5 Steps to Employee Financial Security

Recently, the Principal Financial Group announced its annual list of the 10 best companies to work for in the U.S., based on employee financial security. As an employee of the International Foundation--one of the winning companies--I felt a sense of pride. As someone who has been immersed in the employee benefits world for more than two decades, I was interested to learn how the other companies also do benefits right.

Benefits staff and practitioners have long walked a tightrope--providing benefits that appeal to and best meet the needs of employees and, at the same time, are cost-effective and deliver value to the employer. Principal's 2015 winners, all small and medium-sized businesses, have several things in common. The two most important, in my opinion, are a corporate culture that encourages and supports employees' long-term financial well-being and a benefits strategy that has proven successful both for employer and employees.

What does a successful benefits strategy entail?

1. Providing a place for employees to save for the future, like a 401(k) plan. When employers kick in via a match or provide another type of vehicle like a defined benefit pension plan or a profit-sharing plan, so much the better.

2. Giving employees the resources and tools they need to become financially secure. There is an array of financial education tools that can be provided--including online options (mobile apps, calculators, videos, podcasts, telephone advice lines), written word (books, articles, whitepapers, worksheets, payroll stuffers) and face-to-face options (group workshops, one-on-one counseling sessions). Employers should offer a mix of resources, using vehicles that match their employees' communication preferences.

3. Making it easy for employees to save. Automatic features in a retirement plan, like enrollment, escalation and rebalancing, are sure-fire ways to get and keep employees in the plan and saving successfully.

4. Helping employees with work/life balance. We are all pulled in 18 different directions every day. Employers can help their employees handle the challenge by offering flexible work options, paid parental leave, child-and elder-care assistance and the like. Employers that do so will find it easier to attract and retain key talent and will see that talent flourish.

5. Ensuring employees' physical and mental well-being. Effective health coverage, dental and vision insurance, mental health care, wellness programs, short- and long-term disability benefits and paid time off are critical to reach this objective. Employers find that healthy employees are happier and more productive at work.

Employee benefits are constantly evolving, but one thing remains the same: Benefits are key to a business's success. Having a focused strategy that matches both a company's needs and culture will ensure a company gets the most bang for their benefits buck.