Knowledge and Insights

$martWorkplace Roundtable Energizes Community Leaders

February 2016

Business meeting

We all need better ways to connect with and understand financial information; luckily, big change is underway. The Mercadien Foundation held a roundtable discussion on Monday, Feb. 1 to bring together businesses, nonprofits, and community organizers to tackle workplace issues related to financial capability and education. From the discussion, the Mercadien Foundation will launch the $martWorkplace program in 2016-17. In the world of financial capability, bringing community members together to share ideas – currently an infrequent practice – is a key component in the creation of substantively beneficial programs in statewide.

The Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS), a national organization accrediting educators and educating those in need of financial counseling, reports that financial stress is the number one cause of workplace stress for more than 70 percent of employees in the United States. The CCCS also reports employees experiencing financial stress spend 13 percent of their work day dealing with their money. For a full-time, 40-hour-a-week employee, that’s nearly 300 hours a year in productivity lost to financial stress.

More and more, financial education comes from our employers. Employers are feeling more strongly about financial education for a number of reasons. First, financial education pays. The Personal Finance Employee Education Foundation (PFEEF) reports an employer loses $7,000 annually in productivity for each financially stressed employee. Healthcare costs for those with high-debt stress are more than 20 percent higher than for those with low-debt stress ­— a significant area for simultaneously reducing employer costs and improving employee quality of life. Employers are also beginning to look at financial education and support as an employee benefit that makes the company stronger and better positioned for attracting dedicated and loyal employees and for setting the company apart from their competition.

The recent roundtable discussion, hosted by the Mercadien Foundation, focused on strengthening employees and employers by developing an assessment of support levels and developing best practices for strong and supportive financially capable workplaces. Mercadien Foundation’s goal is to illuminate current gaps and identify solutions to strengthen regional workplaces.

The Mercadien Foundation, moving to advance its mission to enhance financial capability in New Jersey, held the roundtable to hear from businesses and nonprofit organizations who deliver financial capability education and wish to highlight this important employee benefit. The exercise sought feedback from these organizations about the biggest challenges and opportunities of delivering personal financial capability in the workplace and how newly implemented financial education programs could be structured to ensure The Mercadien Foundation and the $martWorkplace program can be most beneficial, bridging community partners and leveraging existing programming.

Several core concepts were identified by participants:

  • A sizeable disconnect exists between the services available for individuals and businesses to advance their personal financial capability and the awareness of those services — $martWorkplace has the opportunity to bridge this disconnect.
  • Financial capability doesn’t currently carry the same weight or perceived importance as other comparable programs offered (health, wellness) despite being the origin of the highest levels of employees’ stress.
  • In an effort to increase financial capability’s visibility and necessity, several major partners and businesses who currently offer personal financial capability education need to be promoted to offer case studies of the cost savings and other benefits of offering educational programs.
  • Despite business size altering the capacity for personal financial capability programming, all workplaces have the opportunity and ability to offer some type of scalable programming to benefit both employees and employers.
  • Employees don’t know what they don’t know — in many instances, financial stresses come from areas where a lack of education allowed the financial issue to arise in the first place.

The $martWorkplace program will be:

An annual assessment of employer financial education activity and benefit implementation. The program will seek to enhance the information and benefits already provided to employees and improve workplace productivity while furthering financial education and support of employees in the workplace.

Participants determined the top four priorities for the $martWorkplace program are:

  • Payroll and benefits
  • Education and training
  • Marketing and communications
  • Reporting results

From this community leader’s roundtable for the $martWorkplace program, The Mercadien Foundation and its partners are developing this innovative workplace program to meet some of the most significant needs of employees and employers in New Jersey.