Financial wellness just may become the next big thing in workplace benefits. But given that it’s still a relatively new perk — and that companies cite a number of challenges to implementing such programs — it might take a while to get there.

“Human resources departments and benefits managers are [often] overworked and stretched thinly,” and taking on a new benefit is challenging, given that managers have a plethora of other benefits to be managed and maintained, Adam Potter, co-founder and president of SimpleFi, said during an Employee Benefit News and Guidespark webinar Wednesday.

“There’s been such a large interest and appeal, but it’s really in its infancy,” Alex Assaley, lead adviser for retirement plans AFS 401(k) Retirement Services LLC, said of financial wellness programs. “I think [we will] continue to see increased interest and increased programs being developed and delivered in the coming years.”

According to a poll of some 470 attendees in the webinar, 41% say they offer wellness programs, while 59% do not. When asked the reasons behind not offering such a program, 31% said they didn’t know where to start; 28% cited a lack of internal resources; nearly 10% said they didn’t have leadership support; and 28% said it wasn’t a priority.

Interestingly, just 4% said the reason for not offering financial wellness programs was that their employees aren’t interested, which panelists said is evidence that employees are eager for this type of workplace benefit.

“I think [financial wellness] is absolutely beneficial to the individual employee because it’s making a difference in their lives, which turns into a difference to their company,” including increased job satisfaction and productivity, Assaley said.

Throughout the discussion, the panelists offered best practices and tips on developing and administering financial wellness programs. Among them:

Get feedback from employees. “You need to listen and learn from your employees, and collect feedback and data from them so you can really customize a program that aligns with their needs, their goals and their interests,” Assaley said.

Give it time. Don’t just roll out a program quickly. Really think about the best ways to do so, and give it time.

Think beyond retirement. Survey after survey pegs financial issues as a constant stressor among employees. And though those fears include retirement, they often encompass other areas as well — and so should your financial wellness program. “You see impact there with respect to lower levels of productivity, lower engagement in the workforce [and] absenteeism. It’s not always about the fear of having enough money in retirement,” Assaley said. “It’s about day-to-day challenges and trying to get a handle on debt, whether it’s credit cards, student debt or personal debt. All of these stressors impact our well-being and ultimately impact the employees’ success within the organization.”

Offer a range of solutions in the program. Though it depends on the company and its employees, a financial wellness program’s solutions may include general education sessions, one-on-one meetings, webinars and hiring third-party companies to help with debt management, debt reduction, retirement planning or healthcare solutions.

Embrace technology. “Technology can make [financial wellness] so much more exciting, so much more user-friendly,” Potter says. With it, employees can have easy access to important information including financial statements and budgets. They can even attend a webinar and have a sense of anonymity, which is often important to people and their finances. And on the employer side, he said, “it’s important because it can keep the cost down and be distributed more widely.

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