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Building a Program

How to build a best-in-class financial wellness program for your employees

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Many employers already offer a variety of benefits that could help employees address their financial challenges.

What tends to be missing is a holistic program that ties benefits (both traditional and supplemental) together with multi-channel guidance, tools, and education that empower employees to take meaningful action towards improving their financial wellness in both the short and long term.

Employers have a wide range of options to consider when deciding what financial wellness programs are best suited for their diverse workforce.

What may be right for one organisation may not be right for another, so it is important to take a holistic and employee-centric approach in evaluating potential solutions.

Building financial wellness programs for employees
Success factors

A successful financial wellness program must be comprehensive and focus on the three key factors of financial wellness.

Manage day-to-day finances
Manage day-to-day finances

Short-term

You can manage day-to-day finances.

Budgeting, debt (including higher education repayment), bills, savings.

Protect against unplanned expenses
Protect against unplanned expenses

Protection

You’re protected against unplanned expenses.

Emergency funds, insurance coverage.

Plan and save for future milestones
Plan and save for future milestones

Long-term

You’re able to plan and save for future milestones.

Buying a house, planning for retirement, starting a family, or paying for additional education.

The principles of a successful financial wellness program

The following four principles can help employers take action today to develop best-in-class, employee-centric programs that will help reduce one of the big stressors in the lives of their workers.

1. Gather and assess employee data

The first step employers can take to create a successful financial wellness program is to conduct an employee financial needs assessment.

It is necessary to uncover the magnitude to which employees experience financial anxiety and the extent to which those anxieties may be affecting the organisation. Only through a detailed assessment can companies truly identify employees’ priorities and preparedness, including any gaps in knowledge or skills.

When conducting a financial needs assessment, employers should gather demographic data —generation, life stage, family structure, and financial to assess the financial health and coverage of employees. Employers should, of course, adhere to strict dataprivacy practices, keeping sensitive information confidential or anonymised.

This quantifiable data can help employers define their financial wellness program objectives and tailor benefits accordingly to best help their employees.

2. Ensure a personalised approach

Because today’s workforce is diverse and multigenerational, often with unique career paths, employers need to offer and communicate solutions in a way that meet employees’ individual needs and support their whole selves.

Boomers who are behind in retirement may need personalised guidance to help them get on track to meet their goals. Gen X employees sandwiched between caring for children and aging loved ones may have a higher need for both child and elder-care.

Gen Y employees starting families and buying homes may need education on how life insurance can provide financial protection and how legal plans could assist with real estate matters and wills. Gen Z employees, more recently out of higher education, may value student-loan (StudyAssist / HELP loans e.g. HECS) reduction programs.

3. Make it easy and enticing for employees to participate

A key to continued success of a financial wellness program is its ability to draw employees into the program and encourage them to take ongoing action.

Employers must consider a multi-channel approach, giving employees the flexibility to choose how and when they want to engage and take action — whether it’s online at their own pace, or in-person or on the phone with trained professionals.

Ideally, solutions should integrate existing employee benefits to deliver cohesive education and coaching across multiple channels.

An effective program also breaks down suggested actions into attainable, goal-based steps. Goals need to be manageable, so employees can see the active progress they are making and feel encouraged to continue.

Communications should also be optimised with clearly defined action steps to support ongoing engagement. For instance, if targeting a Gen Y employee who has recently returned from parental leave, employers can highlight the importance of life insurance and legal plans, and then direct that employee to learn more.

4. Measure the impact and value of such programs

The most successful financial wellness programs allow employers to understand the impact they have on an employees’ financial health and the return on their investment in offerings.

Because employees are constantly evolving, it is a good idea for employers to continuously review and evaluate their workforce, its needs and desires while simultaneously implementing a measurement program that helps evaluate their programs’ effectiveness.

While the conventional return-on-investment (ROI) standard of measure, in which dollars invested can be directly tied to cost savings, is important, it provides only a limited view of a program’s success.

Increasingly, companies are using value-of-investment (VOI) to evaluate workplace financial wellness programs. VOI considers more than just hard-dollar savings — measuring elements such as employee productivity, engagement, overall job satisfaction, as well as costs associated with absenteeism, disability claims, and turnover.

Key stakeholders across the company should work together to determine what metrics should be evaluated to assess program success.

Taken together, financial wellness programs help employers assess employees’ financial wellness, holistically address employee’s individual needs at scale, and measure and drive return on current benefits.
Employers can take action today to help employees

There are tangible ways to offer a holistic financial wellness program for employees that addresses and attempts to reduce their stress.

While some stresses are short term concerns such as paying bills or immediate health needs, the bulk directly relate to retirement and a benefits package should aim to address the short-term, long-term, and unexpected needs of employees through the methods discussed.

While the majority of employers agree they have a responsibility for the financial wellness of employees, just 13% take advantage of financial wellness programs offered.

This presents a great opportunity for employers to do the right thing by their staff and stand out from a talent attraction and retention perspective.

Keep in mind these benefits are tied together under a financial wellness program and should be evaluated using the best-in-class measures.

It’s not only an opportunity, but a business imperative that employers take action to reduce employees’ financial stress. Only 72% of employees thought that the benefits they receive from their company improves their financial wellness, so there is a chance for employers to make significant benefits in the lives of their employees.

Employers can differentiate themselves through a financial wellness program that supports employees in their financial decisions to encourage a more engaged, satisfied, and loyal workforce — one that thrives in both work and life.

A well-designed financial wellness program takes a holistic and integrated approach, connecting employer benefits and multi-channel resources to address both short-term and long-term employee needs.

The right mix of resources, education, and communication goes a long way in meeting employees where they are in life to get them to take action.

Ultimately, financial wellness programs help all employees — no matter their confidence level, pay grade, or title — understand their current benefits and individual circumstances to take action and improve their financial wellness, now and in the future.

Financial Wellness Programs

(Multi-channel access to help address the three key elements of financial wellness)

Short-term expenses
  • Make it easy for employees to allocate their pay to their savings
  • Offer webinars and inperson sessions e.g. one on one consultations, workshops, expos etc.
  • Where appropriate, facilitate education sessions between employees and their super fund/insurance company
  • Offer programs to help employees manage and pay down their debt, including higher education loan repayment
  • Offer a range of discounts or rewards on services that employees use frequently
Unplanned expenses
  • Connect benefits to financial protection (e.g. Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) and Income Protection (IP)) for unexpected injuries and illnesses
  • Promote health benefits that can help support employees including those returning to work
Long-term goals, including saving for big expenses and retirement
  • Offer online tools that allow employees to view potential retirement outcomes
  • Offer personalised financial planner services with one-on-one consultation
  • Offer tools to help employees save for big expenses, such as purchasing a home, starting a family and saving for additional education
  • Offer additional super contributions/matching option for salary sacrificing
  • Offer advice on cash/bonus/incentive payment (if applicable)
  • Inform employees about share/equity schemes
  • Offer paid superannuation while on parental leave

EBTS Australia 2019
Employee breakdown

Gender
Male 54%
Female 46%
Marital status
Single, not living with partner 25%
Single, living with partner 14%
Married 53%
Widowed 2%
Divorced/Separated 7%
Education
Year 11 or below 6%
Year 12 13%
Certificate I/II/III/IV 14%
Associate degree/diploma 13%
Bachelor's degree 30%
Postgraduate degree 15%
Professional (e.g. MBA, CPA)/Doctorate degree 10%
Employer size (staff size)
2–9 25%
10–49 19%
50–199 15%
200–999 15%
1,000–4,999 12%
5,000+ 14%
Geography
New South Wales 31%
Victoria 26%
Queensland 20%
South Australia 8%
Western Australia 10%
Tasmania 2%
Northern Territory 1%
ACT 1%
Employment status
Employed full-time 68%
Employed full-time 28%
Other 5%
Age
18–24 9%
25–34 20%
35–44 21%
45–54 20%
55–64 17%
65+ 15%
Personal income
Under $30,000 9%
$30,000–$49,000 18%
$50,000–$74,000 18%
$75,000–$99,000 16%
$100,000–$149,000 16%
$150,000 and over 14%
Prefer not to answer 9%
Family status
Parent of children < 18 years 31%
Not a parent of children < 18 years 69%
Industry
Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing 2%
Mining 2%
Manufacturing 5%
Electricity, Gas, Water and Waste Services 1%
Construction 5%
Wholesale trade 5%
Retail trade 10%
Accommodation and Food Services 4%
Transport, Postal and Warehousing 4%
Information Media and Telecommunications 5%
Financial and Insurance Services 7%
Rental, Hiring and Real Estate Services 2%
Professional, Scientific and Technical Services 12%
Administrative and Support Services 4%
Education and Training 10%
Health Care and Social Assistance
Arts and Recreation Services
11%
Other/Don't know 11%

EBTS Australia 2019
Employer breakdown

Employer size (staff size)
2–9 14%
10–49 16%
50–199 23%
200–999 24%
1,000–4,999 14%
5,000+ 10%
Geography
New South Wales 34%
Victoria 30%
Queensland 17%
South Australia 7%
Western Australia 8%
Tasmania 2%
Northern Territory 1%
ACT 1%
Industry
Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing 2%
Mining 2%
Manufacturing 9%
Electricity, Gas, Water and Waste Services 2%
Construction 9%
Wholesale trade 3%
Retail trade 8%
Accommodation and Food Services 4%
Transport, Postal and Warehousing 3%
Information Media and Telecommunications 4%
Financial and Insurance Services 8%
Rental, Hiring and Real Estate Services 3%
Professional, Scientific and Technical Services 12%
Administrative and Support Services 3%
Education and Training 13%
Health Care and Social Assistance 8%
Arts and Recreation Services 1%
Other/Don't know 5%
Department
Procurement 4%
Finance/Accounting 13%
Executive/Senior Management (CEO/CFO) 37%
IT 0%
Payroll 4%
Human Resources/People & Culture 24%
Administration 18%
Role in benefits offering
Final decision maker 36%
A lot of influence 45%
Moderate influencer 19%
Employment status: Full-time
All 71%
Some 29%
Moderate influencer 0%
Employment status: Part-time
All 43%
Some 41%
None 8%
N/A – no part-time employees 7%
Employment status: Fixed-time
All 37%
Some 35%
None 13%
N/A – no part-time employees 15%

Employee Benefits Trends Study 2019

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