Company leaders and HR teams understand that their workforce should reflect their customer base and the world around them—and research reinforces the idea that a diverse workforce is good for business. The most ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to outperform their homogenous counterparts, according to McKinsey. Another study shows that companies that embrace diversity in the workplace enjoy a 2.3 times higher cash flow per employee than those that don’t.

Even for companies that understand the benefits of diversity, the challenge is often attracting and retaining diverse workers. One valuable method for doing that is to provide a financial literacy program: While everyone can certainly benefit from financial education, studies indicate minorities face greater challenges in climbing out of debt. A strong financial literacy program can attract diverse workers who seek companies that understand their values and arm them with resources to build their dreams.

Strong demand for financial education

Today’s workers need financial literacy—but young and diverse workers need it most. Nearly two-thirds of Americans couldn’t pass a basic financial literacy test, according to the National Financial Capability Study by the FINRA Foundation.

Almost 40% of Millennials said they had been late on their mortgage payments, versus just 17% of those ages 35–54.

This widespread lack of basic financial literacy is leading to a heavy amount of financial stress, which can cause employees to miss work or lose productivity. More than half of employees say they have been worried about finances during the past 12 months, according to a PwC study. Almost half of employees who are concerned about their finances are less productive at work, spending at least three hours each week dealing with personal financial issues.

Employers can make a difference

A growing number of employers are attempting to solve the financial stress problem by offering workplace financial literacy programs. Employers have long offered information about benefits and retirement planning, and can expand those informational sessions to include other topics, such as understanding student loans and education costs.

Employers can also help encourage financial literacy and awareness by offering automatic enrollment in retirement plans, financial health checks, and individualized coaching.

Many employers offer classroom-based and web-based training options on basic financial and retirement planning topics targeted for different populations, including different age groups and underserved populations.

Consider partnering with outside organizations that are trusted by your employees, such as churches, community groups, or unions, to provide tailored financial literacy resources that will meet their needs.

Employers and employees reap the benefits

Financial literacy programs geared toward the needs of employees can help them make informed decisions about financial priorities and boost their ability to meet financial goals. That can make a life-changing difference for employees and their families, sometimes for generations to come.

But employees aren’t the only ones who benefit from financial literacy and improved financial health: Employers also benefit, because these improvements can boost employee productivity and retention.

Financially literate employees usually have less stress and more focus, allowing them to be more productive at work. In addition, lower stress levels have been linked to lower health care costs and absenteeism, which translate to a more productive workplace. Finally, financially literate employees tend to have a better understanding of their employee benefits. They understand the value of their 401(k) plans, health and disability benefits, tuition and profit-sharing plans, and are likely better able to make wise decisions about managing those benefits and managing their career paths.

Offering a financial literacy program can be a low-cost way for employers to boost productivity, provide a needed benefit, and attract and retain a diverse workforce.

 

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