Friday, October 15, 2010

Companies Help Employees Cope with the Recession & Tough Economic Times

Photo Credit - Flickr Creative Common
Many are struggling in today’s economy. Even those with jobs are dealing with financial stress from cut hours, wage freezes, and perhaps an unemployed spouse. Employers see employees that are often stressed and preoccupied by financial troubles at home.

Some employees are just trying to make ends meet; trying to avoid foreclosure, trying to save for retirement, having financial marital discord, or are stressed by other family financial situations.

One unique way employers are helping is by providing a new employee benefit – recession themed personal financial management classes. Happier, less stressed people are happier, more productive employees.

Financial literacy leader LFE Institute, Inc. specializes in unbiased workplace financial education tailored to the employer and employees. They have offered employee training for over 20 years, and more than 500,000 employees have taken LFE Institute classes. In the last couple of years, LFE Institute has extended their footprint nationally and their focus to meet the specific needs in a tough economy.

Stress is reduced by learning basic skills on how to stretch paychecks, “find” an extra $4,000-$7,000 annually from current income, reduce debts, ease family conflicts over money, avoid financial traps, and master core investment principles. The results are sustainable by providing knowledge and skills that change defeating attitudes and behavior.

An Interview with Alice Whinnery, CEO of LFE Institute, Inc.:

BKH: How do employer clients typically hear about your services?
AW: Primarily through strategic partnerships with synergistic businesses such as benefit providers, CPA, outplacement firms, EAPs, 401(k) providers, and HR consultants. Their clients want to increase profits and minimize liabilities through unbiased workshops and money coaching.

BKH: What are the primary reasons companies are interested in providing personal financial class to their employees?
AW: Employers are not looking for general financial “information.” They want solutions that change behaviors and solve problems which are negatively impacting the bottom line, such as:

* Retention & Turnover
* Healthcare & Garnishment Costs
* Productivity & Engagement
* 401(k) Participation & “Top Heavy” Retirement Plans
* Liabilities – ERISA, Workplace Violence, Accidents, Product Liability

BKH: An employer can expect a 3 to 1 return on their investment (ROI). How is this measured?
AW: The research was done by the Founder and former President of PFEEF, Dr. Thomas Garman. The non-profit foundation, PFEEF (Personal Finance Employee Education Foundation) uses the 3:1 statistic. They have also created a ROI Calculator for employers to measure the price points important to them. PFEEF’s calculator can be found on the LFE Institute home page.

BKH: How does LFE Institute’s class focus differ from a company's internal Human Resources Department or benefits group?
AW: First, we teach numerous strategies, systems, and techniques that cover a broad range of critical financial issues employees struggle with today. Most benefit providers only focus on company-specific topics related to the retirement or benefit plans.

Second, the LFE Instructors go through an extensive selection and training process to learn how to deliver interactive, skill-based curriculum. Having taught over 500,000 employees, we’re experts in taking complex financial concepts and making them easy for employees to understand.

Lastly, my experience says, internal HR personnel should never teach financial strategies to employees due to company liability reasons.

BKH: How many types of classes do you offer?
AW: Each of our workshops solves specific problems but can be customized to incorporate client-specific content. Our most popular series are:

* Managing Your Money! – Teaches employees unique strategies to stretch their paychecks, reduce debts, ease family conflicts, and avoid financial traps – without budgeting.
* Investing for a Great Retirement – Teaches investment basics, gives employees the confidence to save, and minimizes ERISA liabilities for employers.
* Find More Money Series – Relieves specific financial stressors throughout the year. For example, employers are currently sponsoring “Find More Money for the Holidays.”
* Money Roadblocks! – Designed for teenagers 17 to 19 to help them avoid financial traps.

Every course also includes six months of “HotLine” to answer employees’ specific questions. This is an important part of skill-based training, since it continues the learning process long after the workshop is over.

BKH: How do you define "high quality financial education" in the real-world results for employers and for employees?
AW: As experts in corporate adult education curriculum design for over 24 years, we define it the way employers do. There are a lot of criteria, but their essential ones include:

* It solves problems. – Teaches specific strategies. They are not looking for general financial information.
* It is skill-based. – Teaches by “asking” not by “telling”. It is the only way to change employee behaviors and to ensure sustainable results.
* It addresses all types of adult learners. – Uses the latest accelerated learning methodologies. This ensures that visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic learners build the same level of skills by the end of the class.
* It is unbiased. – Teaches with no product sales bias or pitch. We do not sell any financial or insurance products, so there is no hidden agenda to our educational solutions.

BKH: Who are the employees that clients offer these classes generally?
AW: The LFE workshops are primarily offered to employees from minimum wage through middle management. However, we have also taught key executives in our workshops or through one-on-one coaching. As one client bank President stated, “We had to make the programs mandatory since unfortunately, our Senior VPs needed it as much as everyone else.”

BKH: What is the most asked employee question in a financial class?
AW: Many of the questions revolve around one of the unique systems we teach – a flexible alternative to budgeting. One employee question we hear in almost every class is, “This may just save my marriage. How can I help my spouse learn this System?”

BKH: What are the top 3 employee interest areas?
AW: With the recession, employees like:

* Reducing debts and learning easy ways to find more money to make ends meet
* Easing family conflicts over money
* Staying current on the latest financial trends. We get this a lot, which is why companies subscribe to our weekly educational series titled “Money Minute!”.

Clients from varied industries recommend the LFE Institute program:

“If this workshop keeps just one employee from walking down the street, it’s worth the price of the class.” Regional Bank Client


“Over seven years, our workforce was able to find an extra $7,900/year using the strategies they learned in Managing Your Money.” Manufacturing Client

“We spend $1 million on benefits, and our employees don’t think we do anything for them. We bring in LFE’s ‘Managing Your Money!’ workshop, and they think we’re wonderful.” Construction Client

“This course should be a requirement for anyone who earns a paycheck.” Bank Manager Client

“We increased our 401(k) participation by 27% in the 1st quarter after working with LFE.” Communications Client

Employers that have offered the LFE Institute’s employee classes believe the money is well spent by providing a timely personal benefit to their employees and in promoting loyalty and goodwill in their employer – employee relationship.

They also agree this added employee benefit lives up to the ROI with increased retention and decreased liabilities by having less recession stressed, more financially empowered employees. Review LFE Institute’s services at http://www.lfeinstitute.com/ or call 877-LFE-5557.

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