HR’s next big investment: employee financial wellness

When it comes to financial wellness, there is no one-size-fits-all. As one expert advised recently, when designing benefits, including relating to financial wellness, HR should think about the whole person, making sure employees feel just as great at home as they do at work.

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“It’s important benefits have personalization–there’s a goal for every life stage,” Stacey Magness, director of global benefits at software company Ellucian, said during a panel session at last week’s HR Technology Conference. The pandemic put a major spotlight on employee wellbeing, she added, and demonstrated the need for individualized benefits attuned to employees’ needs, including financial.

Also see: Why you should consider an emergency savings program

“The pandemic has caused pressure on our lives,” she said. “The correlation between financial stress and physical health is 1:1. It’s not a contributing factor, it’s a major factor.”

Prior to Ellucian revamping its financial wellness plan, Magness said the plan was heavily focused on retirement. “It’s a huge part of financial wellbeing, but not the only thing,” she said.

Stacey Magness, director of global benefits at software company Ellucian, and Marthin De Beer, founder and CEO of Brightplan, present at the 2021 HR Technology Conference & Exposition.

“Financial wellness is quite a beast to tackle,” she added. To do that, the organization partnered with financial wellness platform BrightPlan to improve enrollment, education and personalized financial literacy.

In the two years since, and despite the global pandemic, Magness said 70% of employees said they maintained mental and physical wellbeing, and 27% of all of its U.S. employees had attended at least one financial webinar.

As more employers look to build out wellbeing programs, metrics are important, she advised. “Take pulse surveys, have one-on-one conversations; take the opportunity to talk to employees and learn what’s working and what’s not, as well as look at your vendor data.”

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The company drills down into metrics, she added, by evaluating who’s using the financial wellness tools by age, gender, department and other demographics.

Magness also suggested HR leaders support line managers and keep communication going about benefits offerings. Employees will not always go to corporate or HR for support, so make sure managers are fully educated about all the benefits available, she said. In addition to educating managers, utilize email, home mailers and other communication methods to deliver employees a uniform message.

“Employees are busy, and employers are having to compete with other noise out there,” she added.

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Nick Otto
Nick Otto is HRE’s former senior digital editor. He is a professional communicator with more than a decade of demonstrated accomplishments in newspaper and trade publishing. He has spent the past five years covering the employee benefits space and holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida.