What is it that really gets working people into financial trouble? Irresponsible spending is sometimes a problem, but my neighbour who runs a debt collection agency finds the main problems are alcohol, gambling and divorce. There are two reasons this matters to an organization: one is that we care about our employees, the other is that a financially desperate employee is not a productive employee. The question we should ask is whether there is more we could do with our benefits package to protect our employees from financial disaster.
I tend to think about benefits as something extra, some icing on top of the salary cake. However, maybe the more important role of benefits is akin to insurance where we prevent or mitigate really bad outcomes rather than make good outcomes a little bit better.
Do you collect data on financial distress among employees? Do you know the causes? Is the EAP program effective or does it just make you feel better because it lets you say you are doing something for workers? Is the benefits plan providing protection that will make a real difference in someone’s life?
I don’t have the answers on protecting employees and it’s true there is only so much we can do. Still, given how common financial distress is amongst workers I am sure we could do better. If anyone has seen successful programs to help protect employees from the worst effects of alcohol, gambling and divorce I’d love to hear the details.