Engagement is key for a successful personal finance benefit

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Now that many employers have a financial wellness program in place, benefit executives are beginning to retool their approach to keep employees engaged and financially healthy through education and communication.

The best indicator of employee engagement is actually participation rates, rather than return-on-investment, according to a new report from market research firm Ernst & Young. Likewise, employers need to take steps to educate and communicate fiscal health strategies to employees for increased participation.

“It really is expected by the employee that the employer would help them understand their resources,” says Lynn Pettus, partner and national director of the employee financial services practice at Ernst & Young. Meanwhile, “employers are hesitant to cross the line into the personal lives of their employees.”

Initially, employers were looking to ROI – a more passive engagement indicator – to justify their employee’s fiscal health programs, according to Ernst & Young’s report entitled, “How do you know if financial wellness is paying off for you and your people?”

Employees who are engaged with their financial wellness program are likely to stay at the company (56%), stay or become healthy (50%) and remain productive in the office (45%), according to the report. The report also found that 86% of respondents work for a company that has a fiscal program in place.

See also: Minority employees struggling with financial health

“It was nice to see the percentages around employee retention,” Pettus says. “Metrics are incredibly important.”

Only 16% of employers were willing to not know the anticipated ROI, while 34% felt they could offer the benefit without knowing the ROI. The average ROI is about 3:1, the report found.

“Maximizing ROI starts with knowing your employee base – age, career stage and income ranges,” according to the report. “But fostering engagement depends on more than demographics. It requires a deeper understanding of workforce psychographics [such as] how employees think and feel about money.”

Now, employers are beginning to capitalize on a holistic financial wellness program, particularly those that tap into employees’ emotions surrounding money and finance.

“When you do make that extra effort – proactive research, communication, breaking it down – that’s really where you’re going to engage folks,” she says.

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