Diagnose Needs

Step 1: Gather Relevant Data

There are two key ways to gain insight on your employees’ financial health – gathering data from administrative systems, and asking employees directly through surveys or other qualitative methods. Use these two data sources together for the most holistic picture.

Step 1: Gather Relevant Data

Compile Data From Existing Sources

The first step is to gather data from your company’s HR, benefits, and payroll systems that can shed light on your employees’ financial health. In some cases, the data may already be housed within your internal systems; in other cases, you might need to request them from your benefits vendors.

Which specific data points should I consider?

Below are some examples of data points you can use to assess your employees’ financial health within each of these four components of financial health: spend, save, borrow, and plan. This list is not exhaustive, but illustrates the types of data that can help uncover employee needs.

Remember that your data can only offer you a limited window into your employees’ financial lives, mostly tied to the programs and benefits you currently offer. Pairing these outcomes-based metrics with an employee survey can help you gain a more holistic view.

  • What percentage of your employees make a living wage, as measured by the MIT Living Wage Calculator?
  • What percentage of your employees have requested advances on wages earned before payday?
  • What percentage of your employees are enrolled in a 401(k) or other retirement plan and how much are they saving?
  • What percentage of employees are receiving the full employer match, if available?
  • What percentage of your employees have requested a hardship withdrawal or loan from their 401(k) or other retirement account?
  • What percentage of your employees have had their wages garnished due to unpaid debts or other reasons?
  • What percentage of your employees are enrolled in your company’s health insurance plan?
  • What percentage of your employees have elected to enroll in various types of voluntary insurance?

Ask Employees Directly

While HR, benefits, and payroll data can provide a valuable window into your employees’ financial lives, that view is limited to the aspects of their finances connected to your current benefits programs. For example, if your company offers a 401(k), you probably have a good sense of how prepared your employees are for retirement, but may not know how prepared they are for emergencies.

Supplementing your existing data with an employee survey can provide deeper insights into the areas where your employees are struggling the most and help uncover potential solutions. The FinHealth Score is a free tool that can offer a holistic picture of your employees’ financial health. It includes eight simple survey questions that assess how your employees are spending, saving, borrowing, and planning. You can also add additional questions to probe deeper in specific areas, such as retirement preparedness or debt. Focus groups or other qualitative methods can lead to even greater insights.

How should I begin, with data or a survey?

These two methods can be used in either order or even simultaneously. The most effective approaches to diagnosing needs combine both methods to give you the most holistic look at your employees’ financial health. Where you choose to start depends on several factors, including what kinds of data are available and how easy they are for you to access, your organization’s data analytics capabilities, and your readiness to engage directly with employees about financial health in a survey.

It can sometimes be helpful to start by reviewing existing data, because you can then use those insights to inform the survey design. For example, by looking at your 401(k) plan data, you might find that a large percentage of your employees have taken out loans from their retirement accounts. This could be a sign that they lack emergency savings that can help them cover spikes in expenses, or that they do not have other affordable loan options due to a poor credit history. You can then add questions to your survey to help answer these questions.

On the other hand, there can also be benefits to starting with a survey. A financial health survey provides an opportunity to communicate to your employees that their financial health is a priority for the company and to explain initiatives you are planning or currently have underway.

Which questions can I add to my survey beyond the eight featured in the FinHealth Score?

You can use your survey to probe deeper into specific areas that are important to your company. Additional questions can help you uncover root causes of employee pain points identified in your data analysis, such as a high number of 401(k) loans, and shed light on blind spots you are likely to have as an employer, such as your employees’ debt. A financial health survey can also be a great way to gather feedback from employees on current or potential benefit offerings.

One useful resource to consider for additional questions is the Financial Health Pulse. Through our annual Pulse survey, the Financial Health Network offers ongoing snapshots of how people in America manage their finances. You can even benchmark your employees against the national population by downloading the Pulse dataset.

How can I eliminate the stigma of talking about money at work?

For many HR leaders, asking employees about their finances may feel uncomfortable at first. While there is plenty of evidence that employees are looking to their employers for help, sending out an employee financial health survey requires a thoughtful approach to communications.4

Here are some tips for deploying a successful survey:

  • Identify the right vehicle. Consider whether to field a standalone survey or incorporate financial health questions into your existing wellness or employee engagement surveys. There may be limitations to the number of questions that you can incorporate into existing surveys, but doing so might increase response rates.
  • Consider incentives. Most employers do not provide incentives to complete financial health surveys, but some do. Prizes can be cost-effective incentives. In addition, linking the survey completion to a broader well-being incentive program may be a good way to drive completion and engagement.
  • Appeal to company values. Consider positioning the survey as part of a broader commitment to employee well-being, including physical, mental, and financial health. (Of course, you should also be prepared to share what your company is actually doing for employees’ well-being.) Communication from senior leadership about the company’s commitment to employee well-being can also increase response rates. Likewise, communicating to employees that you genuinely want their input to inform the design of future programs and benefits can provide a strong motivation.
  • Commit to privacy. Be transparent with employees about how you plan to use survey data and assure them their privacy will be protected. If applicable, emphasize that survey data will only be analyzed in the aggregate, and not tied back to any individual employee. If you plan to link individual survey responses to other administrative data, such as healthcare claims, or track change for individuals over time, use a unique identifier to link the data sources so that specific individuals cannot be re-identified. When analyzing data by demographics or job characteristics, be sure to analyze the data in groups of no fewer than five employees to protect anonymity. Using a third-party platform such as Attune to distribute the survey can also increase employees’ confidence that their privacy will be protected.
Employer Spotlight: University Federal Credit Union

Promoting Surveys with Incentives

University Federal Credit Union, a $3.6 billion asset credit union with more than 300,000 members in Central Texas and Galveston, took a creative approach to encouraging its 740 employees to take its financial health survey. UFCU’s Financial Health Department created a prize-based incentive, but with a twist: If they reached a 70% survey participation rate, then all 740 employees would be entered into a raffle to win a choice between a $500 Target gift card or $500 voucher to a local resort. This created a strong motivation for teams to encourage one another to participate while still protecting confidentiality for all. In the end, 77% of employees completed the survey.

View Case Study

2 Tools for Measuring Employee Financial Health

The FinHealth Score includes eight simple survey questions that assess how your employees are spending, saving, borrowing, and planning. This free tool comes with a scoring methodology to help you quickly calculate each employee’s FinHealth Score and know if they are Financially Healthy, Coping, or Vulnerable. It also provides benchmarks so you can see how your employees compare to others at the national level. Additional benchmarks by age, education, household income, and region are available to members of our Employer FinHealth Forum. To learn more about how the FinHealth Score was developed and how individual scores are calculated, visit our Methodology page.

Attune is an all-in-one technology platform that makes it easy for employers to measure, benchmark, and gather insights on employee financial health. Built on the research of the Financial Health Network, Attune helps you quickly understand your employees’ financial health needs, learn what actions you can take to improve their financial health, and track the impact those actions have over time. Designed with employers in mind, Attune can be deployed as a standalone survey to your employees or integrated into your existing survey platforms. Contact us to learn more and schedule a demo.


Step 2: Disaggregate Data