Large sections of the labor force are emerging from the epidemic amid the financial crisis. Employee layoffs, reduced hours, costly medical bills, unpaid rents, and accumulation of collateral have worried employees more than ever about their current and future financial situation.

In a 2021 PwC financial health survey, nearly two-thirds of employees said their financial stress had increased since the epidemic began. Respondents who reported that their financial burden had intensified were almost four times more likely to admit that their finances were a diversion.

Human resource managers know that such concerns can affect employees’ mental health. Some are introducing digital platforms to educate and advise employees as they recover, plan for a brighter financial future.

The focus of health technology is changing

Benefit experts say that when considered against training or human financial advisors, technology platforms are better able to provide employees with 24-hour access to financial literacy, goal planning and decision support tools, and may be scaled up for more affordable funding. Large workforce health initiatives.

Digital platforms also give employees a level of privacy that other educational methods, such as public seminars or presentations, cannot. For example, a PwC survey found that more than 50 percent of financially disadvantaged employees are reluctant to seek financial help.

While the best digital platforms enable employees to get unbiased, relevant content, many tech providers also recognize the need to make human consultants available to answer more complex financial questions or improve long-term employee engagement. ,

“This is often reflected in companies offering more financial health technology platforms, such as in-person virtual consulting,” said Mark Smreczek, CEO of Willis Towers Watson, a global consulting firm of Willis Towers Watson. financial well-being market. profession of employee benefits. “Employees can engage with digital platforms at any time, often with family or other members of their financial networks, who can also access content with them,” he said.

The content of digital financial literacy, goal planning և decision support tools, in particular, meet the preferences of the staff of the Millennium ունդ Generation Z, experts say.

“People want fast, easy, automated,” said Dean Miller, co-founder and CEO of Secure Digital Platform, which helps employees create emergency savings. “It means it starts with digital, it’s no different when it comes to finance. Employees also do not want barriers or contacts to be involved in the transaction. Although people still like to cooperate in person, the epidemic has forced the less inclined. digital transactions to get used to them, to enjoy them. ”

Stuart Lauder, co-founder of Smart Path Coo, a financial health platform in Atlanta, says technology is almost always available and available, especially at a time of financial crisis.

“Digital platforms are all about increasing accessibility,” Lauder said. “It simply came to our notice then. Employees can often gain value faster by accessing technology resources rather than waiting for seminars or meeting with consultants. ”

Personalization drives digital adoption

Many financial health technologies have expanded beyond their original purpose by promoting retirement savings or college education funds, helping employees manage expenses, repay credit or student loan debt, and create emergency savings funds, some of which have been impacted. epidemic.

Smretzek said his research shows digital tools to help track costs, manage debt, and create emergency savings, especially effective in helping employees who have struggled with the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Many digital platforms can now make it easier for employees to see their personal balance sheet on a daily basis in terms of payroll,” he said.

High-end platforms also use technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning to help create personalized roadmaps for employees, as financial health needs vary depending on age, type of job, career plans, gender, and more.

Such personalization can take place through the use of artificial intelligence to assess and analyze an employee’s financial situation, Smretsek said, adding that employees will continue to use digital platforms over time.

“The probability that someone will use technology for the second or third time, and then in a row, is much higher when they immediately see or receive relevant information that others are not looking for,” he said. “Involvement is one of the most important aspects of promoting prosperity, whether financial or otherwise.”

One of the financial health platforms AI uses to personalize content is BrightPlan, headquartered in San Jose, California. It offers a “financial trainer” who can analyze employees’ financial data և factors such as age or life goals և create potential milestones for savings, automated investments, pay off debts և pay off. The overall “health rating” shows employees’ progress toward those goals, says BrightPlan CEO Larry Robinson.

Extraordinary savings plans to make a profit

The epidemic often forced financially distressed employees to seek high-interest loans or retire retirement savings to make ends meet. Emergency savings would help ease those debts.

Smretsek said his staff was increasingly interested in offering emergency savings funds as an employee benefit. “One of the main drivers of the epidemic was the cost of having emergency savings,” he said. “We see that more employers are focusing on this from a number of points of view. From promoting rainy day savings to creating ways for employees, from paying salaries to solutions included in wider packages. ”

The value of the human version

Although the digital platform can meet many of the financial well-being needs of employees, experts say that providing human support is still possible, whether it is a live chat on-site, a Zoom call or a face-to-face meeting with a consultant.

One-third of PwC respondents rated the entry of impartial human trainers as an employer benefit they would most likely add to their organization’s health offerings.

“Combining digital platform individual training with a horse can be of real benefit in helping to bring about a change in behavior,” said Christine Randazzo, co-founder of PwC Reward Practice Practice.

BrightPlan is one of the platforms using such a hybrid approach, offering a combination of digital tools and human consultants to take advantage of each support option.

“Many employees prefer the features of the technology themselves, but when they have a more complex financial issue, they can easily turn to a human consultant,” said Robinson.

Randazzo believes that the use of human consultants will also help companies solve the biggest challenges facing financial health initiatives. Encourage employees to use those resources in the long run.

“If employees develop a relationship with someone who can motivate them to be accountable, it can help maintain practice over time,” Randazzo said.

Dave Zi Ielinski is a freelance business writer and editor in Minneapolis.