Many organizations struggle to motivate their employees to take full advantage of their benefits. The International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans notes that less than 20 percent of employers report their employees as having a “high level” of understanding around their benefits packages. While this lack of engagement and interest is frustrating for employers, it can often be attributed to a simple need for more effective communication and a deeper understanding of the external stressors employees face every day.
Benefit program adoption poses a particular challenge to the hospitality sector, where organizations struggle to engage their large population of hourly employees in such roles as food service, housekeeping, and maintenance. Poor engagement can be attributed to many factors, including low wages, restricted access to technology, and language barriers. Ultimately, hotels and lodging organizations will never see adequate employee benefit engagement across the board unless they hyperfocus on this population and their unique needs when selecting annual benefits.
Identifying top stressors among hospitality employees
As hospitality organizations consider the scope of their benefit plans during open enrollment season, it’s important to consider their employees’ unique stressors. With more than 70 percent of U.S. employees reporting feeling financially stressed in their day-to-day lives, finances are likely at the top of employees’ stress list, followed by child care, housing, transportation, etc. If employers choose to ignore employee stress, it can negatively impact employee productivity, contribute to absence and turnover rates, and ultimately take a toll on an organization’s bottom line.
Financial wellness programs can be implemented by hospitality employers with a large population of financially stressed workers to provide employees with personalized advice and customized financial education. Supporting employees in a way that addresses their daily concerns empowers financially stressed employees to gain a better perspective of their finances now and in the future. This is important because constant financial anxiety around making ends meet can take priority over creating an emergency reserve fund for unplanned expenses in the future. This type of reserve is critical for at-risk employees because it helps them avoid a vicious cycle that leads to even more stress.
Using benefits to build a culture of support and understanding
If hotels and lodging companies want to break the employee stress cycle, they must go beyond simply providing benefits–they must better align their overall corporate culture to encompass their large percentage of employees who are at-risk for financial stress. There can often be a certain level of disparity here, with lower-wage employees, for example, providing high-end experiences to guests at a luxury resort. Since these employees struggle with financial confidence in their personal lives, trying to uphold such an opulent company culture can be difficult.
Hospitality organizations can avoid alienating hourly employees by instilling a culture that supports financial education and goal-setting via a strong benefits plan. This culture is further established when employers take the time to determine what communication methods and content is most engaging to their employee base. When hospitality organizations take steps toward ensuring their staff is engaged with their benefits, they are proving to employees that they want to help relieve their main stressors and improve their overall quality of life. Such efforts by the employer go a long way to improve employee happiness and job satisfaction, further benefiting the company culture.
With employee stress continuing to blur the lines between work and home life, hospitality organizations must focus on those main stressors if they want to ensure the health and well-being of their employees while also protecting their bottom line. In addition to identifying employee stressors and addressing them with unique benefits, employers should consider how they might weave the support of their benefits into their internal communicating strategies and overall company culture. Organizations that make the commitment to create a culture of acceptance and understanding around employee stress will find this approach to be much more rewarding than simply providing benefit products on their own.
About the Author
Chris Whitlow is the founder and CEO of Edukate, a workplace financial wellness provider with a mission to give every person access to expert financial guidance.