Develop the business case for your financial wellness program

From: Financial Consumer Agency of Canada

You understand the value that financial wellness can bring to your employees and organization. Now you need to get senior management to support the idea. Help them see the financial well-being of employees as a priority and become champions of the program within your workplace.

Strategies for building and communicating your business case

Your business case needs to serve three main purposes:

  • sell the idea to senior management
  • demonstrate that you’ve done your research and understand the needs of the organization and its employees
  • show that you’ve planned out the important details

It will take some time and effort to pull together all the right information to make your case. However, this information will help you get the approvals and resources you need to implement your financial wellness program. It will also prepare you to answer tough questions about your proposal.

Develop a compelling storyline

When presenting the argument for a workplace financial wellness program to senior management, sell the idea with a compelling storyline.

You’ll need to understand and communicate why your workplace needs a financial wellness program (refer to the section Why your employees’ financial well-being matters).

Your storyline should communicate:

  • the problem/need (for example, employees rank money worries as their greatest source of stress)
  • the impact of financial stress on employees
  • the impact of financial stress on the organization
  • the potential benefits of employee financial well-being to both employees and the organization
  • the cost/risk of doing nothing
  • the solution to the problem

Make the business case

Continue to build the business case by adding important details about the program. This doesn’t need to be complicated or elaborate, but it should clearly outline what you want to achieve and how you plan to do it.

Outline the overall objective of the program

Explain what the organization hopes to achieve by introducing financial wellness in the workplace. Align your strategy with your organization’s business objectives.

Highlight the benefits. Demonstrate the positive impact you expect your financial wellness program to have on your workforce and organization. Refer to the benefits outlined in the section on Why your employees’ financial well-being matters.

Tip: Make it relevant to senior leadership

Understand senior leadership’s concerns. For example, are they concerned with:

  • reducing costs
  • improving workplace culture
  • employee wellness
  • social responsibility

It could be more than one thing. Align your business case and strategy with these concerns. This can help make the business case more relevant to senior leadership and get you the buy-in you need. 

Outline what financial well-being means for your organization

Communicate what a complete employee financial wellness program could look like within your organization. Look at the results from your employee needs assessment (if you’ve done one already) and organizational assessment. Use them to outline what is needed, what you want to offer and how you will offer it.

Consider answering questions like:

Provide options to consider

When communicating how you will implement a financial wellness program in your workplace, look at giving decision makers different options to consider. Outline each option and add the pros and cons for each. Provide recommendations you want senior management to consider. Some options could include:

Pilot project approach

Propose a pilot project. You may want to start the pilot by targeting one segment of your workforce, like employees in a specific life stage or at a specific location. Consider the best method to deliver the pilot project. This could involve using one delivery channel or a mix of delivery channels or service providers to figure out which one works best for your workforce.

Different-sizes approach

You could present senior leadership with two or more options of different sizes. This allows them to choose the model that aligns best with the budget, resources and time they can afford.

Phased approach

You could present a phased-in approach with measurable milestones that build the program over a period of time. This allows you to start small (for example, by providing links to financial tools and calculators on your intranet) and build up to a full program.

Hybrid approach

You could suggest an approach that integrates elements of more than one of these options. For example, you may want to implement a complete financial wellness program eventually. However, due to uncertainties or budget constraints, you can start with a pilot project and build on it.

Outline how it will be implemented

Provide details on the steps and timelines for planning and implementing your financial wellness program. Identify key milestones, resources required (particularly if you will require other divisions or departments to contribute), and how you will monitor and report on project status.

List the obstacles or challenges that you think you may face and identify the strategies you’ll use to overcome them. See the section on Identify internal challenges for a list of common challenges and ways to manage them.

Determine the cost and the cost savings

Provide an estimated budget outlining program costs and an estimate of the return on investment.

Consider including the following costs in your budget:

  • planning
  • delivering the program
  • logistics
  • marketing the program
  • evaluating the program
  • making updates or improvements based on feedback
  • maintaining the program

Tip: Budget-friendly financial wellness programs exist

The good news is that implementing a financial wellness program in the workplace does not have to be complicated, expensive or take up a lot of internal resources. There are many budget-friendly, non-biased resources available. For more information, see the section on Financial wellness resources for employers.

One of the many benefits of implementing a workplace financial wellness program is the cost savings to the organization. Research suggests that when employees are less stressed about their finances, productivity goes up and absenteeism related to financial stress goes down.

To strengthen your case, consider showing the cost of doing nothing (maintaining the status quo). Although it is difficult to calculate a precise dollar value, several research studies have attempted to estimate the cost of financial stress to organizations (see How employee financial stress affects your employees and your business).

At a basic level, your return on investment (ROI) would compare the projected costs of your program with the potential cost savings. Although ROI can be difficult to estimate, one figure that appears in several studies found that organizations saved $3 for every $1 that they invested in employee financial education programs.

It is important to remember that since behavioural change takes time, workplace employee financial well-being is a long-term investment. Teaching someone how to create a budget and manage debt won’t make their financial worries disappear overnight. It may take a while for them to get on the right track and feel better about their financial situation. It may take employees hearing the message several times before they take steps.

Some studies have found that it takes more than 5 years for a program to show measurable positive results. Programs that have been in place for more than 10 years are the most likely to be successful.

Highlight what will success look like

It’s important to show management the program’s goals and targets. This serves two purposes:

  • it helps the organization evaluate whether the money invested in the program will be well-spent
  • It provides critical information for making improvements

Tip: Make your objectives SMART

Make sure your objectives are Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant and Time-Bound.

Outline how you’ll evaluate the program. The best methods to use will vary depending on the objectives you have defined for the program.

The following are some key results that can be measured. Some may show positive results right away and others will likely only show results over time:

  • frequency of use (participation in workshops, use of web tools, etc.)
  • employee satisfaction with program
  • improvements in knowledge, attitude and confidence relating to financial matters
  • behavioural changes (for example, reduced absenteeism, increased participation in employee pension plans and other savings plans)

Let senior management know that the program will be assessed regularly to ensure it continues to meet its objectives. Whatever your objectives are, you will need to show that the program matters and creates a positive change. Refer to the section on Measure the success of your workplace financial wellness program for ideas on approaches to evaluate it.

Tip: Report on wins along the way

Everyone needs to understand that workplace employee financial well-being is a long-term investment. However, reporting on short-term outcomes like employee satisfaction along the way can show that the program has momentum. 

Once you’ve received approval to implement a financial wellness program, you can start selecting the content and building a program that meets employee needs

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