It’s been just a few weeks since taxes were due, and refunds and finances were top of mind for many. Now that the tax deadline has passed, have people moved on from financial concerns? Most likely, the answer is no. Financial wellness is an ongoing struggle for many American workers as low wage growth, rising healthcare costs and student loan debt put pressure on all generations in our workforce today.
We’re seeing this play out in a number of troubling statistics: The Federal Reserve recently noted that four in 10 Americans couldn’t cover an unexpected $400 expense without borrowing funds or selling something. Data gathered by my company found that 50% of employees would be “panicked” by a large emergency room bill. And, the government shutdown in early 2019 highlighted the reality that many Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.
Why It Matters To Employers
The financial well-being of our workforce, or lack thereof, is an important factor for any HR department. Financial worries and stress over money management have a significant impact on productivity. Recent data shows that employees with high levels of financial stress lose 41% more work time to absences than employees with low financial stress. And for those employees who identify as struggling with their finances, 32% are less effective at work.
As the leaders closest to employee well-being issues in our organizations, HR professionals can play a valuable role in improving employee financial health. Just as we concern ourselves with healthcare benefits, so too can we advocate for behaviors and programs that emphasize total well-being, including finances. In fact, the Employee Benefit Research Institute found that HR departments are the main motivators for financial wellness programs.
Steps To Take To Support Financial Well-Being Now
What can HR leaders do to address financial well-being immediately? Start with these strategies:
1. Provide the right tools.
Benefits are an important part of overall compensation, but employees frequently don’t understand their benefits packages, and they rush through the enrollment process, often spending less than 30 minutes during annual enrollment (AE).
Provide your employees with the benefits recommendation tools they need to fully grasp the benefits available to them and the effects those benefits have on their overall financial picture. For example, when faced with a decision about a PPO versus a high-deductible health plan, risk-averse employees may automatically choose the PPO. Tools that take into account the total cost of different healthcare options can guide employees to the most appropriate solution for their needs.
Your organization may also offer consumer accounts with pre-tax savings, such as FSAs and commuter benefits. A user-friendly online portal and mobile-ready platforms make it easier for employees to see what they’re saving, and benefits tools that show employees’ remaining balances on consumer accounts provide information in one streamlined solution. By helping employees gain a better understanding of how their benefits choices translate into real savings, the right tools take the first step toward empowering employees in their financial decision-making.