Financial wellness programs have gained prominence as an employee benefit and can be effective in reducing financial stress among workers. But it’s not always that easy to get employees to use them.
That’s particularly true among populations that have a greater incidence of financial vulnerability, including Black and Latinx employees and employees with low household income, explains Greg Ward, CFP®.
In his article “Reaching the Most Vulnerable: How to Engage Financially Stressed Workers” in the September issue of Benefits Magazine, Ward reveals strategies for increasing engagement with specific populations of the workforce, including the financially vulnerable. Ward is the director of the Financial Wellness Think Tank at Financial Finesse.
Workers who are financially vulnerable have a harder time recovering from financial shocks such as job loss or a major unexpected expense.
“Attracting employees to a financial wellness benefit requires an understanding of the conscious and subconscious roadblocks that may be squelching their participation,” Ward notes.
Employees may not feel comfortable discussing their finances with others—either because they don’t trust others with the information or because they fear being judged. Other common concerns include the following:
- Fear of being sold a product or service
- Worry that they may not be able to understand the guidance
- Belief that a financial issue is too simple or too complex for the benefit to address
- A false expectation that one must be financially stable before engaging in financial wellness
- Concern that information is being shared with the employer.
What can an employer do? Ward offers the following eight financial wellness strategies for employers to consider.
1. Make social and economic justice part of the corporate mission.
Prepare a strategic goal to end systemic racism and promote social and economic justice that can garner support from employees and business leaders within the community.
2. Offer workshops and webcasts coupled with one-on-one financial coaching to address financial vulnerabilities.
Employers offering these services have seen above-average utilization and accelerated improvement in financial health among financially vulnerable employees.
3. Work with local wellness champions to identify underutilized benefits and unreached groups.
If you have a distributed workforce, local benefit managers will be more familiar with employee needs and obstacles and can help build a strategy for reaching targeted populations.
4. Provide benefit information in multiple languages.
This has worked well for employers with Asian and Hispanic employees in highly industrial environments.
5. Hold business leaders within the organization accountable for meeting corporate goals.
Executive support for financial wellness programs and initiatives is a key driver of success.
6. Create friendly competition between locations within the same business unit.
Gamification is a powerful motivator for individuals and groups.
7. Coordinate financial wellness initiatives with subsidized benefit programs for low-wage workers.
This has proven to lower financial stress, increase benefit participation and appreciation, and promote productivity.
8. Mandate time during the workday to participate in financial wellness benefits for low-wage business units (e.g., call center, manufacturing plant).
This will drive up engagement, especially for employees who are unwilling to take time outside of work to address their financial health.
“Each of these steps by itself can help engage an unreached part of the workforce, but employers may achieve optimal engagement when they use these strategies as part of an overarching corporate objective to promote diversity and inclusion within the workplace,” Ward concludes.
[Related Reading: Financial Well-Being of Underrepresented Women]
Kathy Bergstrom, CEBS
Senior Editor, Publications at the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
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