Avoiding a benefits disconnect with employees

Posted Originally on BenefitsPro.com

Employees want financial wellness–specifically, they want financial stability

What is that side-effect? Financial stress.

Before doing an eye roll and thinking that financial stress at work is synonymous with today’s economy, take a listen to just how badly this issue is wreaking havoc. Stress is estimated to cost U.S. businesses $300 billion annually—or $2,000 per employee every year.

These numbers don’t lie and employees swimming in debt are an unfortunate reality of today’s workplace. Employers that don’t address this issue head-on with the right benefits are no longer just missing out on taking care of their employee population, they are also shedding unnecessary, and costly, dollars. If financial wellness is not already a top priority—it needs to be, fast.

The financial wellness disconnect

SHRM recently looked at the impact of financial challenges in the workplace in an effort to better understand why workers are continuing to struggle financially, even as the economy improves.

According to HR professionals, retirement planning was flagged as the financial offering most interesting to employees, the SHRM survey “Financial Wellness in the Workplace 2014” shows.

Preparing for the future should always be encouraged in the workplace; however, benefits professionals need to understand that this answer represents a disconnect. Financial wellness is not one and done; options like a 401(k) program are usually not the answer for erasing financial stress and aren’t immediately gratifying for the 76 percent of working Americans living paycheck to paycheck, according to Bankrate.com.

Here’s why: if you look through the employee lens, their top financial concern is not having enough emergency savings for unexpected expenses.

This fact was proven in a recent PwC study, where employees time and time again communicated concern for not being able to front the bill for unexpected expenses.

This was flagged more than being able to retire when desired, being laid off from work, not being able to pay for college and more.Employees are in need of a safety net that relieves them of the stress that comes with these large purchases.

Employers are not only encouraged to recognize this disconnect and gap in financial benefits, but also embrace the employees’ needs by exploring healthy financing benefits that allow workers to make large, unexpected or emergency purchases without resorting to high-cost alternatives that dominate the market today—and often result in debt.

By layering free savings and credit safety net benefits on top of retirement and other financial wellness programs, employers ensure they are addressing both the financially secure, unsecure, and underserved—or, in other words, their entire employee population.

The combination completes a 360 financial wellness solution. In turn, benefits professionals can be confident that they are creating a more productive and focused workplace, while checking the box of offering benefits that employees are demanding today.

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