A recent PricewaterhouseCooper's (PwC's) Employee Financial Wellness Survey shows that 67 percent of U.S. employees experience financial stress that impacts how they perform their jobs.1 In fact, financially stressed employees spend as much as three hours of their work week dealing with money worries.

However, not just any financial wellness program will help. To be a good financial wellness program, it must motivate users to change their behavior. An analysis of iGrad and Enrich user activity during May 2018 showed that participants experienced a:

  • Positive correlation between engagement (badges earned, videos watched, articles read) and higher post-test scores
  • Positive correlation between higher post-test scores and stronger financial wellness

The conclusion is that a good financial wellness program can change behavior only if they first engage the users.

The good news, according to Metlife’s Annual Benefit Trends Study, is that employees want to engage.2 Eighty-four percent of employees state a want or need for employee financial wellness programs. Additionally, the PWC survey also shows that 71 percent of employees have used their company’s financial wellness program to:

  • Prepare for retirement
  • Get their spending under control
  • Pay off debt
  • Increase savings
  • Understand asset allocation
  • Manage healthcare expenses

Engaging employees in financial wellness programs, and measuring that engagement, are key components of success.

Creating Engagement

There are many ways employers can encourage employee engagement with their financial wellness program, including:

Providing what your employees need: Start with a needs assessment so that you understand your employee’s unique needs and offer a program that addresses these needs.

Publicizing the program: Communicate with your employees about the program explaining WHAT it is, HOW they can sign up and participate, and WHY they would want to engage. Make sure to follow the proven best practices.

Being enthusiastic: When management is excited about the program, they can pass that excitement on to others.

Providing incentives: Participation incentives help employees get started with new behaviors. These incentives can be benefits-based, such as gift cards for enrolling or completing certain requirements, or they can be outcomes-based with employees receiving money or points for specific outcomes.

Adding gamification: Everyone loves playing games, so having a program with game-like features will encourage employee engagement. Plus, a University of Colorado study shows that those who learn through games gain and retain more skills and knowledge.3 Gamification can include things like points, certificates, leaderboards, badges, and challenges.

Having compelling components: In addition to games, if a program has compelling components, employees are more likely to participate. There are a variety of things that you can include in your financial wellness program, but make sure that you include the essential pieces. Look for components like Enrich’s Financial Behavior Analysis, interactive tools, peer-to-peer tools, and live counselors.

Providing Automation: It is much easier to encourage engagement if some components of your employee financial wellness program are automated. Consider such things as auto-enrollment, auto-escalate, and default investment alternatives. A survey from Inside America’s Retirement Plans shows that doing so can increase plan participation by up to 80 percent.4

Once you have employees engaging, the next step is determining just how engaged they are.

Measuring Engagement

Although more and more companies offer financial wellness programs, a survey from Bank of America Merrill Lynch found that only 30 percent of companies measure the effectiveness of these programs.5 Without measuring engagement, you won’t know how to improve the benefits you offer.

The top three metrics to measure engagement are:

Utilization rate: The utilization rate is defined as the percentage of the organization’s total population that uses the program in a one-year period. This rate, taken alone, however, is not an ideal measurement because of the many variables associated with employee use. For instance:

  • Has the program been promoted? Do employees know the program exists?
  • Are there any incentives offered to participate in the program?
  • Was the program created to address identified employee issues?

180-day return login rate: This looks at the number of users who return to the program over the course of 180 days. This is a great measure of actual engagement with the program. You can measure the:

  • Percentage of users who return within 180 days of registration
  • Average number of times users came back within those 180 days

As a rule, the average program should have at least 50 percent of users returning multiple times within this period. Enrich’s current benchmark is 70 percent.

Qualitative feedback: Qualitative feedback does not rely on numbers but on direct feedback through open-ended questions. The goal with qualitative feedback is to gain a deeper understanding of how your employees feel about your employee financial wellness program.

You can get this type of feedback through:

  • Surveys with open-ended questions
  • Focus groups
  • Questions/emails/phone calls sent to customer support

Analyzing the Data

Once you have collected employee engagement data, it is time to do something with it, and that something is analysis. Look at the information and consider such questions as:

  • What do the answers we received say about the employee financial wellness program?
  • What do the answers we received say about employee needs vs. program offerings?
  • What do the answers we received say about employee satisfaction?

If you note specific issues, look deeper to see if you can determine the root cause of the engagement issue. Perhaps it is a lack of incentives or not enough communication. Maybe the employees see no connection between the program and their definition of financial wellness.

Look at cross-sections of employee engagement, including age, income, education level, etc. This will help you find valuable insights about segments of your employee population.

Look at the data in context. Did you just launch the program? Have you had difficulty finding the communication style preferred? Has your company had a large turnover? Always look at recent events to understand what is going on.

Finally, once you’ve analyzed and reported on the data, you can make adjustments to your financial wellness program that will increase engagement. For instance, Enrich has found that engagement numbers increase as a program’s gamification increases, so this could be something to consider as you tweak your program.

It is important that you find a way to engage your employees in your financial wellness program. If they do not participate, then the program will not benefit your employees or your bottom line. Instead, it will just be a waste of time and money.

 

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1PwC’s 8th annual Employee Financial Wellness Survey

2Employee Benefit Trends Study

3Gamification, Games, and Learning: What Managers and Practitioners Need to Know

4Inside Retirement Plans

52019 Workplace Benefits Report