Checklist 5 Ideas to Get You Started on Financial Wellness

The thinking on financial wellness has evolved a lot in the last few years. It’s no longer just about planning for retirement—it’s about how to make progress towards goals and reach financial independence. In a diverse employee population, people are in different life stages and have different mindsets, which affect their financial concerns. Here are five tangible ideas to start a conversation about financial health in your workplace to bring about positive change.

1. Understand the strategic benefits

Financial stress can lead to absenteeism, presenteeism and low productivity among employees, but financial wellness programs can tackle these problems and complement talent acquisition, retention and other people-related issues that determine an organization’s future success.

High-performing programs have a clear tie to business results. Improving your workers’ financial wellness has an effect on how patient, productive and engaged they are on the job – and ultimately on revenue and profits.

2. Provide individualized content

An effective financial wellness program resonates with each and every individual. Say “401(k)” to the 23-year-olds just out of college and they might just tune out. However, they may be more likely to listen if the conversation is about saving to move out of their parents’ house or paying off their student loans. Gathering quality data about your own employees lets you know what vendors and resources to invest in. Don’t make assumptions about your people – ask them what is top of mind. Of course, there are some issues with self-reporting – some might be overly optimistic about the true state of their financial affairs and others might not know – but this is a good place to start.

3. Focus on real action

A lot of Americans aren’t financially savvy, which has real consequences on their finances. Even when financial education programs are offered for employees, it is difficult to get them to make the connection between learning and acting on what they have learned. Employees should be given the proper tools to be guided on an action-oriented path for their individual circumstances in order to make significant strides towards financial wellness.

4. Rely on thoroughly vetted, integrated and monitored vendors

Every day, there seems to be a new services provider offering ways to improve your employees’ financial health. It’s a jungle out there – and picking the wrong vine to swing from could land your employees in an alligator-infested pond! Every vendor chosen for employees should be highly regarded in their area of expertise and then monitored to confirm that they maintain this standing, uphold the promised level of service, and minimize ongoing reputational and operational risk.

5. Employ insightful metrics

As you start to understand statistically significant segments of your population, you can then think of targeted strategies for each group, rather than speaking to your employees as a homogenous whole. For example, cluster analysis is a statistical method of grouping people based on important shared characteristics: gender, ethnicity, age, location. While there will always be exceptions, this “profiling” does generally provide a relatively accurate picture of the needs of different employee groups because it’s based on actual data. 

As a new field, financial wellness is not yet well-established and is evolving rapidly. As we learn what works and what doesn’t work, we need solutions and products that can adapt and respond rapidly. A key buzzword in this area is “iteration,” where we see what is working or not and adapt the solution in response to that feedback. In the case of digital solutions, this can lead to weekly or monthly releases of enhanced solutions.

If you’re thinking of introducing a financial wellness program in your organization, find out what’s keeping them your workers from meeting their various financial goals, instead of just making assumptions. Then you’ll be better equipped to find the solutions that will fit for the needs you discover.

This post is part of our 2017 Planning Checklist series.

Betsy Dill
by Betsy Dill

Senior Partner, Financial Wellness, Mercer

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