Employee needs are diverse. One-size-fits-all financial health solutions can result in low uptake and limited impact, because they don’t address the needs of the employees who could benefit most. Before designing solutions, take the time to understand your employees’ needs and prioritize the most acute challenges.
Workers in America are struggling financially, yet not all workers have the same needs. Low-wage employees, particularly workers of color, are more likely to experience financial challenges than other workers. Women are also more likely to struggle financially than men, and workers with a disability face more financial challenges than others. Workers who fit into more than one of these demographic categories – such as women of color in low-wage jobs – are among the most likely to struggle financially.
Because employees’ needs are diverse, effective financial health programs must begin with a strategic approach to diagnosing needs. Without this important step, you risk investing in programs and benefits that don’t resonate with employees most likely to need and use them. Low uptake, in turn, can erode management support for financial health investments. This important step will help ensure you invest in programs and benefits that work for your employees.
For most companies, the most financially vulnerable segment of your workforce is likely to be your frontline employees. While there is no standard definition for frontline workers, the term often refers to those who:
Depending on your industry, these could be cashiers, call center employees, factory workers, delivery personnel, or caregivers. For some companies, this includes workers employed by contractors, franchisees, or temporary help agencies in addition to workers directly employed by the company.
In this Toolkit, we primarily use income as a proxy for frontline status. Because the types of frontline jobs vary so significantly by industry, it is hard to talk consistently about the experiences of frontline workers. Instead, we use the terms “frontline” and “low-wage” to refer generally to workers who earn less than $16 an hour.3
However, this is a guidepost, not a firm threshold. The definition of a “low” wage depends significantly on where someone lives, their family size, and whether there are other working adults in the household.