An employer’s matching contribution is the most influential factor motivating plan members to begin saving for retirement, according to a new report by Cerulli Associates.

The report, which polled U.S. employees saving into a 401(k), found 46 per cent of respondents said they starting saving for retirement because their organization offered a matching contribution, while 44 per cent said they started because they could afford to start doing so and 29 per cent said they were automatically enrolled in their employer’s retirement savings plan.

In addition, 66 per cent of respondents said they’d be very likely to increase contributions if their employer increased the matching formula, while 32 per cent said they’d be very likely to increase their contributions if they received a personalized statement with financial projections showing inadequate retirement savings.

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In addition to matching employer contributions and auto-enrolment features, plan members can benefit from tailored retirement planning advice and holistic financial wellness programs, said Anastasia Krymkowski, associate director at Cerulli, in a press release. “Plan sponsors may encourage greater participation through targeted communications. For instance, employers might encourage an employee contributing just two per cent to maximize the employer match and illustrate the impact of that additional contribution over time.”

Although educational materials and targeted communications serve as a good starting point, the report suggested that plan-related guidance is no substitute for personalized advice. It found 40 per cent of respondents said they view one-on-one sessions with a professional advisor as very helpful, while videos, articles and employer communications were typically only seen as somewhat helpful.

The report also highlighted the importance of framing retirement savings in the context of a participant’s broader financial picture. “Helping employees work through their current financial obligations, such as paying off student loans or establishing emergency savings, could help put them in a better position, financially and emotionally, to save for retirement,” said Krymkowski.

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