that participants turn their cameras on during the meeting. Then, in the first few minutes while attendees are logging in, ask them to update their virtual background with something fun, like their favorite vacation spot or a scene from their favorite TV show or movie (hello, Latte Larry’s!).

Once everyone is logged in and you’re ready to start the meeting, I like to begin sessions with an icebreaker. You can start with a round-robin or a game of “Would You Rather?”. “Two Truths and a Lie” is also a fun game to get people to know a little more about you, personally.

Throughout the session, I’d encourage you to use the chat feature. Start small by asking participants a question and have them answer in the chat – even a simple question like “Have you signed up for your company-sponsored 401(k) yet?” will create an opportunity for attendees to engage.

This sets you up to ask participants why they haven’t yet signed up and what it would take to get them to start saving for retirement. Throughout the session, you can spotlight participants to keep employees on their toes and engaged from start to finish.

Turn it into a game

Instead of relying on your PowerPoint deck, turn the information into a series of questions with multiple choice answers. Depending on the number of attendees, you can use the chat feature in your meeting to solicit responses or set up polls to streamline the process.

To incentivize participation, offer prizes like a $5 Starbucks gift card. If you don’t want to conduct your entire presentation this way, you can run pop quizzes throughout—or even just at the end of—the presentation. Another thing you can try is gamification, which has been proven to motivate, engage, and increase memory retention.

Apps like 1Huddle use science-backed, quick-burst mobile games to educate players on specific topics and encourage participation and create a healthy sense of competition among employees. Participants win badges, points, levels, and positions on leaderboards to compete against colleagues. These types of games are great at increasing financial wellness knowledge and engagement, making the learning process more fun and memorable.

With COVID-19 impacting the way we work, interact, and learn for the foreseeable future, it’s important to have engaging, fun ways to educate your clients and their participants on financial wellness.

With all of this technology available at our fingertips, it’s up to advisors to use it correctly and creatively. And the best part? Most of these ideas can also be implemented for in-person events, whenever it is that we can go back to “normal”.