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Engaging Employees through Successful Financial Wellness Programs

By Jeffrey Tulloch, Vice President, PlanSmart, MetLife

Jeffrey Tulloch, Vice President, PlanSmart, MetLife

U.S. workers are stressed, and anxiety about money is the top stressor across all generations. MetLife’s 17th annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study (EBTS) found that personal finances are the number one source of stress for employees. This financial stress has a direct impact on employers—stressed employees are more likely to be unhappy and less likely to be engaged. It’s not only an opportunity, but a business imperative that employers take action; employers can differentiate themselves through a financial wellness program that supports employees in their financial decisions to encourage a more engaged, satisfied, and loyal workforce.

The study found there is a disconnect between employees’ perceptions around their finances and their financial reality—over 6 in 10 employees report being in control of their finances and nearly two-thirds, 63%, feel financially confident. However, taking a deeper look at other indicators, it is clear many workers are not financially healthy: half of the employees say they are living paycheck to paycheck and just over half of employees, 57%, have a savings cushion of about three months of their salary.

As a result of this disconnect, it is no surprise that personal finances are the top source of stress. In addition, that the number of employees reporting they are less productive at work due to financial worries has risen from 17% to 31%, a total of 14%, over the last five years.

Employers are starting to become aware of the impact financial wellness can have on employee engagement, loyalty, and productivity. In fact, according to a study, 74% of employers cite employee productivity as a top concern, and 64% of employers say that increasing financial stress will have an impact on the workplace in the next five years. However, many have yet to put programs in place—while 80% of employees say financial wellness tools are a must-have or nice-to-have benefit, only 20% of employers offer financial wellness programs today.

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It can be challenging to determine which programs meet employees’ needs, create meaningful improvements, and drive clear business value. Personalization is the key to success. Today’s workforce is cross-cultural and multigenerational—employers need to offer solutions that meet the specific needs of their workforce and delivers the information, education and guidance employees need in the platforms/channels through which they prefer to engage. Successful programs break down activities into smaller, actionable steps and keep the employee engaged through personalized communications.

To design a best-in-class financial wellness program, employers should follow four key steps:

1. Gather and assess employee data: By conducting a detailed assessment of employee data, companies can identify employees’ priorities and preparedness, including any gaps in knowledge or skills.

2. Ensure a personalized approach: Employers need to offer and communicate solutions in ways that meet employees’ individual needs and support their whole selves, both in and out of the office.

3. Make it easy for employees to participate: Employers must consider a multi-channel approach, giving employees the flexibility to choose how and when they want to engage and take action.

4. Measure the impact and value of programs: Increasingly, companies are using value-of investment (VOI) to evaluate workplace financial wellness programs. VOI considers more than just hard-dollar savings—it measures elements such as employee productivity, engagement, and overall job satisfaction, as well as costs associated with absenteeism, disability claims, and turnover.

Implementing a financial wellness program is an ongoing process that will continue to evolve with employee needs. Employers that take the time to identify and understand their employees’ needs to develop a tailored program that drives engagement and action will come out on top. A successful financial wellness program boosts employee understanding and engagement in their benefits; reduces absenteeism/presenteeism; increases productivity; drives loyalty and reduces turnover.

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