A few months ago Harris Polls and ALEX, Employee Benefits Communication Platform providers, conducted an in-depth survey of 1,000 American employees to gauge what they think about–and want from–financial wellness programs offered by their employer.
The survey unearthed a ton of super-interesting stuff but two of the most interesting nuggets to come out of it were insights into how big of a role fear and embarrassment play in people’s feelings about their financials.
Here are the stats that jumped out:

1. KISS People want down-to-earth, non-threatening financial guidance
Fifty-six percent (56%) of employees wish the financial resources offered by their company used “friendlier language,” and 36% go so far as to say that their companies’ programs are intimidating to use.

2. Fear When it comes to actually using company-offered resources, many employees are concerned about privacy—and the potential judgement of their colleagues.

  •  Among employees who have financial wellness programs available, 6 in 10 (60%) would not want their coworkers to know if they were to participate and nearly 1 in 2 (45%) would not want their company to know.
  • Among those who aren’t likely to use financial wellness programs if their employer were to offer them, the top two most common barriers are:
    – Not wanting employers to know about their financial situation (34%)
    – Not wanting co-workers to know their financial situation (30%)
  • Thirty-six percent (36%) feel there is at least a little stigma associated with utilizing employer financial wellness offerings.
  • Among those who have financial wellness programs available, about 1 in 4 (26%) think participating in their company’s program will make them look bad. In particular, those who feel a great deal of stress related to their personal financial situation (37% vs. 12% who do not) and those who are responsible for managing all or most of their household finances (31% vs. 14% who are not).

3. Online tools The most preferred method of receiving assistance—even more popular than one-on-one meetings with a human expert—is online tools.
For real. Forty-nine percent (49%) of the people polled said they would prefer a web-based tool, and only forty-two percent (42%) said they’d prefer a one-on-one in-person chat with an advisor.

ALEX, who funded the survey, is a fun tool that is breaking down the barriers, fear and embarrassment making the choosing your plan benefits conversation to a whole different level. They take great pains to NOT be intimidating, and to use lively, “friendly” language. The founders started ALEX because they had a hunch folks would want the same friendly language when it came to learning about financial stuff as well as their  benefits information. W
So what does the news mean for you as you’re thinking about how to structure financial, healthcare and  wellness offerings. Two simple things to takeaway:

1. Err on the side of offering approachable AND POSITIVE financial guidance tools.
2. Don’t underestimate how much fear-of-embarrassment plays a role in whether people use your financial planning tools or not. Make it simple, approachable and private.

From the ALEX blog, October 2015.