Financial education for employees: applying the CSR strategy internally

(January 20, 2014) — This is the third in a series of five articles concerning the unique role credit unions can play in leading the financial services industry through a strategy that embraces Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

The first installment of this series demonstrated that in the increasingly competitive financial services marketplace, credit unions have an advantage by enjoying higher levels of customer/member loyalty driven, in part, by a proactive CSR platform. The second examined using in-house financial expertise, to benefit members of the community and indirectly the credit union.

This third installment examines applying CSR strategies directed internally by using in-house financial expertise to educate employees on financial matters.

I. Internal CSR — Help Your Own Employees With Your Own Expertise

An often overlooked aspect of CSR is focusing on the needs of employees. In other words, use internal assets and expertise to benefit employees similar to efforts that benefit the greater community. Apply similar CSR strategies internally, as well as externally. This provides the dual benefit of helping employees, while also helping the bottom line.

Companies already conduct a variety of internal CSR efforts that encourage employee participation — rewarding volunteer hours, or serving on boards, implementing sustainability programs, fundraising campaigns, matching gifts, and canned food drives are just some. All make employees feel better about themselves, help the cause they support, and make employees more motivated and loyal to the enterprise.

But what about making the object and beneficiary of the CSR effort the employee him or herself? Not every organization has an expertise that aligns with the needs of employees, but for those that do, it presents a valuable opportunity. Personal finance, for instance, is a universal issue that affects every aspect of a person’s life. Every employer has employees with financial concerns, most employees want to learn more, but Credit Unions are one of the few entities with the internal resources to directly address the issue, resulting in a win for the employee and for the employer.

II. Why Employee Financial Knowledge is a Productivity Booster

Employees who are knowledgeable about their own finances feel more in control and are, therefore, less stressed, better able to work, and happier in general. This boosts the bottom line for the employer. About 70% of businesses believe employee financial education will improve productivity and about 85% of employees want some financial education. Why is financial education such a common issue? Because at any given time anywhere from 25% to 40% of employees report an inability to fully focus on work due to personal financial issues.

When employees are concerned about their financial wellbeing they are more likely to be absent from work or, while present, to perform poorly.

When people are worried about money, it is difficult for them to focus at work. Financially stressed employees spend hours dealing with personal financial issues while on the job. Time is spent at work communicating with creditors about past due bills, talking with co-workers about personal financial problems, and spending time worrying about and researching personal finances. When this happens, productivity drops and engagement falls. The Personal Finance Employee Education Foundation reports that the average employee has about 15 days worth of time wasted at work each year, 5 of them are due to personal financial issues. Financial education can, therefore, be a useful tool to reduce the associated costs of stress such as absenteeism, low productivity, turnover, and workplace distractions. Simultaneously it can improve the quality of life for employees.

III. Conducting Credit Union Employee Personal Financial Education

This is where credit unions have a built-in advantage. While every large business will have employees with personal financial issues, credit unions have in-house expertise to help redress these problems. Credit unions can use their own resources to make their own employees the direct beneficiaries of its CSR program. Any workplace education must be more than an information session, a brochure or a website. Employees must be able to put into context and apply the information they learn. They must be able to apply what they learn to their daily life and to change behavior. While it will not be a magic bullet to solve all employee financial issues, it will reduce the detrimental effects.

The discussion must be more than a review of benefits and retirement plans. Instead it should include a range of topics related to the financial aspects of daily living, such as managing debts, budgeting, tax and income planning. Topics can include specific matters such as setting goals, net worth, cash flow, income and debt management, and potential future costs in later stages of life. This allows every employee to participate in the program. Unless they are in a crisis, most employees won’t take the time to seek out help on their own. This is why employees want to receive this type of education at work and from someone who does not sell the products taught about. While many employers hire outside experts to help employees with financial education, Credit Unions can fill this need using their own internal assets.

Planning Steps: Some simple planning steps will set the parameters for the effort:

  • Identify what education employees want
  • Identify optimal delivery method
  • Identify who could organize and conduct the education
  • Define what the education is intended to provide
  • Build a plan

Conducting the Education Session:  The most effective delivery methods are:

  • Live group seminars
  • One on one sessions, and
  • Live webinars

Self-study, workbooks, video tutorials, blogs — any means that does not allow for questions — are not nearly as effective. Having Credit Unions teach their own employees has the advantage of an experienced individual with expertise who is not trying to sell a particular product or service for an outside vendor.


A Corporate Social Responsibility program’s goal is to “do good” in a way that also benefits the company. While the beneficiary of the good is usually the larger community, an innovative approach is to direct some of the in-house expertise to the company’s own employees. And what better area for a credit union to target through internal education than the widely recognized issue of personal financial issues?


Brandon Michaels leads the awesome group of Mazumans at $490 million Mazuma Credit Union in Kansas City. He took the reins at the ripe-old age of 31 and looks forward to changing the credit union industry. Prior to serving as the President & CEO, he served as the Chief Financial Officer for two years. Brandon moved to Kansas City from the Bay Area, California, where he was the Vice President-Finance/CFO at San Francisco Fire Credit Union. He is also a third generation credit union CEO. While Brandon grew up in the credit union movement,he worked three years for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation as a Bank Examiner before making his formal entrance into the industry…an industry he thought as a child, ‘you couldn’t pay me enough to work in this place!’

Brandon was recently recognized by the Credit Union Times as a Trailblazer 40 Below, a recognition awarded to credit union executives who are working at warp speed to better the future of the credit union industry. Brandon is also a private pilot, an awesome dad to Charlotte & Kason, and a loving husband to his beautiful wife Kathi.



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