How organization size impacts participant engagement

The Lincoln Retirement Power® Participant Engagement Study identifies striking differences among participants based on organization size. Learn where the need for communication and education is greatest — and how you can use the findings to help drive better retirement outcomes.

Organization size highlights

Participants across small, midsize and large organizations are demographically similar. They also are alike in their trend toward instinctive decision-making and increased optimism about retirement saving. But they differ by employer size in three measures with important implications: plan engagement level, use of financial professionals and communication preferences.


Participants in small organizations tend to be the least engaged with their plans, based on website use and contribution behavior—two elements of our multifactor Engagement Index, which measures participants’ engagement levels based on various plan-related activities they’ve performed. Small organization participants also have accumulated the least in their accounts, while large organization participants are the most engaged. With this and several other measures, midsize results fall between those for small and large, suggesting a continuum of attitudes based on organization size. To close the engagement gap, consider automatic plan features and communications that promote the use of web-based tools and educational resources to complement in-person guidance from financial professionals.


Participants at small organizations are most likely to consult financial advisors, whereas those at large organizations are most likely to turn to their employers (who, in turn, may work with plan providers to provide educational programs) More participants at midsize organizations have set certain savings goals and researched how to manage debt. Consider supporting advice-seekers with financial wellness education to address competing goals. If possible, offer participants access to professionals whose guidance optimizes the plan benefit, and remind them this service is included as part of their employer-sponsored retirement plan.


Regardless of organization size, the largest percentage of participants cites in-person meetings as the top motivator of positive action. For information gathering, however, participants at small organizations prefer in-person meetings, while those at midsize and large ones favor printed and email communications. These differences in preference appear to align with the differences in how their organizations currently interact with them, suggesting that plan sponsors may play an important role in shaping participant attitudes.

Read our white paper for more in-depth information on how organization size impacts participants and how you can use this information to help increase engagement.

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This research is based on a national survey of 2,508 full-time workers ages 22 to 68 who have been contributing to their employer’s defined contribution retirement plan for at least one year. The sample is weighted to represent the national population of retirement plan participants, using the same methodology implemented in the first wave of the study, conducted in 2012.

The current report analyzes the survey results by organization size, defined as small (fewer than 100 employees), midsize (100 to 999 employees) and large (1,000 or more employees).