- Employer financial wellness programs are maturing from ad hoc programs into holistic, integrated offerings, according to Oct. 22 survey results from the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI). No longer solely talent acquisition and retention tools, wellness programs are now expected to boost the bottom line via improved productivity, the study concluded, but employers say they lack a way to measure that impact.
- Unfortunately, "there are no clear measures that have been developed to measure productivity increases from financial wellbeing programs and other bottom-line issues," said Craig Copeland, EBRI senior research associate, in a statement. "This will continue to be an area of focus and research within the financial wellbeing arena."
- However, companies are looking for a financial wellbeing score or metric to assess the impact of financial wellbeing programs, EBRI concluded from its survey results. It then follows that providers that can make this case will be more successful in attracting clients, Copeland said.
Most employers in a recent Bank of America survey said they believe financial wellness and productivity are interconnected. Eight-three percent, in fact, said such programs and tools lead to "productive, loyal, satisfied and engaged employees."
But as EBRI pointed out, that belief is difficult to prove. Some have suggested employers track participation rates, retention rates and similar metrics. Others might focus on employee feedback. Regardless of the method chosen, it’s important to track something, experts say; whether it’s a benefit, a learning program or even a culture initiative, metrics are key to ensuring a solid return on HR’s investments.
On the other hand, increased employee interest in financial benefits may mean such programs wouldn't be on the chopping block anyway. Employers in EBRI’s survey reported a pandemic-driven uptick in the number of workers using benefits that provide immediate financial help, such as hardship assistance, payroll advance loans and debt management services. "As these programs grow in value to employees, it may be difficult to curtail the ones that are already established," Copeland said. "The maturation of the industry could also lead to a greater sense that financial wellness benefits are simply another cost of doing business," he continued.