I can still remember the day when an executive at Mountain America CU approached me about a big idea. He was well aware of the fact eight out 10 people identify money as a significant source of stress in their lives and that regardless of income 70% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. He wanted to do something about it.
Specifically, he wanted to build a culture of financial wellness and member advocacy that could spill over into the larger community. Since he knew I'd done similar work with companies such as eBay, Holiday Inn, 1-800 Contacts, and SAS, he reached out to me. He knew that Mountain America could better advocate for members in a big way.
We got to work on a program that would first get employees passionate about financial wellness and then engage Mountain America's members. The key: start with passion. Prior studies showed about 60% of any given workplace population desperately needs and wants additional financial literacy and help, but nationally only 5 %to 7% actually participate in such programs. I've done research on why that is and have found people generally have three worries: it's going to be boring, it's going to be a sales pitch, or they're embarrassed. So they end up avoiding the program even when they need it.
Mountain America proactively addressed those concerns in kickoff meetings. Employees could see firsthand the program would be highly engaging, that we would not be selling anything, and we would provide a safe environment for all participants. More than 800 of the CU's 1,200 employees voluntarily went through the program. That's a 67% engagement rate, compared to the 5% to 7% national engagement rate.