By Matt Bahl, Vice President/Head of Workplace, Financial Health Network
April is Financial Literacy Month, and the Financial Health Network, in partnership with MetLife Foundation, is highlighting the importance of financial health in the workplace with #FinHealthMatters Day on April 7. In the wake of COVID-19, these are especially challenging times for workers everywhere, creating questions about overall financial health for many. While most knowledge workers are now working remotely, there are many gig, service, and hospitality workers in a holding pattern as restaurants and public venues are closed for the foreseeable future.
The recent developments surrounding the coronavirus pandemic have highlighted significant gaps in the current system when it comes to addressing the broad financial needs of workers. These gaps include access to sick pay and the ability to financially cope with an unexpected emergency — especially for the 71% of U.S. workers who do not have the ability to work from home. Some employers have taken actions during the viral outbreak to expand their benefits programs, particularly sick pay, for their workers and even for contractors and temporary workers.
Through work, individuals earn pay and, in traditional employment settings, often have streamlined access to benefits and other solutions that can positively impact their financial health. Indeed, it is through the traditional workplace that many individuals gain access to broadscale financial health programs. These programs are on the rise and are expected to nearly double over the next several years. The most popular workplace financial health offerings include retirement benefits; online financial education and planning tools; protection benefits like life, disability, and medical insurance; and access to a financial planning advisor.
At the Financial Health Network, we recognize that independent workers and many small business workers may not have the same level of access to or breadth of financial health programming. And while that is a worthwhile challenge to solve, we also see the important role that the traditional workplace plays in helping to promote and deliver financial health for tens of millions of workers. There is also an opportunity to advance large employers’ understanding of the financial health challenges of workers, so they can better assess and implement financial health interventions in the workplace.
As more large employers look to add or grow their financial health programs, having a framework with which to do so can prove useful. Such a framework might include:
● Diagnosing and Understanding Worker Needs: Leveraging HR transactional data (for example: retirement, healthcare and absence, and disability) and financial health survey questions can help an employer not only establish a baseline measure of financial health, but also better diagnose the financial health needs of their workforce.
● Identifying Solutions and Assessing Potential Partners: As workplace financial health programs expand, available solutions also increase. Understanding which solutions are best and developing criteria to assess potential partners will be critical to maximizing the impact of a workplace program. Additionally, as the coronavirus crisis has made clear, expanding and enhancing existing workplace benefits can have a meaningful impact on worker financial health.
● Avoiding the “Field of Dreams” Fallacy: Just because you build it, does not mean workers will come. A workplace financial health program necessarily requires an understanding and strategy to drive worker awareness and engagement with workplace programs.
● Measuring Impact and Understanding What works: Diagnosing needs, identifying solutions and partners, and building an awareness and engagement strategy only get you so far. Measuring the effectiveness and impact (both in terms of scope and audience) of a financial health program can help make the business case for maintaining or adding financial health solutions — and also shedding those that do not seem to be working.
The nature of work and the workplace is constantly changing, particularly for large employers, so having a framework and approach that is equally adaptive and responsive to worker needs will be critical.
Over the next several months, we will be unpacking each of the framework elements above as we continue to strive to improve financial health for all. We will also continue to explore paths for financial health programming for independent workers and small businesses. In the meantime, to learn more about #FinHealthMatters Day and how you can participate, visit https://finhealthnetwork.org/news/finhealthmattersday/. To explore our workplace research and thought leadership, visit https://finhealthnetwork.org/research/workplace-financial-health/.
By Financial Health Network on April 6, 2020.