At Eddie Bauer, investment education is part of a larger initiative to removethe hurdles from employees’ lives so they can focus completely on their work,says Karl Weiss, manager of work/life recognition programs. “It’s part ofour culture,” he says. “We realize that when people come to work, they don’tcheck their lives at the door. Addressing their personal needs gives us acompetitive edge.”
Weiss keeps tabs on the needs of employees through informal surveys andconversations, then crafts programs around the issues that they deem important.For example, the company converted empty offices to mothers’ rooms for nursingmoms, and added wellness rooms where busy or stressed employees can take naps.
When employees expressed interest in and concern about their financialwell-being, Weiss adopted a series of education seminars and online tools toaccommodate their needs. “Anything that will help employees save time andmoney makes them more focused and more valuable at work.”
Weiss invites financial vendors -- who donate their time -- to conductseminars and lunchtime workshops on targeted topics based on the needs expressedby employees. “We have seminars going all the time,” he says. Hot topicsinclude retirement planning, wealth-building, beginning investing, and planningfor college. Weiss keeps an eye on which topics draw the most participants andmakes sure that every topic is covered on a regular basis.
To be sure that employees are aware of the seminars and take advantage ofthem, Weiss constantly markets the services. He finds that the most successfultactic is a daily pop-up message that alerts employees to the day’s eventswhen they sign on to their computers.
For employees who don’t want to take the time to attend a whole seminar, orjust want answers to a few specific questions, Weiss organizes “informationfairs.” Vendors set up tables and kiosks at Eddie Bauer headquarters whereemployees pick up investment workbooks and brochures, ask questions, and arrangefor personal counseling. “When employees are working harder, attendance atseminars drops, so we do more information fairs to meet their needs,” he says.
Wills on Wheels is another financial-planning service that Weiss adopted tomeet the needs of busy employees. Once a month, lawyers set up shop in thecafeteria, and for 30 minutes they help any employee write a simple will. Thefee for a basic will is $90. For employees who prefer to learn on their own, thecompany Web site also offers links to www.401k.com, which has a host of onlinefinancial-planning tools, including calculators and workbooks. Employees fromthe corporate office and the retail stores can take advantage of these tools,Weiss says.
Like many other companies, however, Eddie Bauer does not offer financialadvice. “We can provide general information, and we can tell employees how toarrange to talk with a financial adviser,” he says, “but if they decide todo it, it’s their choice.”
Workforce, May 2002, pp. 68-69 -- Subscribe Now!