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6 Reasons Why Employees Aren’t Using Your Financial Wellness Program

Employers and Organizations

Do THIS to Increase Employee Engagement in Financial Wellness Programs


Last Update: January 6, 2020

For many years, companies have understood the value of offering physical wellness programs for their employees, realizing that a healthy employee is a productive one

More recently, companies have come to understand that wellness includes more than just physical health.

The Stanford Center on Longevity’s Sightlines Project found that Americans are not as physically healthy as they should be, nor are they as financially secure or as socially engaged.1

The researchers also discovered that a change in one of these areas affects the quality of the other areas.

This explains why financial stress affects health, which leads back to having less productive employees.

Unfortunately, financial stress among employees is getting worse, not better.

The 2019 PWC Employee Wellness Survey2 shows the following:

  • 67 percent of employees experience financial stress, up 10 percent since the 2017 survey
  • 59 percent of employees say that financial matters cause the most stress in their lives—this is more than all other answers combined and 5 times more than relationship stress
  • 35 percent state that financial concerns distract them on the job
  • 20 percent admit that financial worries have reduced their work productivity
  • Almost half of employees believe they will have to work throughout retirement due to financial issues

The PWC survey, along with the Edelman Trust Barometer Global Report3 and Prudential’s American Workers Survey4, shows that employees want and expect their employers to help them in this area: 

  • Edelman found that 75 percent of employees trust their employers to help
  • PWC found that 78 percent of financially stressed employees would consider changing jobs to be with a company that cares more about their financial state. 

One of the best ways to show that concern, according to 60 percent of the Prudential survey participants, is offering a financial wellness program.

Some financial wellness programs have been shown to lower employee financial stress.

Yet, a Bank of America Merrill Lynch survey found that only 31 percent of employees who have access to a financial wellness program participate in it.5

There are many reasons for this disconnect. 

How can we increase employee participation in these programs?

They Don’t Want What Your Program Offers

A recent report found that what employers want in a financial wellness program and what employees want do not always match up.

The 2019 Workplace Benefits Report6 discovered that employers want:

  • Budgeting
  • Benefits plan information
  • Health care coverage information
  • To know how employer benefits impact the finances of employees

On the other hand, employees want:

  • A path to financial freedom
  • To focus on the next step in that path
  • To only take one step at a time
  • To save for the future
  • A personal program
  • A financial assessment
  • The ability to track and measure progress
  • Professional advice

If your employee financial wellness program isn’t focused on the right things, then your employees are not likely to engage.

Of course, not all employees are alike, so the best way to determine what to offer in a financial wellness program is to survey your employees, preferably before you find a financial wellness partner.

However, even if you already offer financial wellness to your employees, you can still find what they want and need so that you can make the needed changes.

To learn more about crafting an effective employee financial wellness survey, read “How to Survey Your Employees for Your Financial Wellness Program.”

They Don’t Think They Need It

Even though the FINRA Education Investor Foundation found that 63 percent of Americans cannot pass a simple personal finance quiz, most people assume they know more than they do.7

This is called the Dunning-Kruger effect, which simply states that the less someone knows about a topic, such as personal finance, the more likely they are to exaggerate their knowledge of it.

This effect likely occurs because people do not consider what they don’t know.

For instance, if someone has never heard of compound interest, then they don’t recognize their lack of knowledge about it. So, when they estimate their financial knowledge, they do so without regard to all the topics they don’t understand.

They Don’t Seek It Until They Need It

The PWC survey also discovered that employees do not educate themselves about financial issues until they are a concern.

For instance, if they are not planning to purchase a home in the near future, they are unlikely to look for information on mortgage interest rates or try to understand an amortization schedule.

The survey found that employees are most likely to seek out information when they need to make an important financial decision (35 percent). Additional times include:

  • Financial crisis – 26 percent
  • When getting married, divorced, having a child, buying a home, or another life event – 10 percent
  • Only 3 percent of employees continually seek financial information and a full 8 percent never seek financial information.

In order to attract the other 89 percent of employees to engage in your financial wellness program, you need to offer information they need when they need it.

This means that your program should be individualized and flexible.

There Are No Incentives

People tend to need external motivation to start something new because they don’t understand how this new behavior will benefit them.

Employee incentives provide a tangible benefit that can motivate someone to begin.

In a case study, Enrich found that engagement for a mid-sized company’s financial wellness program increased when they offered $250 toward an employee’s Health Savings Account for completing specific program requirements:

  • Monthly sessions activated increased
  • Monthly page views increased
  • Average session time increased

If your financial wellness program does not offer incentives or incentives are not enticing to your employees, then initial engagement in the program will be low.

Consider providing benefits-based incentives such as money, points to redeem for prizes, or even flex benefit credits to employees who complete certain tasks like enrolling or completing a class.

If your organization does not have a budget to offer wide-scale incentives, using a sweepstakes-style incentive can still yield a high impact (for example, "Complete this assessment and you could win a $250 gift card").

You may also provide outcomes-based incentives for employees who increase specific financial behaviors like starting a savings account or increasing their credit score.

For more information on effective ways to add incentives, read “Providing Incentives for Your Employee Financial Wellness Program.”

There is No Gamification

Although incentives are necessary to get employees interested in a financial wellness program, they are not enough to keep them engaged long-term.

Several studies show that gamification is what keeps people coming back to educational applications and programs:

  • Participation increases by 100 percent or more8
  • 60 percent are motivated by leaderboards and increased competition9
  • 80 percent of employees say that gamification is more engaging10
  • 67 percent are more motivated by gamified courses than traditional courses11

According to Anadea Inc12, when people learn via an app, computer program, or online source, gamification helps to:

  • Make learning enjoyable, increasing the likelihood of repeat use
  • Increase learning because people remember more when they learned with an emotional response
  • Provide a sense of control by breaking down information into feasible quests
  • Provide a sense of victory
  • Show a visual indication of progress

All of this not only motivates the learner and provides a sense of competition, but also helps the learner know what they need to do next.

Be sure your financial wellness program contains gamification elements such as:

  • Achievements
  • Certificates
  • Badges
  • Points
  • Unlocking of new assignments
  • Bonuses
  • Loss prevention
  • Countdowns
  • Challenges
  • Leaderboards

Keep in mind that gamification only works on getting employees to come back to the financial wellness program, but it doesn’t help get them there in the first place.

That’s why incentives and gamification go hand-in-hand.

There are No Compelling Components

For some organizations, compelling incentives are not in the budget.

However, you can overcome this deficit by providing compelling components in your employee financial wellness program.

For example, the Enrich program offers Your Money Personality, a financial personality assessment that assesses how a participant’s personality type impacts their financial behavior and offers action items on how to change negative behaviors.

This assessment is very compelling for employees, as it tells them about their emotions and behaviors related to money.

It informs them of both their strengths and their challenges, then gives actionable steps they can take to become more well-rounded. 

For Enrich, this assessment is the top resource on their platform when looking at promotional click-through rates and assessment completion rates.

There are several reasons people enjoy taking assessments, including that they like to:

  • Talk about themselves: A Harvard study shows that people produce “feel good” hormones when talking about themselves.13 Answering assessment questions allows employees to disclose things about themselves, thus triggering hormone production.
  • Learn about themselves: This is why the self-help industry is projected to grow to $13.2 billion by 2022.14 A financial assessment is the first step to helping an employee meet new goals.
  • Belong to a group: The social identity theory states that we create categories in order to strengthen bonds with similar individuals and that doing so boosts our own self-identity.15 With a financial assessment, employees are given a financial personality, providing them with an instant financial group.

Other compelling components include:

  • Interactive tools
  • Peer-to-peer tools
  • Live financial counselors
  • Loan snapshot

Providing a financial wellness program as a benefit to employees can help them achieve their financial goals as well as increase your organization’s bottom line—but only if your employees use the program.

If you have low engagement, considering these factors and making the appropriate changes can help increase participation.


See more financial wellness best practices



1 - https://www.soa.org/globalassets/assets/files/research/projects/research-2016-sightlines-report.pdf

2 - https://www.pwc.com/us/en/industries/private-company-services/library/financial-well-being-retirement-survey.html

3 - https://www.edelman.com/sites/g/files/aatuss191/files/2019-02/2019_Edelman_Trust_Barometer_Global_Report.pdf

4 - http://news.prudential.com/presskits/sixth-american-workers-survey-fact-sheet.htm

5 - https://benefitplans.baml.com/publish/content/application/pdf/GWMOL/2018WorkplaceBenefitsReport_ARSRJR96.pdf

6 - https://www.benefitplans.baml.com/publish/content/application/pdf/GWMOL/2019WorkplaceBenefitsReport.pdf

7 - https://www.usfinancialcapability.org/results.php?region=US

8 - http://www.snipp.com/blog/2017-06-21/the-power-of-gamification-participation-engagement-loyalty/

9 - https://www.talentlms.com/blog/gamification-survey-results/

10 - https://www.elearninglearning.com/gamification/statistics/?open-article-id=10681320

11 - https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/08832323.2018.1490687?journalCode=vjeb20&

12 - https://anadea.info/blog/gamification-in-e-learning

13 - http://healthland.time.com/2012/05/08/why-we-overshare-the-brain-likes-it/

14 - https://www.researchandmarkets.com/reports/4847127/the-us-market-for-self-improvement-products-and

15 - https://www.simplypsychology.org/social-identity-theory.html

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