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The Importance of Wellness Programs at Financial Services Firms

What is your firm doing to enhance the lives of your employees?

By Gary Zyla

Financial services companies are largely united by a common factor despite differences in the nuts and bolts of their work: the intent to improve the lives of their clients and their communities. More and more, financial services firms are also beginning to understand that enhancing the lives of their own employees is an inherent extension of that very mission.

One way firms can direct their social values internally is by implementing employee wellness programs aimed at improving the long-term health and happiness of staff. Not only do these types of initiatives boost employees’ physical wellness, productivity and social health, but they can also serve as a point of differentiation to help attract and retain top talent during periods of low unemployment. While employers looking to create wellness programs certainly have to contend with the perceived costs of doing so, those who thoughtfully approach the analysis and execution of such programs will be rewarded with employee engagement and a values-based culture.

Take Note of Employee Desires

Not only is incorporating health and wellness into a company’s benefits program a critical component of fostering employee retention, but it also reflects the desires of today’s workforce. In a recent survey, a notable majority of individuals polled believed that employers should play a role in improving worker health. Moreover, nearly half of employees say that they would stay in their current role longer if they had access to employer-sponsored wellness programs. By proactively providing the health and wellness programs employees are looking for and feel motivated by, employers can simultaneously demonstrate that their culture aligns with the values of staff while enhancing long-term engagement.

Accurately Approach Analysis

Of course, implementing an employee wellness program is not without its monetary costs. That being said, it is key to understand how to effectively analyze the benefits wellness programs can provide. Measuring the return on investment of health and wellness programs is challenging. While a firm certainly could attempt to quantify this value—perhaps by tracking reductions in the number of company-wide sick days or changes in health care costs—this math is inherently based on assumptions and will not yield a verifiable answer. Instead, consider utilizing metrics that are based on the principles of offering wellness programs in the first place. Are more employees participating in the program each year? Do employee surveys indicate satisfaction with available offerings? This type of analysis tends to be a better measure of success by focusing on the efficacy of the program rather than grasping at intangible monetary benchmarks.

Spend Smartly

Embracing the diversity of what qualifies as “wellness” ensures that an employer allocates monetary resources to the offerings that will resonate the most with employees. There is no one-size-fits-all wellness program, and such an approach simply will not result in high engagement and positive results. For example, some employees will respond best to in-office competitions like step challenges, while others may prefer individual access to subsidized medical costs or gym memberships. Still others will prefer one-off educational seminars on health and nutrition or free classes focusing on mental health and being mindful. Seeking employee input up front is a great way to ensure that an employer-sponsored wellness program is fine tuned to staff preferences and will be efficiently utilized as a result.

Wellness programs cannot be implemented for free, but these initiatives pay dividends in employee engagement, happiness, and long-term career satisfaction. A thoughtful and well-tailored wellness program can more closely align financial institutions’ values with those of their employees, contributing to a culture that facilitates company-wide success and satisfaction.

Gary Zyla is EVP, Chief Financial Officer and Human Resources Leader at AssetMark, Inc.

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