How Walmart is championing well-being among the country’s largest workforce

Thursday, April 13, 2017

An EMERGE Pre-Conference Interview with Speaker David Hoke

By Elizabeth Vivirito, Financial Health Network

Read about “From the Corner Office to the Cubicle: Financial Health at Work,” session at the EMERGE Consumer Financial Health Forum. Learn More and Register Today >>

David Hoke is Sr. Director of Health & Well-Being at Walmart.

What is it — exactly — that you do?

I figure out ways for our associates to realize their very best selves; I’m an advocate for creating an environment that allows them to thrive at work — and at home.

Walmart employs more than 1.3 million associates nationwide… what skillsets are essential to you in your capacity to be a champion for that many employees?

On a daily basis, I employ a combination of design thinking, applied behavior change and consumer insights. Traditional approaches to workforce well-being usually focus on physical health — and then we ask ourselves why it’s not working. When you actually understand why and how people change behaviors, you have to look at the whole person. It becomes apparent that financial pressure of any type hinders people’s ability to thrive in life.

There are two statistics that get me the most. First, how little people have in savings — half of Americans would have trouble finding $400 for an emergency. (Federal Reserve Board Report on Economic Well-Being of US Households, 2016). Second, beyond what people have, the US Financial Diaries research showed us that 77% of participants who are living paycheck-to-paycheck would rather have financial stability — not more wealth.

We have to work toward a system that gives people more stability and addresses the challenges they experience on a day-to-day basis.

What’s the most important thing that any of us can do to improve workers’ financial health?

If we can help people by helping provide them financial stability, we lighten their load. Psychologically, financial stress results in a heavy cognitive load, which in turn can increase errors and lead to poor decision-making at work. If you can help lighten their cognitive load, they’ll be able to focus better at work, worry less about home and put themselves in a position to succeed and advance in their career.

What would you like to see the financial services industry do on this topic — what do you want them to know about workers that are in need of help?

The vast majority of Americans hear the word “finance” and think it doesn’t apply to them — they’re living paycheck-to-paycheck, not planning for retirement or the future. When you have an uneven cash flow, you either pay a bill or you don’t. You care about what’s happening today. We need more programs and services focused on that day-to-day management — that’s what’s missing. We haven’t democratized the ideas around financial security yet, the way we have with health and wellness. For example, most people know they should eat better and have some idea of how to build healthier eating habits. Many don’t understand how to actually manage their money and the impact it could have on the rest of their lives,

We also need to do better at applying the best learnings on behavioral change to the financial industry.

You’ve been able to implement major wellness initiatives at a very large corporation — what advice would you give to EMERGE attendees to galvanize them to action and improve people’s financial health?

First, go and talk to your customer and your employees. Co-create a solution with them that actually helps solve their problem. Second, build solutions that help people now versus later; make solutions relevant to them today. Finally, understand and apply the latest research on incentives and behavioral economics. What I love about your organization is that you help inform the industry on what the solution should be versus what it could be — that there’s an underserved market — and that it’s immense. It’s time for a new age in banking that’s focused on helping people here and now — I can’t wait to hear about all the new thinking on that.

Read about “From the Corner Office to the Cubicle: Financial Health at Work,” session at the EMERGE Consumer Financial Health Forum. Learn More and Register Today >>

Financial Health Network will be releasing new research on employee financial health on May 26. Join our newsletter list to receive the latest research and insights today. Sign up>>

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