Doctor! We have a situation at America’s employers. Some of them are offering financial wellness programs to employees, which is great. But, according to a new Bank of America Merrill Lynch report, there’s a huge disconnect between the kind of financial information and advice they’re offering and what employees really want. Help is needed. Stat!
The 2018 Bank of America Merrill Lynch Workplace Benefits Report surveyed 657 employees who participate in 401(k) plans and 667 employers who offer a 401(k) and a financial wellness program. Employers, the survey found, tend to focus on actions to manage workers’ immediate financial needs, like budgeting and handling expenses. But employees prioritize long-term financial goals, such as ways to help them save and invest for the future.
The Disconnect in Workplace Financial Wellness Programs
When both groups were asked what would help improve employee financial wellness the most, employees wanted practical guidance that would “focus on the single next thing to do — one step at a time.” By contrast, employers said: “considering the impact of employer benefits on overall personal finances.”
Employees also said they want personalized advice from a professional, with the ability to track their progress and accomplishments, factoring in their goals. Similarly, in the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans (IFEBP) 2018 survey of employers, in-person, one-on-one meetings were rated as the most effective meeting approach, with the highest participation rates. But financial wellness programs tend to offer group sessions and one-size-fits-all budgeting calculators.
Little wonder, then, that Bank of America Merrill Lynch also found that although 48 percent of the employees surveyed were offered workplace financial wellness plans, only 31 percent participate in them. One reason employees said they demur: “Don’t offer services of interest to me.”
What’s going on here?