While we continue to search for the light at the end of the tunnel two years after the Great Recession, we get news of a market correction, a lowered credit rating and talks of a possible double dip.

Things are looking bleak for both employers and their employees. Now more than ever, communication is critical. At the same time that benefits managers face changes within their companies, they also face challenges in keeping employee morale and productivity from dropping.

In times like these, employers must address employees' financial issues. In addition to just communicating what benefits employees have available, they must consider how changes to benefits coupled with the economy affect their employees' ability to reach personal financial goals. If employers ignore these issues, they face expensive risks such as:

  • Employees becoming distracted with the financial problems they're dealing with outside of work. According to a 2009 study by Right Management, 16 percent of employees said they were distracted at work due to concerns about the economy. With 65 percent of employees feeling some level of financial stress, employers are at risk for low employee productivity due to financial issues not related to the workplace.
  • Employees tapping their retirement plans for short-term cash needs, which we saw during the recession. Long-term, employees' decisions to tap their retirement savings can prevent them from saving enough to meet their retirement income needs and require them to continue working, costing employers as well, in delayed retirement costs.
  • Employees developing low morale or lacking an appreciation for their benefits. According to MetLife's 9th Annual Study on Employee Benefits Trends, there is a direct correlation to an employees' benefits satisfaction and their loyalty to their employer, and dissatisfaction with benefits can lead to productivity and retention issues. A high number of unsatisfied employees could be harmful to a company's culture, especially if unpopular changes are made to benefits without proper communication to employees about the changes.

If employers communicate benefits in a way that connects them to employees' personal financial issues, they are able to not only mitigate risks like the ones above, but also improve employees' overall financial wellness, stress levels and even increase plan participation, despite economic factors.

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