Last month, more than 800 financial health advocates across industries and disciplines gathered in Scottsdale, AZ at the Financial Health Network’s 2019 EMERGE Financial Health Conference to reflect on “Trust, Tech and Transparency.” During the conference, a group of 50 HR leaders, benefits providers and thought leaders gathered for a special workshop focused on the role of employers in advancing the financial health of employees.
Doubling Down on Workplace Financial Health
The Financial Health Network has long been a champion of considering the role of employers in the financial health equation. Over the last several years, we have been studying employees’ needs and identifying best practices for employers and solutions providers. Our research shows that employees are struggling financially and are looking to their employers for solutions. Our consulting practice has worked with benefits providers and employers to understand the opportunity and design solutions. We’ve developed measurement tools to help employers diagnose the financial challenges of their workforce and measure the impact of new wellness initiatives. And, we are investing in promising technology solutions that are solving specific employee challenges related to spending, saving, borrowing and planning.
The EMERGE workshop represented a doubling-down on this commitment to working with employers, payroll and benefits providers, workers’ representatives, thought leaders, and policymakers to solve employees’ financial challenges. We believe the workplace can be an important channel for us to work together to help financially vulnerable workers become more resilient and thrive. We believe the Financial Health Network can be a vehicle for advancing this collective work.
Rich Discussions, Rich Insights
Out of many substantive discussions that took place during the EMERGE workshop, three important themes rise to the top:
1. We need a much broader definition of financial health in the workplace
Historically, conversations about “employee financial wellness” have focused on whether or not an employer offers financial education seminars or a 401K plan. Today, a growing market of solutions including budgeting and planning tools, personalized financial coaching, short- and long-term saving options, and tools for managing debt are all being delivered through the employer channel. Our understanding of what it means to “do” financial wellness likewise needs to expand to include providing tools and supports that help with employees’ near-term spending, saving, borrowing and planning needs.
2. The changing nature of work in America means we need to think differently about how to ensure a financially healthy workforce in the future
Advances in AI and automation are forcing employers, policymakers and solutions providers to rethink the kinds of benefits employees need to be — and remain — financially healthy. As a growing percentage of the workforce takes on independent forms of work, there’s a need for more portable forms of benefits that employees can bring with them from one job to the next. Small businesses, in particular, struggle to offer the kinds of benefits that employees need to be financially healthy, and new types of organizations and programs (including worker-led and publicly-funded) are emerging to fill the gap. Policy solutions are also needed.
3. Employers need comprehensive and proven solutions
Even those employers who understand the importance of addressing the financial challenges of their workforce can face significant barriers in implementing a program. To secure internal buy-in to launch or continue a program, HR leaders need solutions to be comprehensive and proven to work. Managing numerous vendors is complex and time-consuming for the employer, and accessing benefits through multiple systems is confusing for employees. And employers want to know that the benefits they offer will actually make a difference — both for employees and for the business — and will look for evidence of impact.
We are excited to be joining with employers, solutions providers, workers’ representatives, thought leaders, and policymakers who are working to improve the financial health of workers in America. There is much work to be done, and much to learn from others who have been on this journey.
If you are doing impactful work in this area, we want to hear from you. You can email us at Beth Brockland (email@example.com) or Hannah Kramer (firstname.lastname@example.org). If your organization is already a member of the Financial Health Network, please join us for our Member Summit on September 17–19, 2019 in Chicago, IL.