Advancing employee wellness has become a popular intention for socially conscious employers. The most mature wellness strategies encompass the whole employee experience, covering off on physical, mental and even financial health strategies to give team members multiple layers of support within their work environments. With April designated as Financial Literacy Month, it’s an ideal time to focus in on that third category of total wellness – financial health.
A question to ponder: Are you giving as much energy to supporting your employees’ financial health as to their physical and mental health? Just before the pandemic changed everything we know about everything we know, 77 percent of Americans reported experiencing anxiety over their financial situation; 40 percent said it was so bad they had a hard time concentrating at work. No doubt those numbers have climbed higher since COVID-19 pushed over a slew of economic and workplace dominoes.
A common objection to offering financial support is stepping over a line. Leaders may be uncomfortable delving into topics related to money. But, it might be time to push that discomfort aside. In a recent survey, employees cited lack of access to guidance as the greatest barrier preventing them from making progress towards their financial goals. Why shouldn’t an employer provide access to that guidance?
There are plenty of ways to offer people-centric, well-vetted resources that are aligned with the company’s core values while respecting people’s boundaries. Here are five strategies to consider.
Avoid predatory programs disguised as benefits.
I was disappointed to learn of a new payroll “benefits” product the other day that offers short-term, payday loans to employees through their employer. If payday loans are a slippery slope for individuals, they’re a double black diamond for employers.
Clearly communicate the optional nature of financial wellness programs.
To avoid any perception your company is taking on a parental role, build in language that makes it crystal clear participation is completely up to the individual employee and will in no way impact their standing with the company.
Involve your enterprise risk leaders.
Creative ideas around compensation, benefits and even financial education or literacy programs often get stifled for feeling too “risky.” Adding an ERM strategist to your internal think tank can keep conversations moving fluidly forward.
Consider evolving compensation strategies for digital natives.
Expectations around payment are changing. Employees want to access their wages quickly, seamlessly and transparently. Are there digital payment methods or financial management apps you can integrate to make it easier for employees to both access and visualize their financial pictures?
Utilize vendor partners to the fullest.
Ask your banker, payroll vendor, investment partner or tax provider to come in or virtually present on trending topics related to finance. Things like “How COVID-19 Changed Your Tax Return” to “Avoiding Cyber Scams and Dark Web Thieves” may save your employees the hassle and headache of a financial misstep down the road.
This set of strategies barely scratches the surface of ideas for improving your team’s total wellness through an intentional focus on financial health. Use the special month of April to brainstorm even more potential resources or evolution of your policies and strategies that could make a real difference. The idea is to acknowledge the significant role you play, as a major source of your employees’ income, in helping more people live financially healthy lives. Healthy employees are happy employees, making your investment in their total wellness worth every penny.
Mark K. Phillips is vice president of treasury management services for Bank Iowa, Iowa’s second largest family-owned financial institution. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more, visit bankiowa.bank. Member FDIC.