One topic that we don’t often think about, yet impacts our employees heavily, is personal finance.
According to this article from the Washington Post, approximately one-third of your employees are living paycheck-to-paycheck. The first response for many leaders is, “Yeah, so what?” However, this can be an opportunity to impact the productivity and engagement of your staff, so there’s value in learning more about this issue.
Stress Impacts Productivity
We all know from experience—when you’re stressed, you can’t focus as keenly on the work you need to do. The American Psychology Association’s Stress in America survey showed that 76% of Americans cite money as a significant cause of stress.
- How is Cameron supposed to focus on closing the sale when he’s worried about a debt collector calling him at work?
- Do you think Isabel will be able to handle that new project after her spouse passed away with no life insurance?
- Will Joseph be able to work those extra hours when he’s already working a second job to try and pay his bills?
These are merely examples, but they are a very real picture of some of the situations that face our employees every day. Look around you—statistically one out of every three of those folks is one pay hiccup away from a financial crisis.
It’s time to do something about it.
Keep in mind, this isn’t just a financial planning session with a retirement services provider. That interaction has its place in the overall financial puzzle, but what I’m talking about is more immediate help rather than support for a life stage that could be between 10 and 40 years away.
What You Can Do
For starters, you can begin providing resources beyond an EAP.
Yes, I know. Most of us like to be able to claim that we have an EAP while we secretly know that virtually none of our employees actually make use of the benefit. I’ve been there and understand.
While employee assistance programs are fine to offer, they don’t do enough to engage and target the specific financial issues and stressors your people are facing. There are great resources available for helping to manage money. There may be a local financial planner that will visit with your staff, an educational training to help them understand how personal finance works, or a combination of remote and in-person resources to meet a variety of needs and preferences. I won’t endorse any particular provider here, but what you’re looking for mainly is someone with the heart of a teacher, not a salesperson.
Start training your managers and HR team to recognize signs of stress. A historically high-performing employee that suddenly has performance problems? That’s an opportunity to reach out. There’s no guarantee the change is driven by money issues, but if there’s a way to assist with the stressful situation and help the employee feel like he/she has support, that’s going to help solve the problem in the long run.
The Business Impact
As I said early on, this widespread issue impacts productivity and engagement. Removing the stressors can help to improve productivity, but there’s an additional benefit.
People naturally connect their circumstances with those who help them. If you make the effort to support the lives of your team members, they will mentally associate their improved situation with the efforts of the employer.
I have listened to stories from people whose employers offered help and supported them through tough financial times. The gratitude those employees feel after the fact is powerful stuff, and they can’t speak enough positive things about the companies they work for. Most of us would like for our staff to speak that highly of us as employers—the question is whether or not we’re willing to hold up our end of the deal.
You might have heard the phrase, “A man with a toothache cannot fall in love.” It’s a similar concept. When there is something especially painful or worrisome in your life, you just can’t devote your attention to other areas until that pain point is removed. Help your team remove that pain (financial or otherwise), and your organization will be better for it.
- Does your organization have a financial wellness program? If so, what is involved?
- What other stressors are found in the workplace that we could help employees with?
—Ben Eubanks, Associate HCM Analyst, Brandon Hall Group