Using Technology to Improve Financial Wellbeing

May 10, 2017 conduentblogs

The ways we use technology to access and analyze data continue to get more personalized and more sophisticated. In HR, we’re seeing technology enable employees to engage in their own financial wellbeing, make meaningful changes to their physical wellness and take an ownership stake in their career development. Yet as close as we are to giving employees a single holistic view of their career, health and wealth, two gaps still exist, a philosophical gap and an engagement gap.

In a recent essay for the Society of Actuaries ( John Larson and I explore these gaps and discuss the ways technology can play an overarching role in employee financial wellbeing – a key stressor that impacts engagement and productivity.

“Even employees who are uncomfortable with technology can be engaged by personalized messages that use communication methods they are comfortable with.” Scot Marcotte, Conduent HRS Client Technology Leader.

Philosophical Gap

One of the best ways to help employees gain control over their financial wellbeing is to give them dashboard-like access to all their information. By aggregating long- and short-term finances, personal finances, investments, employer managed data, health and wellness information, and family data a complete picture of an employee’s life can emerge.

These tools exist today, however, they are typically housed in different silos. Financial planners have software and tools that cover one part of an employee’s life. HR departments retain data on career information, health information and defined benefit or defined contribution plans. The employee may separately have personal financial data aggregation for day-to-day management of budgets, investments, bank accounts, health care or other family-related data. Only when we can bring this together can we create a complete financial picture for the individual. We are at the forefront of an opportunity to use an employee’s personalized data in a way that removes complexity and confusion, giving them the tools to make informed decisions without guesswork.

Philosophically, we as employers need to determine how far we should go to help bring these disparate data sets together to help the individual.  The technology exists, but what is the employer’s role and responsibility in leading employees to financial freedom?

Engagement Gap

Everyone handles how they approach their financial wellbeing differently. Even with the benefit of technology, data aggregation and personalized solutions, people will react differently. We have identified three different employee personas, each engaging differently with their financial wellbeing:

Superusers, who are highly informed about the programs available and the goals they want in life and are completely confident they can do it all themselves

Overwhelmed, who feel lost by it all and want us to do it for them

Everyone else, who understand some concepts but could use some help to get started and to stay on track

With the understanding that the superuser persona represents the smallest group of employees, it’s the overwhelmed and everyone else that need the most support. Organizations can create special tools, bundles of services, and other personalized methods of communications and engagement to help those personas get going, keep going and play an active role in their wellbeing. Even employees who are uncomfortable with technology can be engaged by personalized messages that use communication methods they are comfortable with.

To help bridge both the philosophical and engagement gap, employers can seed technology tools with the personal financial data we own such as compensation, 401(k), HSA, ESPP, insurance, etc. and let employees “opt-in” to gather external data. We can also keep this overall aggregation at an arms-length from HR access to reinforce the confidentiality of the information.

As these gaps close, the ability for employers to help guide employees through their wellbeing journey takes on a higher level of importance. Ultimately, finding methods of engagement for the various personas will pay dividends down the line for the company as the stress of financial wellbeing gives way to knowledgeable, active participation and engagement of the employee.

Editor’s note: The entire article, written by Scot Marcotte, Conduent HR Services Client Technology Leader and John Larson, Conduent HR Services Director, Channel Development, BenefitWallet® is available here.

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