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Friday, January 15, 2021

CEO Insider

Breaking the Taboo: How to Talk About Financial Wellness With Your Employees

Business leaders influence the behaviors of everyone around them. When they invest in understanding their employees’ financial wellness, they can build deeper levels of trust and dedication. Here are a few tips for business leaders who want to discuss financial health with their team members.

Humans are feelings-based creatures. As business leaders, we need a deeper, richer understanding of those feelings to do more — and solve more — for our stakeholders. To achieve that, we need to learn more about one another. Our businesses rely on people, and it’s important for us to understand their needs, triggers, and experiences to manage our companies and build better products.

For example, say you hire somebody and learn that they have even more capabilities for growth as an employee than you expected. You see their potential and nurture it, and they’re able to use more of their talents within the business over time. It’s a deeper, richer, and symbiotic relationship — and it’s only possible if you invest in understanding your people.

That’s why it’s so important to walk the walk. As business leaders, what we do influences the behaviors of everyone around us. When we invest in understanding our people, we can build deeper levels of trust throughout our organizations.

One of the most prevalent things leaders must understand is their employees’ financial well-being, which impacts engagement, productivity, performance, and the ability to innovate. Financial woes can lower these metrics, and you’ll suffer the consequences blindly if you don’t notice that your employees are struggling.

Talking About the Taboo

In America, we’ve built a corporate infrastructure where we go to work to earn a livelihood, yet we don’t talk about money. Business leaders often don’t know how to address these conversations or feel uncomfortable when they try. This stigma of talking about money has to change, though.

Understanding and talking about financial wellness is good business. Salary Finance reported that 40% of Americans are under significant financial stress — more than all other types of stress. Employees may find it hard to concentrate and perform at their best when they’re worried about finances.

We need to understand what financial stress looks like for our employees and the challenges they face to continue learning, growing, and doing better for them. The following strategies can help:

  1. Break the taboo on talking about money.
    You can’t learn about your employees’ financial well-being if talking about money is taboo in the office. Break the taboo by creating an environment of trust where discussions about finances can be conducted confidently — and are encouraged. For example, starting with an anonymous survey can help you gather information about your employees’ financial well-being. Ensuring the survey is anonymous will provide some psychological safety and allow everyone to practice sharing about their situation; at the same time, the data collected will inform your awareness.

    Further the discussion by providing information to your entire employee base that is specific to the concerns raised by your workers. Financial counseling services, earned wage access, and other resources can help employees overcome — or at least better manage — much of their financial stresses. Providing information about these resources can be the start of ongoing conversations about finances.

  2. Learn the ecosystems employees live in.
    A survey is excellent for getting firsthand accounts of financial stressors, but you’ll need a better data mechanism to truly understand your workforce. For example, if you start seeing more payday lenders or check-cashing stores opening near your locations, could it be the result of your employees struggling — and do you understand the impact of high-interest loans on their lives?

    You should also know what’s happening in your employees’ ZIP codes. Is the cost of living near your business too high for your workforce? Do they drive hours a day to get to work and back because the cost of living is too high around the office? This kind of awareness is critical to developing a deeper emotional understanding of your employees and your entire community.

    Encourage your management team and other company leaders to share their own financial woes to provide opportunities for peer learning. You could also consider adding benefits related to financial wellness, such as insurance programs with HSAs or FSAs — or the option to work from home to cut commuting costs.

  3. Position your business as part of the community.
    Many of the financial challenges your employees face are the same challenges the rest of your community faces. After you help employees, start looking at your business as an integral part of the larger community. Think of your community as a household that needs regular care and attention — and business leaders must use their power to keep it in good shape.

    The notion of businesses as community builders is still relatively unexplored. There’s no universal celebration of neighborhood businesses, but what if more companies were encouraged to build themselves into dynamic supersets — impactful contributors — to the community? Everyone inside and outside of the businesses could thrive with that mindset. To integrate with the community around you, consider offering regular volunteer opportunities to employees, supporting a local charity that aligns with your values, or hosting educational programs.

Walk the walk by developing a deeper and richer understanding of the experiences of the people who power your business — and those they care about. Understand the core of your employees’ financial wellness, build trust, and make a positive impact by helping them overcome any challenges. A financially healthy workforce is not just good business sense; it’s a significant step in positioning your business as one that cares about its people. As Maya Angelou once said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”


Written by Safwan Shah.

Safwan Shah
Safwan Shah is the founder and CEO of PayActiv, an employer-sponsored financial wellness platform and the leader in earned wage access. PayActiv serves millions of workers worldwide while increasing employee retention and accelerating engagement for organizations. Safwan Shah is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Follow him on LinkedIn.
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