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Focus on employees’ financial well-being

Tobi Weingart & Joe Mecca

Originally shared by CUNA News.

When developing programs that address members’ financial well-being, keep an important group in mind: your employees.

“It’s highly likely that many if not all of your employees are members of your credit union. As employers, there is an added responsibility in terms of how you take care of your employees,” says Tobi Weingart, program director at the National Credit Union Foundation. “Credit unions have a unique opportunity to lean into financial well-being for all from the employee benefits and practices perspective.”

According to the Financial Health Network’s U.S. Financial Health Pulse, two out of three Americans are not financially healthy.

“Adopting a more holistic approach to improving people’s financial well-being begins with commitment from the top of the organization,” Weingart says. “It’s imperative that the CEO, the board, and the C-suite are aligned on prioritizing financial well-being for all as an organization. It must be part of your strategy.”

The Foundation and Filene Research Institute partnered to create a guide offering practical tips on how credit unions can benefit from incorporating financial well-being for all into their work. The guide includes examples of how credit unions address the employee piece.

At Coastal Credit Union in Raleigh, N.C., employee well-being includes financial, mental, physical, and social aspects, says Joe Mecca, vice president, communication, at the $4.8 billion asset credit union. Some steps the credit union has taken to show its ongoing commitment to employees’ financial well-being include:

  • Not increasing the employee share of medical insurance premiums. Coastal absorbed the full increase over 2021’s premiums.
  • Making quarterly contributions to employee health savings accounts for employees who participate in the medical coverage plans.
  • Providing an annual salary increase in 2022 that was significantly higher than in recent years.
  • Relaxing paid time off sell-back rules to provide more flexibility during the pandemic.
  • Increasing the internal minimum wage from $15 to $19 per hour.
  • Providing access to resources that are available to members, including the Financial Education Center, the credit union’s financial well-being department, and webinars and seminars hosted by internal experts, all which provide education and guidance on personal finance.

Coastal’s focus on employee well-being was a factor in some of the decisions that were made early in the pandemic, including the shift to remote work, provisions for those who couldn’t do their jobs remotely but were unable to be onsite due to risk factors, and a regular reimbursement for remote workers to cover additional work-from-home expenses, Mecca says.

“Taking care of our employees and easing their worries was a critical first step in helping our members,” Mecca says. “It helped get our team focused on our mission and on quickly turning out relief programs for members and the community. None of that would have been possible if we didn’t take care of our employees first.”

Rolling out a program that focuses on staff’s financial well-being doesn’t have to be a large endeavor, Weingart says. It can start small or change as employee needs or feedback evolves.

“Identify the quick wins; the places where you can make the biggest impact and continue to evolve from there. Get feedback from employees, see how it’s working, and continue to grow it organically,” she says. “The good news is that just like our members will share with us how we’re doing as a credit union, our employees will, too, if we give them an avenue and give them a voice to do so.”

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