Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Alan R. Hevner, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Jung Chul Park, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Matthew T. Mullarkey, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Timothy M. Papp, D.B.A.

Committee Member

Charles F. Arant, D.B.A.


Behavioral Economics, Employee Engagement, Inaction Inertia, Information Asymmetry, Savings Crisis, Status Quo Bias


Small businesses, with 50 or fewer employees, rarely offer workplace retirement plans. The lack of effective retirement plan options leads to employee stress, financial strain, and social instabilities. The purpose of this research is to study why small business owners make poor decisions about workplace retirement plans. The study evaluates the information supply chain and determines that financial advisors are a critical information delivery mechanism. However, they do not take the time to discuss the various retirement plan options available with the small business owners which leads to lack of plan adoption.

Elaborated Action Design Research (eADR) research methods are used to diagnose the problem as well as to design and implement two artefacts that have potential to increase retirement plan adoption rates in small businesses. Data are collected through interviewing industry experts and small business owners in the diagnosis phase, and small business owners in the design and implementation phases.

Two innovative artifacts are designed to improve the quality of information provided to small business owners. The artifacts are applied via interview interventions with ten owners. An elicitation script gathers information from the owner to support a decision model that produces an adaptive default nudge indicating a preferred workplace retirement plan for the business. The results of the study indicate a significant increase in awareness of retirement plans and an intention to adopt the retirement plan presented as the default nudge.

This research contributes to research on small business retirement by demonstrating the information gap faced by small business owners and the potential of effective nudging strategies to increase awareness of retirement plan options and to increase adoption of effective employee retirement plans. Limitations on this research include sample size and geographic diversity of the group of small business owners interviewed.