Implementing a financial wellness program: Build the program

GO with Eckler: Engaging insights about financial wellness in the workplace

Welcome to this edition of GO with Eckler. The sun is (mostly) shining and we are all excited about enjoying a well-earned Canadian Summer. In this edition, we will continue to share the information you need to know for your Fall planning discussions.

In our last publication, we walked you through the “why” and “how” of working with a third-party financial wellness expert. Now let’s dig into best practices for building a successful workplace financial wellness program.

Build it (right), and they will come

While “build it and they will come” may be true for baseball stadiums and ice cream stands, it is not always true in the workplace.  A successful financial wellness program must align to what employees want to learn about.  If you get it right, you will likely find that the program also aligns to your organizational goals – employee engagement, attraction, retention and other workforce planning initiatives, for example.

5 steps to implement a successful financial wellness program

  1. Get buy-in from senior executives
  2. Find a third-party provider
  3. Build the program
  4. Develop a comprehensive communication plan
  5. Measure and assess

Start by surveying your employees.  Ask questions about what is keeping them up at night (budgeting, cashflow, retirement) and how they like to learn (in-person, online, independently). Only if the program  addresses your employees’ concerns will they engage and get what they need from it – and your organization will see a return on the investment.

It is harder than you might think to conduct an effective employee survey – and getting it right is critical. Working with a third party who knows how to do it, will increase your chances of success.

As we have said before, you are not likely to ask your plumber to re-wire your house nor should you expect that your internal teams have the expertise to develop an effective survey. The survey is a key first step in building your program. Unless your team (or your plumber!) is also a survey and financial wellness expert, work with someone who knows how to do the job you need them to do.

Deliver it (right), and they will learn

Long gone are the days when we sat in tidy rows with paper and pen ready to “learn.”  Session timing, delivery method, content, and who delivers the session are critical to ensuring engaging and effective workplace education programs.

Generally, employers and employees are aligned on when to offer workplace programs, i.e. during the work day, but there is some disconnect on the timing. While employers might assume the “lunch hour” is not a good time to offer a learning session, research shows that “lunch and learn” programs can be quite popular – especially if you provide lunch (in-person or virtually) and also use the time to encourage team building.

Ask employees when they would be most likely to attend a learning session and consider offering sessions at different times to accommodate as many employees as possible.

Of equal importance is the delivery method. The pandemic propelled us into a new online reality with lightning speed and employers and employees quickly embraced our virtual connections. Those who deliver workplace learning programs adapted well and the vast majority of training will likely continue to be delivered virtually – at least for the foreseeable future.

However, as COVID restrictions begin to relax and with employees already, or shortly headed back to the office, we should not overlook the benefits of engaging employees with in-person sessions or employees’ desire for it. In particular, as the baby boom generation moves through the workforce, they desire a more personal approach as they get close to retirement – including one-to-one coaching on the topics most relevant to them.

Now that you know what topics employees want to learn about (and when they are most likely to attend a session), it’s time to develop a budget and gain approval. The budget should include all the costs of running a program – third-party educators and your internal costs. Your internal costs will include the time your teams will need to devote to developing the program, getting employees interested in attending and keeping them engaged. This might include a dedicated financial wellness page on your intranet and multiple employee communications, for example. Your approved budget will then determine how much content (i.e., number of sessions) and how they are delivered (i.e., webinars or in-person sessions).

Several studies found that organizations saved $3 for every $1 that they invested in employee financial education programs1.

We hope this edition of GO with Eckler has provided you with some important information about how to develop a successful financial wellness program where you work.  In fact, we recently followed these best practices to help implement a financial wellness program at a large Crown Corporation.  We have shared some high-level insights in the case study below.

Several studies found that organizations saved $3 for every $1 that they invested in employee financial education programs1

A financial wellness program at a large Crown Corporation.

The client

Crown Corporation headquartered in Ottawa

The challenge

  • Create and deliver educational programming for financial literacy and wellbeing that will engage an employee base that is generally more knowledgeable about personal finance compared to the general Canadian public
  • Adapt program delivery for the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic

What we did

  • Proposed a multi-year financial wellness curriculum that was developed as a modular, multi-channel solution (webinars, in-person seminars and web-based tools) that targets the full spectrum of financial wellbeing.
  • When the pandemic hit, we pivoted delivery to include more webinars, articles and short video learnings.
  • Early topics were basic and foundational but built on each other and over time we introduced more advanced learning based on participants’ survey feedback.

Learnings

  • It’s important to survey your audience regularly to discover the topics they most want to learn about and choose timely topics – income tax topics, for example, are better delivered in March and April than in August.
  • Spread the news about upcoming sessions early and often. This employer also has a dedicated financial wellness page on their intranet site, providing a channel for communications and helping with employee
    “buy-in”.
  • Use multiple communication channels and tap into existing company communication and technology. Employees received regular communication through multiple channels like emails and their newly implemented Learning Experience Platform (LXP) which included a dedicated financial wellness section.
  • Tie other corporate communications to your financial wellness initiatives. For example, this client used an email about claiming the Home Office Tax Credit to include information about an upcoming income tax webinar.

Outcomes

  • We saw steady improvement with employee engagement.  From 2021 – 2022,  webinar attendance increased by 20%.

GO with Eckler is a quarterly newsletter to help employers and plan sponsors support financial wellness for their employees and plan members. Please contact your Eckler consultant if you want to learn more about supporting financial wellness in your workplace.


1Financial Consumer Agency of Canada

To learn more, get in touch with our Financial Wellness team.