Smelling the coffee at the workplace

Una Morabito

By Una Morabito
Una Morabito is Head of Client Management for the Workplace Solutions unit of MassMutual.
Posted on Aug 7, 2019

What is the one thing that nearly all workers who say they are satisfied and content with their employer have in common?

A. Bodacious coffee and expresso bar at work

B. Quarterly raises and big bonuses

C. Plenty of free parking next to the office

D. Robust retirement and financial security benefits

While all of those perks and benefits may contribute to employee satisfaction, new research from the LIMRA Secure Retirement Institute finds 99 percent of the most satisfied employees say their workplace benefits are critical to their financial security.1 The most satisfied workers are described as the most engaged and content, and the least likely to bolt for another employer.

Sure, many employees may rate their coffee bar higher at the start of the day. But once the caffeine kicks in, the most engaged employees say their retirement plan is a big contributor to their overall satisfaction, according to the LIMRA study. Consider that satisfied employees are more likely to participate in their employer’s 401(k) or other defined contribution plan and receive matching contributions as compared to less-satisfied employees.

Across all employee groups, LIMRA reported, the No. 1 financial goal was achieving a secure retirement. Satisfied employees, when compared to their least satisfied co-workers, can be identified by several financial factors:

  • More than three times as likely to describe their retirement benefits as adequate
  • More likely to have access to a 401(k) or other defined contribution plan
  • Nearly twice as likely to be confident about their financial future

The least satisfied workers – who LIMRA defined as “restless” or looking for opportunities outside their current employer – were much more likely to say they were financially stressed. The study found that 51 percent of restless employees say they’re financially stressed as compared to 34 percent of satisfied employees.

Talk about a wakeup call. The LIMRA findings underscore one of the biggest trends in today’s workplace as employers increasingly focus on improving the financial wellness of their employees. Workers who are less-than-satisfied are often concerned about meeting current financial obligations, saving for retirement and covering future healthcare costs, the study concluded.

Suddenly, the cost of those Macchiatos, Frappuccinos and double Lattes from the company’s coffee corner may be a source of brewing financial anxiety. Getting a handle on the monthly budget and expenditures becomes a higher priority.

Many workers who identify as less-than satisfied, report that their level of contentment with work could improve if their employer offers to help address some of their financial challenges and associated stress, according to LIMRA. The report makes a pointed conclusion about the value of financial wellness programs at the workplace:

“Deploying a financial wellness program and leveraging and promoting the financial educational tools and resources from their plan providers could help these workers alleviate some of the stress and dissatisfaction that have undermined their enthusiasm for their positions and the company,” according to the report.

As LIMRA suggests, your retirement plan provider can help. First, determine if your provider offers a state-of-the-art financial wellness tool that can help employees ascertain their overall financial wellness. Ask if the tool provides a financial wellness score and can recommend ways to improve it. The best tools help employees prioritize their benefit selections based not only on their personal financial situation and needs but also on their budget.

The simple truth is that not every employee needs or can afford to pay for every benefit offered by his or her employer. The goal should be to help employees meet their most-pressing needs while chipping away at their financial stumbling blocks to achieve greater financial wellness over time.

Providers such as MassMutual are now introducing more voluntary benefits at the workplace to enable employees to plug financial gaps, protect themselves against disabilities, cover healthcare insurance deductibles and co-pays, build emergency savings and manage college loans. Other benefits that may be available include debt management, budgeting and financial planning.

Employers initially need to focus on helping financially stressed employees to better manage monthly expenses, build a cash cushion to deal with financial emergencies and feel more financially secure. Only then can employees begin focusing on longer-term goals such as saving for retirement and accompanying expenses for healthcare and long-term care. Financial wellness, after all, is not a sprint but a marathon.

With the unemployment rate the lowest it’s been in half a century, retaining good employees is as necessary as it is challenging. Employers are waking up and smelling the coffee by focusing on the financial wellness of their employees and taking concrete steps to improve it.

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1 LIMRA, “Industry Trends, How to Keep Your Employees Satisfied – Start with a Strong Retirement Plan,” July 9, 2019.