What Works in the Workplace: Helping Employers Provide Financial Education to Their Staff
The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which ensures that the federal government has an effective civilian workforce, has recognized the importance of financial education by becoming a MoneySmart partner and offering the FDIC curriculum to its own employees. OPM also tries to expand the reach of financial education by, for example, facilitating Money Smart train-the-trainer sessions to employee benefits officers from federal agencies government-wide. "Being financially literate helps employees make better, informed choices about their benefits options," Raymond Kirk, Chief of the OPM's Benefits Officer Training and Development Group, told Money Smart News. "This not only helps the employees but also helps the employer get better value for its investment in employee benefits programs."
FDIC Community Affairs Specialist Bobbie Gray, who has been conducting Money Smart train-the-trainer workshops for federal benefits staff at OPM and other federal agencies, added: "Financial education in the workplace is definitely valuable for employers as well as employees. While many employers provide information on employee benefits, few provide training on core concepts such as budgeting, saving money and credit management that can help employees take advantage of benefits such as matching funds for retirement savings. Financial education initiatives can help employers save money by encouraging employee participation in programs such as direct deposit. Financial education also can increase employee productivity because workers who understand how to manage credit effectively are less worried about debt."
For this edition of our Success Stories, Money Smart News asked Gray and other FDIC staff members for tips on how financial educators can team up with personnel offices at employers -- public, private and nonprofit -- to offer financial education in workplaces:
Win the support of top management. If an employer's personnel office proposes to offer money management classes, the next step is to get buy-in from senior executives. And if a financial education program becomes a reality, make the leadership's commitment well known among the staff. "Even something as simple as arranging for a top executive to present certificates of achievement at the completion of a workshop can help draw attention to the availability of financial education workshops and show their importance," said Irma Matias, an FDIC Community Affairs Specialist.
Make employee participation easy and convenient. Examples:
Take advantage of electronic delivery of financial education. The computer-based instruction version of Money Smart and the new Money Smart Podcast Network make learning easy. Employers also can add links to the FDIC's Money Smart material on their internal Web pages that workers go to for information on employee benefits and other resources.
Offer a lunch-and-learn series on money management.
Add financial tips to internal newsletters, perhaps as a brief "tip of the month" or a regular column, and include promotions for upcoming programs at the same time.
Host a financial fair.
Add a speaker on money management at corporate events such as Bring Your Children to Work Day and Administrative Professionals Day.
Include financial education materials in the handouts at health and wellness events. Statistics have shown that stress related to finances spills over to the workplace and can affect productivity and even absenteeism, added Luke W. Reynolds, Chief of the FDICs Community Affairs Outreach and Program Development Section.
Consider programs that offer mutual benefits for employees, employers and educators. For example, many financial institutions offer bank-at-work programs that involve sending staff to worksites to conduct educational sessions as well as to open new bank accounts or perhaps provide other banking services. To learn more, see several case studies highlighted in the FDIC's "First National Survey of Banks' Efforts to Serve the Unbanked and Underbanked," issued in February 2009, such as Monroe Bank & Trust in Michigan, which sends staff to visit various employer sites, and the Fort Morgan State Bank in Colorado, which has a branch at a major employer's facility. To read the case studies, go to http://www.fdic.gov/unbankedsurveys/unbankedstudy/FDICBankSurvey_Chapter12.pdf 366k (PDF Help).
Make the topics timely and relevant for the target audience. Employers and educators can -- and should -- formally and informally ask employees about the topics of most interest to them and then design a tailor-made program. One example of a low-tech polling method is to post lists of possible workshop topics on a bulletin board for employees to anonymously express their interests.
Promote your financial education programs to prospective and new employees. Include information about the program in your benefits package. Also consider providing financial education or money-management tips during orientation programs for new employees and student interns. "Employers can capitalize on new employee orientation as a 'teachable moment' to highlight, for example, the benefits of direct deposit," said Matias.
The bottom line, according to Matias: "With a little planning, financial education at the workplace can be a success for all parties."
Attention! Success Stories Offering Financial Education to Soldiers and Their Families
Since 2003, the FDIC has partnered with the U.S. Department of Defense to promote financial education to service personnel and their families. As part of this, FDIC staff members around the nation teach Money Smart classes on military installations or train others to lead these sessions. A prime example is the FDIC's work with the U.S. Army's Financial Readiness program, which offers classes and counseling -- to soldiers and their families -- on money management, credit, financial planning, insurance and other consumer issues. FDIC Community Affairs Specialist Kevin Williams, who has been working with the Financial Readiness program at the U.S. Army Fort Polk Training Base in Leesville, Louisiana, shared this Success Story with us.
Every Friday morning, approximately 50 to 60 soldiers at Fort Polk (nearly 3,000 each year) are trained on various Money Smart modules as part of the military's program for new recruits. But on May 5, 2009, Fort Polk took its financial program to new heights, hosting an all-day Financial Readiness Challenge Event for its soldiers featuring guest speakers on topics such as identity theft, credit reports and borrowing wisely. The event organizers projected that about 300 soldiers would attend, but more than 1,000 arrived for what became a standing room-only group. "The large turnout no doubt illustrated that focusing on financial fitness is a need on the minds of our military personnel," said the FDIC's Williams.
Money Smart also is being used by financial institutions and other organizations to educate service members and their families through workshops, one-on-one counseling and other programs. For example, the Association of Military Banks of America, a trade group for banks operating on military installations or otherwise serving military customers, is part of the FDIC's Money Smart Alliance.