Financial education programs can be humdrum at times, bringing to mind the iconic sleepy classroom scene in the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

With that in mind, Fluor Canada is empowering employees to take stock of their finances through fun and engaging programs that appeal to the different generations that make up its workforce.

Employees are now more curious than ever about financial wellness, particularly in these economically charged times, says Terri-Lynn Levy, the global engineering and construction company’s manager of human resources — benefits, wellness and HR information systems in Canada. Fluor regularly checks in with its staff to hear what financial wellness topics they’d like the company to highlight.

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Amid financial market turmoil and a looming recession, employees are worried about their financial future and whether they’re prepared to make it through these challenging times, says Kim Siddall, national vice-president of account management for medium and large businesses at People Corporation.

“The current economic climate has amplified financial anxiety and has people looking at their debt and savings differently. Younger workers are trying to figure out how to save and pay down debt at the same time. There’s a lot of financial pressure on people right now, particularly younger generations.”

Many employers recognize the financial strain their employees are under and are providing a back-to-basics education push, she adds, while some are highlighting resources available through their employee assistance programs, such as financial therapy to help staff understand their emotional relationship with money and how it impacts spending behaviours.

Financial knowledge-building resources

In terms of the resources provided by Fluor Canada, the company hosts traditional lunch and learns, but it’s always seeking creative ways to present financial wellness information.

In 2019, the organization began exploring different ways to provide employees with financial knowledge-building resources. It introduced a book club, in which the books are chosen by the financial wellness committee, with the company purchasing between 40 to 45 copies of each book. To date, the book club has read four books, including Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping By and Get Your Financial Life Together by Erin Lowry and The Millionaire Teacher: The Nine Rules of Wealth You Should Have Learned in School by Andrew Hallam.

Read: How are personalized communications connecting with employees?

By the numbers

68% of U.S. employees are more likely to stay longer at their current job if their employer offers financial wellness benefits.

• The top three financial wellness benefits among respondents are retirement planning (53%), investment programs (42%) and emergency savings (38%).

53% of respondents say employers should provide guidance on monthly spending and saving, while 48% want advice on financial topics related to blockchain technology, such as cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens.

“Core types of knowledge-building will always be a staple at [Fluor Canada], but we recognize that our younger generation workers want it delivered in a more engaging way,” says Levy. “We’ll have a kick-off session to get everybody amped up and excited about a book, give folks time to read it and then we meet to do a debrief session. Since there’s a larger group of us, we break into smaller group sessions to tackle the nitty-gritty questions first, then come back as a larger group annually to share the themes and topics each group has discussed.”

The book clubs are usually kept local to Calgary, so employees can gather in person. “The feedback we receive is that the in-person dynamic offers a greater level of engagement with a large group of people than a virtual component,” she says.

In addition, Fluor Canada launched its first financial wellness bingo initiative in January 2023. Through the initiative, employees receive a bingo card with various action items to complete — such as logging into their retirement savings plan account, accessing different areas of their plan, curating a budget and contacting the organization’s financial advisor to go over their investment strategies. Employees who complete two full lines are automatically eligible to win prizes.

Supporting a multi-generational workforce

Every generation’s financial wellness needs differ due to their life stages and makeup of their families, so a one-size-fits-all strategy won’t always succeed in changing behaviours.

Read: 2019 CAP Member Survey: Helping each generation on their retirement journey

Generation Z is starting to pay attention to their financial health, says Levy, noting they want to know more about the various investment options in their retirement plan and how to maximize their earnings. Fluor Canada is providing educational resources that speak to different needs, such as information sessions on how marketing is designed to get people to spend money and on the differences between paying rent and paying down a mortgage. “We really try to help them analyze their financial outlook . . . so they can see . . . the bigger picture.”

The company also hosts retirement readiness workshops with a dedicated financial advisor. “If someone has to pick up the phone to call [a financial advisor], sometimes that phone call never comes because [life] gets in the way,” says Levy. “We want to make that [service] more easily accessible, so we’ll work with the financial advisor to coordinate time slots . . . with those nearing retirement first in the queue.”

Nowadays, employers need to offer financial wellness information like a buffet, so employees can take what they need, says Siddall. “This speaks to individuals’ own circumstances because the goals they’re setting differ from others’ goals.

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“When employers focus on employees’ financial wellness as part of a holistic well-being strategy, it says the company is willing to go above and beyond to help them achieve success in work and life,” she adds.

Lauren Bailey is an associate editor at Benefits Canada.