With multiple generations in Canada’s diverse labour force, each generation has distinct needs and expectations, with millennials, in particular, creating increasing challenges for plan sponsors.

The age group is comfortable talking about finances, but they aren’t saving for retirement, said Maria-José Perea, vice-president of product innovation in group retirement savings at Desjardins Insurance, during Benefits Canada‘s 2023 Defined Contribution Plan Summit.

“If they are, retirement has a different meaning. . . . We’ve been moving away from talking about retirement with this generation to talking more about savings and setting goals to engage them in their plans.”

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Indeed, millennials have a complex relationship with finances and they’re looking for careers that offer flexibility and work-life balance, she added, noting the oldest millennials are turning 41, so they’re entering a decade where adequate retirement savings become important. As a result, plan sponsors have to “keep it simple, thoughtful and measurable.”

Sharing a plan sponsor case study, she noted Lululemon Athletica Inc., an organization with 93 per cent of employees under age 42, has clear objectives and is consistent in mixing activities to engage members. It also lays out a journey-based communications strategy, which encourages members across their savings journey step by step.

“Data and segmentation is leveraged to lay out the journey and really determine what key messages should be placed at each of the different stages. We know when plan numbers are ready to talk about budgeting, when they’re ready to set their investor profile [and] when they’re ready to set goals. So it’s systematic, but yet personalized because it’s the actions and behaviours from the plan members that drive the right messages at the right time.”

Perea also shared a case study of the Association of Ontario Midwives Benefit Trust, which has a workforce of 61 per cent millennials. During a survey, the OMBT learned employees were interested in financial planning services and, through a pilot project, Desjardins learned some required full financial plans while others required basic roadmaps to address simple financial issues.

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The insurer introduced targeted communications with an introductory video that led to an increase in contributions to the group plan. “So yes, financial planning services can help increase the savings rate, but it’s more than that,” she said. “Plan members are also reporting an improved sense of overall well-being. So it can also integrate as part of your overall health and wellness strategy.”

Perea highlighted the objective of moving plan members from enticeable to engageable — first, presenting the value of participating in a group plan, followed by making it easy for them to take action with the right tools at the right moment.

Next, she shared a case study of Ubisoft, which has a 76 per cent millennial workforce. For the past six years, Desjardins has measured the level of engagement, deployed different initiatives and then measured again to track progress. “This is a young group and we had to play outside of the box in the initiatives to ensure we engage the plan members to take action.”

One of these initiatives was a lunch-and-learn event, hosted onsite and virtually, that covered financial topics like budgeting, credit and debt management, said Perea, noting it also combined beer and cash. “This generation is more at ease in talking about the subjects in an environment where it’s more casual. . . . It makes it easier to talk about these subjects and it opens up the conversation.”

To conclude, she returned to the key message of keeping it simple, thoughtful and measurable. “But most importantly, remember that it really takes a plan and ensure you’re consistently consistent in your execution.”

Read more coverage of the 2023 DC Plan Summit.