by Shyam Pradheep from the Forbes Business Council

While there are many standard employee benefits that new hires look forward to, new types of benefits are shifting priorities for employees. Financial wellness programs are now the number one most-wanted benefit among employees, leading over mental health and time-off programming. This isn’t just a desired benefit but an expected one as nine in 10 employees (registration required) expect employers to provide financial wellness resources.

As the general manager of a financial literacy company, I’ve seen firsthand how life-changing these financial wellness resources can be for employees and understand why it’s needed so desperately.

The Financial Literacy Crisis

As new hires enter the workforce, there is a certain expectation for employees to understand principal financial skills. They must make decisions on 401k plans, enroll in health and dental insurance, and even choose stock options. Financial literacy is the backbone of an employee’s ability to make informed, responsible financial decisions on these matters. Without it, they’re more likely to make mistakes or miss opportunities to achieve their financial goals.

The reality is that Americans have low levels of financial literacy across all generations, making it difficult to navigate employee benefit decisions. The annual P-FIN Index report indicates America’s financial literacy rates are not only remaining low, but gradually falling. Surprisingly, employees tend to fare worse than the general population—only 13% of employees are considered to have basic financial skills.

People are not learning financial education via traditional methods, such as in the classroom or even at home. According to Next Gen Personal Finance, only about 25% of students will take a personal finance course before they graduate high school, given that education requirements vary greatly on a state-by-state basis. When financial education is unavailable in the classroom, students must find it elsewhere. This usually means less reliable sources, such as social media or word of mouth.

The bottom line is that financial education is not being prioritized before people enter the workforce. This missed opportunity to educate Americans early on needs to be reconciled somewhere else, which opens the door for employers to become a trusted source of financial programming.

Leveling Up Financial Education In The Workplace

While simply offering access to financial education is a step in the right direction, assessing which programs can maximize learning potential is critical to truly improving financial wellness in your employees’ lives. To make financial education engaging and exciting, employers must work with modern offerings to understand how to connect with employees.

Digital, mobile-first HR programming has expanded over the past few years. As 85% of Americans now own a smartphone, opting for mobile-first solutions makes learning accessible across generations.

Digital programming aims to help close financial literacy gaps, allowing anyone, regardless of demographic or socioeconomic factors, to engage in learning. Mobile-first HR tools can also put control in the hands of employees, allowing them to pick and choose when they would like to learn. Freedom over when and where they can utilize their financial programming gives employees autonomy over their financial education. In a world where flexibility in the workplace is valued as much as a 10% pay raise, digital financial programs will hold more weight with employees.

Another critical aspect of financial education programming is engaging with short-form content. The rise in popularity of short-form content may be stemming from shortened attention spans—Millennials average a 12-second attention span with Gen Zers falling to a shocking 8 seconds. With attention spans decreasing, short-form content works to make learning digestible and achievable. Especially when breaking down financial jargon, bite-sized learning methods help make intimidating topics feel more manageable to understand.

To truly make learning fun, introducing methods of gamification can increase enthusiasm and enhance learning outcomes. Gamification can incentivize users to continue learning and promote goal-setting skills. When transforming dense financial educational content into easy-to-understand material, gamifying content can achieve higher engagement levels than traditional learning methods.

Best Practices

If you’re looking to get started implementing mobile-first education tools as an employee benefit, there are a couple of things to consider first.

How will we roll this out to employees?

For existing employees, making an announcement about adding financial education tools to your employee offerings is a perfect opportunity to reaffirm your commitment to your employees’ holistic wellness. Instead of announcing it simply as a new HR tool, frame it as a new opportunity for employees to invest in their long-term success with support from their employer. You can also use some of the engagement tips in the next section to drive a successful kickoff. For new hires, emphasize this benefit upfront in their orientation or onboarding to start making it a habit to use it as a resource throughout the term of their employment.

How do we get employees to engage with this tech?

While many employees are already hungry for a tool like this, there may be some who are less interested. To maximize employee engagement, utilize the gamification features that mobile-first tools allow. For example, you can incentivize usage by instituting leaderboards for the company and offering rewards for those who come in the top three spots for learning the most. Offering competition-style campaigns drives employees to both engage with the tool as well as engage with fellow employees.

Advantages For Your Organization

All in all, developing fun, productive financial education programming is an essential employee benefit. Employees are more likely to stay longer at their current job if their employer offers them financial wellness benefits. Financial wellness training has also been shown to improve job satisfaction. Optimizing financial wellness programming can result in wins for everyone and allows employees to be better prepared to achieve their financial goals.

Read the article on Forbes.

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