Advisers Can Leverage ‘Workplace Champions’ for Financial Wellness

The vast majority of employees saving for retirement say their financial decisions are most impacted by family and friends, according to the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans. 

A recent poll of some 150 corporate benefits leaders conducted by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans (IFEBP) found advisers aren’t just competing with other advisers or other financial institutions when supporting plan participant decisionmaking—they must also contend with the input of family and friends.

When asked what is the “single largest influencer when it comes to your workers’ financial decisions,” three in four (74%) out of this group pointed to “family members, friends, co-workers or peers.” With this in mind, IFEBP suggests employers are adapting their financial education efforts to better fit the needs of their workforce.

According to the poll responses, employers’ top goals in offering financial wellness and retirement planning in the workplace remain “to ensure workers can securely retire” and, secondly, to “reduce financial distress so workers are more productive and engaged on the job.” Additionally, about one in five (19%) of the benefits leaders polled said offering such programming is simply “the right thing to do.”

IFEBP finds two-thirds of employers surveyed offer financial education, “and they are finding ways to reach those most influential to their employees.” For example, 40% of employers say they’re willing to provide financial education to their employees’ spouses or partners. In addition, 41% provide financial education opportunities before or after normal working time, and 20% offer education on the weekends so spouses/partners can attend.

The poll results suggest employers should study and understand the impact of both formal financial education efforts, as well as informal discussions and debates that may take place among employees. IFEBP finds these informal discussions are often driven by “workplace champions,” who are eager to discuss and help improve the workplace retirement planning and financial wellness programs alongside peers and superiors.

“In our focus groups, surveys and case study work, we’ve seen the importance of workplace champions,” concludes Julie Stich, research director at the IFEBP. “Champions are passionate about the benefit in question—in this case, financial education. Often they’ll embrace the education they receive from their employer and pursue more information on their own. They’ll adopt the benefit in their own life and eagerly talk with their co-workers about it as well. Their enthusiasm, knowledge and ‘peer’ status grabs their co-workers’ attention and trust.”

Additional findings are presented here