Award-winning Retirement Plan Communications Strategy Puts the Focus on Employees

Since 2017, Pitt has introduced new options to its retirement savings plan and made it simpler for employees to make investment choices.

In partnership with TIAA, the University’s Retirement Savings Plan record keeper, the Office of Human Resources introduced a streamlined investment menu, as well as options like a self-directed brokerage account and a 457(b) plan that offers employees the flexibility to save more with fewer penalties for early withdrawals.

The simplification also provided an opportunity to encourage employees to be active in making choices about their retirement saving strategy.

“We didn’t change much besides reducing the amount of funds and offering new options,” said John Kozar, assistant vice chancellor of benefits. “What we did was encourage more of a personal approach, that you have to be in charge here — that this is your financial wellness — so that kicked into the theme of writing your own financial story.”

A communications campaign, “Write Your Own Financial Story: Prepare for the Future You Imagine,” was developed in tandem with the enhancements to the Retirement Savings Plan. The campaign included new website content that positioned the plan’s updates as an opportunity for faculty and staff to take an active role in managing their plans. Educational programming was also part of the strategy, in the form of webinars, seminars and on-campus workshops including consultations with TIAA financial advisors.

The award-winning campaign earned the University honors from industry organizations that track companies’ efforts to provide investment plans to employees.

Pitt delegation with the Eddy AwardWhat stood out about the strategy to Pensions & Investments, which awarded Pitt its 2019 Eddy Award in the “Plan Transitions” category, was OHR’s inclusion of employee stories to highlight financial lessons. The diverse faculty and staff members profiled come from the Baby Boomer, Gen X and Millennial generations and these differences impact the strategies most effective at helping them achieve their retirement savings goals.

The campaign aimed to communicate that no matter where an employee is in their career and what their retirement savings have been to this point, TIAA works with them to identify the most appropriate strategies for successful saving and achieving goals.

“So many organizations talk about their retirement savings and defined contributions plans, their benefits and how good they are, but few put the focus on the individuals themselves,” said Cheryl Johnson, vice chancellor for human resources. “We are dedicated to the financial literacy and wellness of every member of the University community. With TIAA as a vital partner throughout this transition, we were able to captivate employees with a fresh brand, an interactive digital experience, an enhanced plan and more resources and tools than ever before.”

“We were hoping to reach people and say, ‘These people are achieving their financial goals and you can do it as well,’” said Nichole Dwyer, director of communications for OHR. “It was an opportunity to not only look at what you were investing in, but also to increase those contributions.”

The communications strategy and education initiative were also awarded the 2019 Plan Sponsor of the Year award in the “Public Defined Contribution” category by PLANSPONSOR, a magazine and website that provides news and research for retirement benefits decision makers. Finalists are judged on a variety of factors including richness of program offerings, commitment to the program, leadership and innovation.

The University was also recognized by the Plan Sponsor Council of America (PSCA), earning a third place Signature Award in the Large Company category. The PSCA Signature Awards established the gold standard of excellence in retirement plan communications. Pitt was recognized for its distinguishable efforts and commitment to educating participants about key financial decisions and how the Retirement Savings Plan can help them address their personalized needs and goals.