Nearly one in three human resources professionals have increased the time they spend educating employees about the critical role workplace benefits play in their financial security and wellness throughout their lives.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch discloses this finding in a new “Workplace Benefits Report.” Based on a nationwide survey of more than 1,000 companies of all sizes, the study examines the evolving role of employers and HR professionals when offering financial benefit plans to employees, and in helping the American workforce achieve financial wellness.
Four out of five (81 percent) HR professionals believe they are at least somewhat responsible for their employees’ financial wellness. To help improve the financial well-being and peace of mind of their employees, many companies now offer education related to saving for retirement (70 percent) and, to a lesser extent, planning for health care costs (38 percent) as well as debt management and budgeting (15 percent).
The study notes also that providing a financial education and other resources is not only beneficial to workers but also to their company’s bottom line. For instance, employers believe that overall financial wellness leads to a more satisfied (76 percent), loyal (66 percent), engaged (65 percent) and productive (55 percent) workforce.
“As companies consider ways to optimize employee performance and retention, effective workplace benefits that encourage healthy financial behaviors should be near the top of the list,” says Steve Ulian, head of institutional business development for Bank of America Merrill Lynch. “Helping employees understand a company’s commitment to financial benefits demonstrates a vested interest in their well-being and can foster a more loyal workforce dedicated to success.”
Due in part to the greater difficulty of tailoring workplace benefits amid changes to the economic, regulatory and public policy environment, nearly three in four (73 percent) HR professionals surveyed report having to develop greater expertise across various retirement and health care-related topics in order to effectively do their jobs.
Many of these professionals also report that they have spent significantly more time on activities related to their health care plans (61 percent), their company’s 401(k) plan (38 percent), recruitment and layoffs (32 percent), and other compensation and employee benefit-related issues (22 percent).
The survey also finds that the larger the company, the more likely it is that the HR professional will spend an increased amount of time in these areas.
During the last year, the report adds, employers have stepped up efforts to provide employees access to personalized advice and guidance to help them improve their financial lives. Seventy percent of employers now offer employees access to a one-on-one relationship with a financial professional (compared to 56 percent in 2012); 55 percent offer tools to help employees see their full financial picture; and 49 percent offer online resources and education (compared to 39 percent in 2012).
Read the full report here.