Employee Benefit Plan Administrators & Employee Finances

Unless you’ve lived under a rock for the last two years, you know how drastically the employment landscape has changed due to COVID-19. Storefronts shut down. Employees had to quit to take care of their newly homeschooled children.

Workers had to take weeks off to recover from illness. And employee benefit plan administrators were left scrambling to support the business’s goals while making sure their workforce was well cared for.

A TIAA 2022 Financial Wellness Survey says 51% of Americans are now more aware of their financial wellness since the pandemic. The survey also found that 3 in 10 employees now prioritize having an emergency fund more than they did previously.

Benefits considered sufficient before don’t cut it in the new workforce environment. As a result, we’ve begun to see more and more programs related to financial well-being.

Companies like UPS have begun exploring emergency financial programs for employees. For example, in October 2020, UPS launched an emergency savings initiative for its 90,000 US-based non-union employees. This program would equip employees to set aside liquid after-tax savings as part of their 401(k) retirement plan.

Even before the pandemic, human resources professionals began to take note of the need for additional financial support in their employee benefits programs. As a result, in 2006, Marriott launched the TakeCare Relief Fund to provide need-based financial grants to employees facing hardships caused by natural disasters or other catastrophes. Leadership recognized that a financial emergency could happen to anyone at any time for any reason.

Since then, the fund has issued over 6,000 grants totaling over $10.5 million distributed worldwide.

Programs like these fill a clear need for financial support from employers, as they have become some of the most highly requested benefits from Generation Z employees. However, the responsibilities of employers to assure the well-being of their employees are becoming more complex. It’s up to leaders in employee benefits administration to lead the charge in making sure organizations adjust quickly and effectively.

And here’s a hint: BrightUp can help. BrightUp provides a suite of financial wellness benefits for employees to spend less time worrying about their finances and more time focused on their roles. This article will explain the role of benefits in employee wellness and how to expand your benefits plan to include financial education.

The Role of the Employee Benefit Plan Administration in Organizational Change

Every human resource department faces the unique challenge of balancing the business priorities of the organization they work for with the individual needs of their employees. Within the department, the employee benefits administrator is responsible for making sure the company offers benefits that attract and retain employees.

At the same time, these individuals are expected to be the voice of their employees and champion change within the organization on their behalf. Therefore, human resources must play the critical role of change management for organizations looking to improve their employee benefits programs.

Before the pandemic, many employers knew that their employees might be struggling with their finances, but money is a sensitive topic. As a result, employers were cautious about overstepping their boundaries.

What they didn’t realize is that employees are looking to their employers for solutions to their financial hardship.

This need for company support presents the ideal landscape for workplace financial wellness programs to become more and more popular.

It’s Time to Put People Over Profits

In 2019, the Business Roundtable redefined the purpose of a corporation to promote “an economy that serves all Americans.” A Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation was signed by 181 CEOs committed to their companies for the benefit of all its stakeholders. Before this updated statement, the Business Roundtable put shareholders as a corporation’s primary commitment.

The new statement goes beyond customers and shareholders to prioritize employees, supplies, and communities.

These corporations now share a commitment to: “Invest in [our] employees. This starts with compensating them fairly and providing important benefits. This also includes supporting them through training and education that help develop new skills for a rapidly changing world.”

These 181 corporations set a precedent to which all other organizations can strive. As an employee benefit plan administrator, you have an opportunity to be the voice of your organization’s stakeholders and bring the holistic wellness of those people back to the forefront.

Now, it’s time to look beyond salaries and 401ks and into employee wellness from a holistic approach. First, employers must understand how a powerful benefit program can be a compelling attraction and retention tool.

According to a 2021 Employee Financial Wellness Survey by PwC, almost 3 out of 5 employees say they’re more likely to stay at a job that offers practical financial wellness benefits than one that does not. In other words, those employers who offer benefit programs that focus on financial wellness have a competitive edge.

So how do you find the proper training and education programs to prepare your employees for the changing world?

Listen to Your Employees

You may have picked up on particular sentiments about finances among your employees. The stories you’ve heard about employees worrying about their financial security, savings, and retirement plans have become increasingly common during these trying times.

Unfortunately, only 18% of employers feel an extreme sense of responsibility for their employees’ financial wellness. The other 82% don’t realize the impact of employee economic well-being on their organization’s success. You have an opportunity to change that narrative.

While these conversations are uncomfortable, it’s important that you initiate them. Don’t wait for an opportunity to overhear a story – seek them out.

Administrators can conduct employee surveys or set up confidential meetings with employees to get a better idea of the types of struggles your employees face. This will help you assure you’re selecting the right options for the people on your team.

Sir Richard Branson said: “Train people well enough so they can leave. Treat them well enough so they don’t want to.”

As an HR professional, you likely sought out your career because you consider yourself a people person who likes helping others. Unfortunately, paperwork and bureaucracy can sometimes take your focus away from approaching your role with empathy and compassion. But it’s essential, now more than ever, to refocus your role and make sure you’re providing the kinds of benefits your employees need and deserve.

Create Lasting Change with Your Employee Benefits Plan

It’s no surprise that nearly one-fifth of HR professionals update their benefits programs to attract and retain their employees. However, as the job market continues to tighten, HR professionals need to move from short-term changes that attract employees in an emergency to long-term benefits plans that cater to the new generation of workers.

It’s becoming apparent that companies must build benefits plans that foster total wellness, not just physical health and retirement. A holistic approach to employee benefits can address all areas of well-being, including financial wellness.

Prioritizing Financial Wellness

When it comes to building your employee value proposition, you have to win over the hearts and minds of your employees. And there is no better way to do this than by offering financial wellness benefits as part of your employment package.

Workers today face endless trials and tribulations with their finances. In recent years, they’ve dealt with pandemic lay-offs and rampant inflation. As a result, 59% of employees report some or a great deal of stress regarding their finances.

As a result, financial wellness is becoming more critical in the holistic well-being movement. This means that employee benefits plan administrators need to move financial well-being to the forefront of their benefit plan adjustments.

For many workers, getting help can feel impossible. In fact, only 28% of workers feeling financial stress reach out to a financial professional. Maybe they don’t have the time to take off work to talk to someone, or they might have trouble finding someone willing to work with them.

Whatever the reason, this presents an excellent opportunity for companies to step in and make sure their employees receive the support they deserve.

Workers who have participated in a wellness program are twice likely to have a high financial wellness rating as those who are not offered resources or don’t participate. Financial wellness programs help employees reduce money-related stress and help them plan better. Investing in financial well-being improves employee health, productivity, and engagement, improving overall employee well-being.

Employees who are less stressed about their finances are more focused and productive on the job, positively impacting the bottom line.

BrightUp is an emotionally intelligent financial wellness benefit provider dedicated to helping workers and their loved ones grow their net-worth and improve their self-worth. We’re looking to partner with companies who are committed to uplifting their employees.

Our program offers:

Over 65% of employees believe that employer-sponsored financial wellness programs help reduce financial stress. In addition, 59% say such programs increase loyalty and the likelihood of recommending their employer. And 54% say that financial wellness programs will increase worker productivity.

Therefore, implementing any strategy that emphasizes the impact of financial well-being can lead to better employee retention and engagement.

Creative Ways to Incorporate Financial Wellness

Suppose you’ve been elected to incorporate financial wellness into your employee benefit plan. In that case, you probably have no clue where to start. There are different kinds of financial wellness benefits that employers can offer to their employees to improve the economic well-being of their staff. However, it might not be easy for employers to decide on the best financial wellness benefits.

This is why several companies, like BrightUp—as well as government bodies all over the country—are coming up with new ways to incorporate financial wellness benefits into their operations. As an employer, you should learn how to choose the best financial wellness benefits for your company or organization.

Think beyond salary and retirement savings.

Companies are now offering benefits such as tuition reimbursement, student loan repayment plans, child care stipends, financial education, and financial coaching.

Benefits like these can go a long way toward helping employees manage their finances — and they don’t have to cost much, either. Other ideas could include offering free training or professional development opportunities to help employees advance in their careers. The point is to make sure employees know you’re invested in their success outside of the paychecks you give them each month.

Employees need holistic financial programs that cover the core of employee finances (spending management, savings goals, debt relief) and offer expert guidance. In addition, each employee has different priorities and financial commitments, so a successful wellness program requires solutions tailored to the employee’s unique circumstances.

Here are our top ten recommendations for financial wellness benefits:

  1. Financial education
  2. Financial coaching
  3. Financial planning tools
  4. Emergency savings
  5. Tax filing assistance
  6. Alternative lending options
  7. Student loan repayment
  8. Tuition reimbursement
  9. Childcare assistance
  10. Unlimited sick days

Financial Education

In-person financial wellness seminars leave employees feeling revitalized and refocused until they walk out of the classroom. However, just as a car depreciates after driving off the lot, the education acquired within the classroom will decrease in value over time. Especially if the employee is not equipped with the tools and education they need when making financial decisions in real-time.

Enter: digital financial education.

Through BrightUp, employee benefit plan administrators can provide personalized financial education content in the palm of their employees’ hands. Our platform matches employees with financial education content from thousands of sources delivered in their portal based on their personal financial interests.

Digital delivery of financial education can improve access, facilitate and enhance learning opportunities, reinforce core competencies, and incentivize positive financial behaviors. Improving the accessibility of foundational financial skills can produce more significant financial literacy outcomes for users.

Financial Coaching

Financial coaching is one of many programs companies can provide to their employees. Rather than providing a short-term fix, financial coaching provides tools for employees to make intelligent financial choices on an ongoing basis. In addition, coaches help employees develop a budget and savings plan that creates goals in and out of the workplace.

BrightUp’s financial coaching helps employees understand how to manage their finances best. All of your employees have different goals and motivations, so they all need different kinds of support to help them make the most of their benefits.

We provide three of coaching options:

  1. BrightUp Buddy – An AI Text Bot
  2. Financial Coach by Phone
  3. Certified Financial Planner Reviews

BrightUp Buddy provides in-the-moment, text-based answers to common financial questions. We also offer access to a financial coach for more complex financial challenges and a quarterly or annual financial review by a Certified Financial Planner. It’s the equivalent of a personal trainer, only for your finances.

Financial Planning Tools

A mobile financial planning tool can help employees but what they’ve learned from their financial coach to work! That’s why we created the BrightUp app.

This financial planning tool is designed to help employees manage their personal finances. The tool provides several features to help users understand their current financial situation and plan for future ones.

Features include:

  • Spend/income analysis
  • Cash flow projections
  • Account summary
  • Portfolio of debts
  • Goal and savings tracker
  • Budget Tracker
  • Net-worth calculator

Financial planning tools can also help employees understand what financial resources are available to them and how best to utilize these resources.

Emergency Savings

Many workers cannot focus on long-term savings because they already struggle to maintain a rainy-day fund. The pandemic highlighted how unprepared American workers are for financial emergencies. As a result, many workplaces launch programs designed to help workers build emergency savings through automatic payroll deductions and employer matching.

By automating a savings habit and providing additional financial support through matching deposits, an emergency savings program can help employees feel more financially secure. A recent Willis Towers Watson survey found that only 26% of surveyed employers offer an emergency account in their retirement plan. That means offering an emergency savings option is a great way to stand out amongst other employers!

Tax Filing Assistance

For many employees in the U.S., tax season is a particularly stressful time of year. And a crucial part of maximizing one’s income is filing taxes properly. Unfortunately, some taxpayers will pay more than they owe because they made mistakes on their returns.

Employees can avoid this by hiring an accountant or using tax preparation software. Still, many people aren’t aware of these options or can’t afford them.

Give your employees a hand by reimbursing them for the cost of filing their taxes. That way, they can file with confidence and get what they deserve back from the government.

Tax filing assistance can help employees get the most out of their tax returns and make the filing process less stressful. It’s a cost-effective benefit that can benefit both employees and employers.

Alternative Lending Options

Another common financial wellness benefit to consider is offering low-cost loans for employees. Many employees who are financially stressed also suffer from subprime credit. This means they’ll have trouble getting approved for a loan – which can drive many to participate in unhealthy borrowing activities like selling valuables to pawn shops or applying for high-interest payday loans.

At BrightUp, one of our flagship offerings to employees receiving financial benefits through our program is access to an Emergency Loan. This “compassionate capital” eliminates the predatory fine print employees run into with other emergency loans. For example, there is no required minimum credit score, and the loan has a single-digit APR.

In addition, we offer a debt consolidation loan for those who are struggling to manage their current debt. Finally, we use an alternative underwriting algorithm to expand access to affordable rates for employees with a broader range of credit scores.

By providing employees with a safer way to borrow money, you’re giving them the financial flexibility they need with compassion.

Student Loan Repayment Assistance

Student loan debt is one of the most significant financial burdens facing young people and their families. Currently, approximately 46 million borrowers owe $1.75 trillion in student loans, with an average debt load of $32,731 per borrower.

Employees with student loans are more likely to be stressed, distracted at work, and worried about their finances. An American Student Assistance (ASA) Survey of 500 employees ages 22 to 33 found that 86% of employees would commit to a company for five years if they helped pay back their student loans. So it’s clear – offering student loan repayment assistance as an employee benefit can help you attract and retain top talent.

The Society for Human Resource Management provides recommendations on how to provide student loan assistance.

Tuition Reimbursement

Tuition reimbursement is a financial wellness benefit that employers can offer to employees who want to take classes, earn a degree or get certification in a field related to their career.

According to the Association for Talent Development, organizations spend an average of $1,252 per employee on training and development initiatives. Tuition reimbursement is one way companies use this training budget, including conferences, workshops, and on-the-job training.

Employers like this benefit because education improves employees’ job performance and productivity. As a result, employees can grow their skills, get promoted, and earn more money, making them more loyal to their employers.

Unlimited Sick Days

While some may equate a sick day to a health benefit, an increase in available sick days can also significantly impact an employee’s financial wellness.

Limited paid time off (PTO) is often the norm, especially for new employees. Most don’t receive vacation or sick leave until they’ve worked at a company for several months. At that point, they typically receive two to three weeks of vacation and two to four weeks of paid sick leave.

So if an employee is sick within those first few months of employment – what are they supposed to do?

With unlimited sick days, your employees can take the time they need to recover and not have to worry about lost income. As a result, they’ll be healthier, happier, and more productive when they’re at work. Many businesses already offer unlimited sick days as a financial wellness benefit, which is expected to grow.

Childcare Assistance

Family-friendly benefits often include maternity and paternity leave and adoption assistance. But the rate of childcare expenses places a financial burden on many employees regardless of whether they have children through birth or adoption.

Childcare assistance may seem like an unlikely addition to the list of financial wellness benefits. Still, it can be a crucial benefit for employees who have seen their expenses climb because of daycare or preschool costs or who have seen their income decline due to having to stay home with children. A Care.com survey reveals 69% of those who don’t currently receive employer-subsidized childcare benefits would consider trading one or more of their current benefits to get it.

Childcare assistance can help employees feel financially more secure and relieve some stress.

This assistance can take several forms: assistance with tuition, onsite daycare, or after-school care for older children. Offering childcare assistance as a benefit helps employees cope with high childcare costs and encourages them to return to work after having children.

Partner With BrightUp to Survive the Great Resignation

In July of 2021, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 4 million Americans quit their jobs. The majority of those resignations were amongst mid-career professionals.

This means they’ve seen which employee benefits work and which don’t. They know what they’re looking for, and they’ve realized they have the power to get it.

“In order to build a rewarding employee experience, you need to understand what matters most to your people.” – Julia Bevacqua, Chief Revenue Officer at Rise People

As an employee benefit plan administrator, you have an opportunity to face the facts: the impact of financial stress is hurting employee productivity and job satisfaction. The good news is that companies like BrightUp are ready to help employers change that narrative.

By offering a one-stop holistic financial wellness solution, you can help your organization become a leader in financial wellness benefits.

In addition, by providing financial education, advice, and planning tools, your organization can set itself apart in the marketplace, provide your people with the help they deserve, and continue to attract and retain talent in the long term.

Contact a BrightUp representative on our website today. You can also call us directly on (833) 513-1302 or drop us an email at hello@getbrightup.com.

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