Keeping employees engaged and productive at work is an uphill battle when they’re stressed out by personal finance. Two recent surveys show that HR professionals and employees alike think employee preoccupation with money issues has grown worse in the past 12 months, with damaging consequences.
Employee financial stress is harming productivity at work
In January the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) questioned HR professionals about how employee work habits were impacted by personal financial anxiety. Of the negative effects financial stress has on employees, HR professionals cited these as the top problems:
- The ability to focus on work (47%).
- Overall stress levels (46%)
- General productivity (26%)
Last year it was 70. Now 80 is the “new 65”.
Middle class America is expecting to push out full retirement even later due to financial worries. We’re also expecting to have to save more. Yet almost half of us haven’t worked out how long we can last on what we’ve got already.
According to Wells Fargo’s new survey:
- Almost half said that they expected to continue in the same job or a similar job of similar responsibility (expecting the same income level, we presume).
- More than half said they need to significantly cut back on spending now to save for retirement.
As busy as it can be, open enrollment is a good time to reflect on the effectiveness of your company’s benefits communication. While everyone seems to agree that benefits communication on the whole needs improvement, many organizations are in denial about how critical that improvement is to their own organization.
Findings from the 2011 Aflac WorkForces Report highlighted the discrepancy between how companies and their workers view benefits communications:
- 85% of employers believe their HR departments are effective at benefits communication
- 27% of employees say their HR communications are not very/not at all effective
- 39% say the efforts are somewhat effective
And yet everyone agrees there is much needed improvement:
A recent BusinessWeek article “Helping an Employee in a Personal Financial Crisis” had a number of eye-opening estimates about the effect of financial distress on employees and employers. The article sites the Personal Finance Employee Education Foundation estimating the cost of personal financial woes to corporations at $4.5 Billion annually and a Chicago consultant estimating a financially unstable worker can cost a company as much as $480 per month.
As a company focused on improving the financial health of employees, it’s good to see BusinessWeek covering small business examples, as it shows the depth of the problem. While larger companies like IBM, Pepsi and Home Depot have received good press coverage over the past few years for their financial education and literacy programs, smaller companies are also taking notice and implementing programs. I think this section from the BusinessWeek article sums it up the problem well:
All of us have a distinct financial personality or what we call our “Money Pulse”, that is probably different than anyone else’s. What you do or don’t do with your money in tough times says a lot about your core financial beliefs. Often we get caught up in a herd mentality and we gravitate toward what others are doing. Consider Bernie Madoff and the famous people who invested millions without asking fundamental questions. An economic crisis is not a time to follow the crowd…it’s a time to know yourself extremely well.
Turns out April is “Financial Literacy Month” and the National Foundation for Credit Counseling is weighing in by releasing the initial results of their third annual Financial Literacy survey. As this is currently a hot topic nationally, Congress will be briefed with the full report later this month. They will hear, among other alarming statistics, that fully 41% of respondents gave themselves a grade of either “C, D or F” when it comes to understanding money and/or making good money decisions. We are definitely not making the Dean’s List here.
GuideSpark announced today a new financial coaching service, the latest offering from their Financial Wellness Center solution.
Customers of the GuideSpark Financial Wellness Center can now provide employees with online and telephone access to personal financial coaches. These financial coaches have extensive financial backgrounds to help users through a variety of situations, whether it’s creating a new financial plan or helping solve an urgent financial issue.
This new coaching service extends GuideSpark’s comprehensive financial wellness solution beyond education, tools and information to include personalized support for employees. Personalized support is an important step for putting individuals on the path to improved financial health.