group of smiling employees on phones The trouble with employee education is thatit's like being in a classroom. And everyone is bored totears. What if instead we take a look at what people do duringspare office moments? They're on their phones. (Photo:Shutterstock)

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Why not approach employee education meetings in a new way? Byreframing. Here's what I mean.

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Looking back, if you were like most school kids, you didn't likeeating peas. Countless lunch trays at school were returned with thepeas remaining in their assigned slot. Then you read a story inclass. It was about a boy – the usual kind of troublemaker – whodecided to eat his peas, not with a fork, but with aknife.  Soon he was the star of the schoollunchroom. The next day at school, you and your friendswere eating peas – using disposable plastic butter knives.Very few trays were returned that day with peas remaining onthem.

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This is reframing at its best. This is how 401(k) plan sponsors should think about as theyseek to re-tune their stale education programs (see "A New Way to Prepare Employees for Retirement Playsto 401k Plan Sponsors' Strengths," FiduciaryNews.com, September24, 2019).

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Of course, they don't have to risk knife wounds to get people toeat their financial education. They have a better option. They canthink inside the box.

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We all hear about thinking outside the box. Such aphilosophy implies an explosion of innovative creativity thatallows the idea creator to bound above the competition.

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This is the opposite of that. This isn't a hyperspace jump. Itis a subatomic quantum leap. It may seem small, but it packs apowerful punch.

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The trouble with employee education is that is designed like aschool room. Everyone sits in a neatly apportioned array of desks.They're all looking at the teacher in the front of the class.They're all expected to either take notes or otherwise absorb thelesson in front of them.

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And they're all bored to tears.

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Now, imagine if, instead of going retro with these classes, wetake a look at what people do during spare office moments. They'reon their phones. Maybe playing Candy Crush (is that still athing?). Maybe answering a group text. Maybe catching up andresponding to the latest Twitter thread.

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They're not acting in solitude. (OK, maybe they are physicallyisolated, but they're in a virtual crowd.)

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They're engaged. They're thinking. They're moving whatever ballthey're playing with slowly forward. Baby steps. Quantum leaps.

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Rather than think outside the box and look how otherenvironments might tackle the intricacies of financial literacy,maybe it's time to think inside the box. Observe the behavioralpatterns that inspire the employees. It doesn't have to bework-related (but it might be). Consider ways to lasso thatenthusiasm to bring it into the retirement saving discussion.

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What if, instead of bringing everyone into the same room, youbring them into the same time. That means, at the appointed hour,everyone logs into the same app – the same game. This game requiressocial interaction. They may be physically isolated, but they're invirtual crowd.

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But this game has a purpose. A subtle purpose. It's a sly wispof a thought, not a blunt hammer of procedure.

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Still, as indirect as it might be, it gets the idea across. Andthat's what counts.

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Remember playing Monopoly? What do you think it taught you? Howto manage real estate? How to run a business? How to trade in acompetitive environment?Sure, those are all outside the boxpossibilities.

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Chances are, however, you never suspected the inside-the-boxlesson you really learned: You learned to love money. Andhow to add and subtract.

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For the bulk of those playing the game as youngsters, both ofthese lessons had much broader applicability than any of thoseoutside-the-box concepts.

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Why not approach employee education meetings the same way?

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Christopher Carosa

Chris Carosa has been writing a weekly article and monthly column for BenefitsPRO online and BenefitsPRO Magazine since 2011 and is a nationally recognized award-winning writer, researcher and speaker. He’s written seven books, including From Cradle to Retire: The Child IRA; Hey! What’s My Number? – How to Increase the Odds You Will Retire in Comfort; A Pizza The Action: Everything I Ever Learned About Business I Learned By Working in a Pizza Stand at the Erie County Fair; and the widely acclaimed 401(k) Fiduciary Solutions. Carosa is also Chief Contributing Editor of the authoritative trade journal FiduciaryNews.com and publisher of the Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel, a weekly community newspaper he founded in 1989. Currently serving as President of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and with more than 1,000 articles published in various publications, he appears regularly in the national media. A “parallel” entrepreneur, he actively runs a handful of businesses, including a small boutique investment adviser, providing hands-on experience for his writing. A trained astrophysicist, he also holds an MBA and has been designated a Certified Trust and Financial Advisor. Share your thoughts and story ideas with him through Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/christophercarosa/)and Twitter (https://twitter.com/ChrisCarosa).