You have a Wellness Program. Congratulations! Does It Count?


Date: 09/05/2017


You are already providing wellness benefits to your employees, but do they recognize them? How do you know your wellness initiatives are aligned with the needs of your employees and address their greatest sources of stress?  Has your strategy been putting the cart before the horse?  An integrated approach leveraging your current group benefits, retirement savings, wellness programs and employee training with a re-allocation of resources may prove to be the best results to your company’s bottom-line.

According to The Sanofi Canada Healthcare Survey 2016, employees Top 5 Picks for Wellness (out of 13 possible programs or policies) include:

Flexible work arrangements = 41%

Discounts gym membership/ fitness = 36%

Healthy food/ snacks at work = 36%

On-site flu shots = 35%

On-site gym or fitness centre = 32%

Given the top pick is flexible work arrangements, the report suggests that employees may not think of flexible work arrangement as part of wellness and that employers could reconsider what is provided and rewarded in wellness programs.

My experience would affirm that employees mostly link the idea of wellness to physical well-being.  Some employees think of mental wellness, but seldom do I hear anything related to financial wellness.  How could financial wellness be impacting your employees stress levels and productivity?

According to Manulife/Ipsos Reid Health and Wellness study, March 2015, “60% of financially unprepared delayed or didn’t obtain health services aimed to improve their health due to financial constraints”.  In contrast, “the financially prepared are 2.5 times more likely to maintain their health.”  Furthermore, the Ceridian Workplace Wellness Survey, 2013 found that “90% of employers say stress is the leading cause of mental health concerns in the workplace.” Through Manulife’s Financial Wellness Study – 2015 Benchmark, “Canadians with low levels of financial wellness have a broad range of financial concerns and are over 2.5X more likely to be distracted at work than those who are financially well”.

How does this impact you as a business owner? Cash advances, sick days, absenteeism, decreased productivity and engagement, but research shows a comprehensive financial education program can demonstrate a three to one return on investment for your business!

So are we putting the cart before the horse? If financial unpreparedness is a great source of stress and those that are financial prepared are more likely to maintain their health, then how can we not consider financial wellness as part of our wellness program?


It’s time to Re-define Your Wellness Program

Defined by The Canadian Task Force on Financial Literacy, financial literacy means to have the “knowledge, skills and confidence to make responsible financial decisions”. In other words, being able to understand and apply that knowledge and being self-assured to make important decisions in context to that individual. So how does your company provide employees with necessary financial literacy education?

There are certainly options and research is necessary to determine what best suits your organization and needs. As indicated, you may be able to leverage current resources that just need to be communicated better to build awareness of what is available.  Most Employee Family Assistance Programs will have financial consultation and coaching services.  If your company has a Group Retirement Savings Plan, your provider may have financial wellness assessments and different online tools and resources. Your benefits and pension advisors may provide educational seminars as part of their service offering. However, there are some other unique options aside from industry-related suppliers that provide financial education.

For example, READ Saskatoon has been delivering financial literacy workshops on asset building, credit, budgeting, consumerism and banking since 2012.  Their training demonstrates strong outcomes such as 96% of individuals increased their knowledge about banking, budgeting and credit immediately following a workshop, while three months’ post workshop 73% had changed the way they spend or saved.  READ Saskatoon is the Saskatchewan trainers for the Momentum Money Management Training and provides Train-the-Facilitator training to communities throughout Saskatchewan.  Here is one employers experience with the training from READ Saskatoon:

“SIGA partnered with READ Saskatoon to offer its employees Financial Literacy and the outcomes have been nothing but positive, for employees and for the organization. SIGA wanted to provide employees with more than just a pay cheque; SIGA wanted their employees to be empowered to maximize how their money is used. The latter can only be achieved if employees are given the opportunity to talk about relevant money topics such as, how to budget, how to save and how to prepare for the future. Financial Literacy has got SIGAs employees talking about money!”  


Measuring Outcomes is Key for Success 

Evaluating outcomes for some wellness initiatives is difficult and in a time when resources are scarce, we want to make sure that every dollar invested in wellness initiatives count. What initiatives will have the biggest impact on claim costs and on productivity? How can you reward results? How you can you make it part of your on-boarding? Can you include employee’s families?

The key to success for most wellness initiatives we think of such as exercising, sleeping and eating healthy is a change in habits or behavior which is not immediately measurable.  However, with financial literacy, I believe that people “don’t know what they don’t know” and new knowledge doesn’t require significant change in behavior and can have an immediate impact and measurable result when they act on that new knowledge. For example, do your employees know?

  • Too many applications for credit (they really don’t need an extra fleece blanket) will impact their credit history? 
  • Most rental agencies will check credit history? 
  • Children with an RESP are 6X more likely to finish high-school and attend post-secondary education? (Dubois, 2002; Elliot & Beverly, 2010)
  • Post-secondary education is estimated to cost $140,000 for children born in 2014

Think about the incredible impact of providing the knowledge, skill and confidence for your employees to make responsible financial decisions.

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day;
teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” – Maimonides.

When we offer pay increases, more benefits, more generous contributions to group retirement, more dollars in health and wellness accounts… we provide food for a day. Teach financial literacy and we will have a better measurable result and impact on the overall wellness of our employees and their families and the wellness of our company’s bottom line. That counts!


-Andrea Hansen, Business Advisor

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