It is well known among employers that a lot of employees struggle with stress — including financial stress — at work. According to a recent survey from PwC, nearly one-third of employees report being distracted due to challenges with their personal finances. Persistent debts, outstanding bills, sudden large costs and overwhelming medical bills contribute to employees being distracted when they should be working or using company time to tend to their obligations. There are also increased absences and turnover, not to mention the physical effects of stress, such as fatigue, lack of focus and even drug abuse. This ultimately eats away at productivity and, consequently, business profits. To arrest this slide, employers can offer financial literacy in the workplace.
Financial education may be difficult for employers to provide. Even when outsourcing it to another provider, time and effort are required to go through the process of learning what it entails, justifying its cost, getting it set up and following through with it — all while hoping it increases employee engagement and owners will see the tangible return on investment.
Here are six steps you can take to get started on financial education in the workplace:
1. Understand what is available.
Business owners should first understand that, in the absence of providing their own financial education, there are third parties that provide it to employees, whether in person, at events or online. Owners can see the return on investment that these programs can provide in terms of reducing employee stress (some providers measure it) or, in the case of financial institutions, enabling employees to better understand and promote the products they sell. Online learning is especially effective because it can be done away from the job at an employee’s convenience. Depending on the provider, a learning plan can be customized by the employee to make learning personal and relevant.
2. Make it a priority.
Business owners should carve out time and space for their employees to receive financial literacy training. This could include setting aside a specific amount of time and a location with the needed tools, such as workstations. Data collected from pre- and post-evaluations often show marked improvements in employee knowledge and a reduction in their stress levels; having this data handy makes a strong argument for committing to further education. Employers should also dedicate individuals in leadership positions to serve as administrators of the programs.
3. Engage proactively.
Strong support is necessary from company management, and this support should be sustained, with all necessary tools included. It is important to work with a provider that can offer good customer service and address technical challenges as well.
4. Measure success.
Measuring changes in knowledge and stress levels enable business owners to correlate their financial education efforts with the health of their company. Data from testing and evaluation provide evidence that financial education can deliver on its promises. For example, an initial checkup and a follow-up can measure differences in how employees approach financial problem-solving. Measuring success can also highlight areas for future improvement.
5. Offer incentives and extras.
Incentives increase motivation and engagement. Some business owners offer gift cards, cash payments or other perks and benefits for participating in financial education. Larger companies might have an onsite financial planner as part of an employee assistance program. Some employers offer coaching services along with financial education courses: 30 days of free coaching with a third-party provider, for example. This is an opportunity for the provider to win new clients and an opportunity for the business owner to help employees put their learned knowledge to practical use and improve their well-being. Another incentive that can increase employee motivation to continue is the use of a time-based campaign event: for example, a month-long program that requires evaluation and courses, followed by a graduation.
6. Partner if need be.
As noted, third-party providers exist to provide financial education. These services may be delivered in person, online or in some other manner. Third-party providers have the technology to support evaluation, education and data collection and interpretation. Some of them can also customize their offerings. They vary greatly in size from small startups to large, established institutions.
A healthy workplace is one in which employees feel empowered to meet the challenges that come their way without letting their productivity suffer. This is a boon to the bottom line, as well, and it makes a strong case for offering financial education. Taking the proper steps and having the knowledge to effectively offer financial education takes a certain amount of stress away from the owners: a win-win for all involved.