I recently polled a number of HVAC companies, some of them very progressive, in an effort to find out how well of a job we do as an industry in educating our employees in the area of money management and financial wellness. I was not surprised to learn through my admittedly very unscientific poll the percentage of companies actively involved in their employees’ financial education is near zero, but I was very surprised to learn why.
The contractors that I spoke with simply did not recognize the enormous value to both their employees and to themselves. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with and consult for a couple of companies that have been progressive enough to invest in their employees’ financial educations, and I can tell you through first-hand experience, these efforts are always well received and very much worth the effort.
The benefit for the employer is clear, but financial wellness simply does not seem to be an area of education or training that receives much consideration from our industry. A recent Price-Waterhouse Coopers financial wellness survey indicated 29 percent of the workforce across a diverse group of businesses admitted to being regularly distracted from their work as a result of financial stress, and an astonishing 48 percent of employees admitted to regularly using company time and resources to handle issues pertaining to their personal finances while on the clock. What was most interesting to me was that employees who are struggling financially were not disproportionally young or low-income employees. In other words, the inability to manage money affects employees at every level, regardless of age, rank, or
skill level. Can you imagine what the bottom-line cost to our industry must be as a result of this?
I’m sure we can all agree that an enhanced understanding of the basics of financial planning and how your company’s compensation and benefits program can add to your employee’s financial wellbeing is in everyone’s best interest. We’ve already discussed the benefits to you, but consider this: Not only do employees gain a tangible benefit from financial wellness education at very little cost to you, but they also gain the feeling that they work for someone whose care for them goes beyond the employer/employee transactional relationship — an important intangible benefit. Every employee, whether they’ll admit it or not, wants desperately to have that feeling. Best of all, it’s highly likely that none of your competitors are doing this. What a great way to differentiate yourself from
WHERE TO START
I recommend starting with the basics. Hold lunch-and-learn events featuring knowledgeable financial professionals from your community as guest speakers. Allow them to discuss things like how to make sure employees are claiming the appropriate number of deductions or exemptions on their W4s, developing a basic budget, setting financial goals, reducing or eliminating debt, increasing savings, investing, building good credit, and building and maintaining an emergency fund. How much more productive will your workforce be, on the average, if that emergency fund is available to them when their car stalls unexpectedly, their child needs braces, or if there is an unexpected home repair that must happen immediately? How much easier will it be for your employees to weather the unfortunate “feast-or-famine” nature of our business? It’s in absolutely everyone’s best interest to teach the basics of how and where to save money during the busy times to supplement the slow times. Wouldn’t it be nice to be in less danger of your employees quitting or demanding pay increases if it happens to be a perfect 72°F all summer long and they don’t have the opportunity to bring in the extra money that the 90°-plus temperatures always bring?
After your employees have been educated on the basics of financial wellness, you should be prepared to offer education in increasingly more complex financial vehicles. Always remember that financial education doesn’t need to be limited only to employees who are experiencing financial strain in their lives as employees who are not necessarily struggling financially can also benefit and improve their financial wellness. Most people know what a 401(k) is and what it’s designed to do, but how many know about 529 plans that bolster their children’s post-secondary educations? Do they know about the different forms of IRAs that are available to them and the tax advantages of each?
In closing, even if you have a dedicated human resources department that lets new employees know about the programs you offer — whether that be a 401(k); or health, dental, vision, or long-term disability insurance — make sure your administration staff is sufficiently educated to talk about what all of these things mean and their potential impact on your employees’ financial wellness. Bringing in your broker for the obligatory annual renewal meeting is not enough, and it doesn’t send the message that you truly care. Your employees already know you’ve gone into business in the interest of your own financial wellbeing, but you’ll never lose by going above and beyond to make sure they know you’re there for theirs, as well. If I can be of any assistance to you in this regard, please do not hesitate to reach out to me — my advice to readers of The NEWS is always free.
Publication date: 8/17/2015