When starting a new program, most company executives focus on the bottom line. They want to know the statistics for any given project or proposal to determine success. The same holds true when considering adding an employee financial wellness program.

Some organizations prefer to do a deep dive return on investment analysis. But to calculate this, it helps to know how many employees will use the solution.

Engagement or Utilization?

The engagement level of financial wellness program provides statistics on such things as:

  • How do employees engage with the program?

  • How do employees use the program?

  • How often do they use the program?

  • How often do they come back to the program?

  • How many courses/assessments do they take?

These statistics help fine-tune the financial wellness program and communicate the program to a specific audience. These are great statistics to have, and a good financial wellness program should provide these to you regularly.

There are several different ways to accurately measure engagement. However, when asked this question, senior executives are often asking about utilization. Instead of how their employees engage in the program, they want to know what percentage of employees will use it. The answer to this question is both simple and complex: It depends.

The Average Utilization Rate

Unfortunately, providing an average utilization rate isn’t easy because the rate is dependent on a wide range of variables, all of which are controlled by the employer. Data from Enrich suggests that between 5 and 70 percent of employees will use and engage with the program.

That wide range is due to several factors, including:

  • The goal 

  • The commitment level of the company

  • Incentives to use the program

  • Communications about the program

Understanding these factors can help you determine where your employee utilization rate will likely be on the scale.

What is Your Goal for the Program?

Understanding the goal of providing a financial wellness program will help determine the percentage of employees using it. Let’s look at some possible goals.

Goal #1: Help employees with more than $10,000 in debt reduce their debt load.

With this goal, you have to determine the number of employees with over $10,000 in debt. This is not likely 100 percent of your employees. If 15 percent of employees are in this category, the utilization rate will probably be less than 15 percent.

Goal #2: Help all employees to create emergency savings of at least three months of income.

Based on one survey, 65 percent of your employees likely do not have an emergency savings account that meets this criterion. In this case, if every one of your employees without adequate emergency savings used the program, the utilization rate would still not be more than 65 percent.

Goal #3: Increase financial wellness scores by two or more points.

Surveys show that eight out of 10 employees have high financial stress and that this stress is not limited to those making under $100,000. Due to the high number of employees with stress, this goal addresses more individuals and can achieve a higher utilization rate.

What is Your Company’s Commitment Level to Financial Wellness?

How committed a company is to offer a holistic financial wellness program for its employees plays a large role in how effective the program will be. Is the commitment level at a bare minimum, or are the powers that be willing to go all out?

Let’s look at both ends of the scale to help you determine where your organization lies.

Example of a Bare Minimum Commitment Organization

This organization wants to have financial wellness as a benefit to check that box for potential employees seeking financial wellness as part of a benefits package. It has no real goal in mind and is not planning to invest much time, energy, or resources to this benefit beyond an email or two to announce the benefit and a few links on the website for those that happen upon them. This organization is likely to get a 5 percent utilization.

Example of Fully Committed Organization

This employer is actively looking for ways to help its employees be financially healthy. It has created several goals for the program and knows what metrics it wants to measure to meet its goals. It has worked with the financial wellness program company to develop a series of communications concerning the program, optimized its website to enhance the program, and plans to offer incentives to employees who choose to use it. It has formed a “Champion” or “Advocate” group within the company to help promote this solution’s importance. This employer is likely to get a four to five times higher utilization than an organization doing the bare minimum.

Can You Provide Incentives to Use the Program?

One way to boost utilization rates significantly is to offer incentives.

There are several different strategies for offering incentives, and each of these will help increase usage.

Incentives are external rewards provided to employees for doing something you want them to do. Although using the financial wellness program will provide its own rewards, such as more savings or less debt, getting started with new habits is not easy. Incentives help give employees the boost they need to get started.

Incentives can be benefits-based or outcomes-based.

Benefits-based incentives provide a benefit, typically monetary, though prizes or time off are also options for participating in some meaningful way with the financial wellness program. For instance, companies might offer a $200 HSA credit for employees who complete a series of steps such as enrollment, taking the assessment, completing the checkup, and finishing their first course.

Outcomes-based incentives occur when employees achieve some level of healthy financial behavior. For example, each year that an employee completes specific tasks or maintains a certain level of financial wellness, they are rewarded. 

When adding financial wellness to your benefits program, benefits-based incentives work best. While some organizations feel they don’t have the money to provide each employee with a $200 HSA credit, they can consider offering smaller rewards or a few large rewards via sweepstakes for anyone completing the necessary steps to enter.

Incentives offered to each employee can increase utilization by as much as five to seven times. Sweepstakes-style incentives will typically double the utilization.

How’s Your Communication?

The number one reason why employees state they don’t use an employer’s financial wellness program is that they didn’t know there was such a program. There are several reasons for this:

  • Your current HR communications may have a low engagement rate. It is not uncommon for the email open rate – the actual number of emails opened before putting them into the trash folder – to be as low as 10 percent.  

  • You are only sending out email blasts about the program without tying it to other employee communications.

  • Your website is not optimized to promote the financial wellness aspect of your benefits package.

Messaging is key to success for financial wellness programs, so it’s a good idea to spend a little time developing a messaging strategy.

The best way to determine if your communications are reducing or increasing your utilization rate is by conducting an audit. At Enrich, we help our clients decide how to integrate financial wellness communications with other communications efforts, as well as recommend the best locations for links and banners on your web portal. Then, we promote the most compelling features for the first six months of the program, such as the personality assessment and the financial wellness checkup that recommends content based on individual employee needs. At the six-month mark, we look at data and analyze what your employees find most engaging, and promote those pieces going forward.

For more on how to increase utilization, read “5 Strategies to Increase Financial Wellness Program Participation”.

Knowing your goals, becoming fully committed, offering incentives, and optimizing employee communication will increase employee utilization rates. How high they go is up to you.

 

1 - https://www.bankrate.com/banking/savings/financial-security-june-2019/