Working on Employee Financial Wellness


Join Lynne as she sits down with Meegan Fritsma, HR manager at John Ball Zoo, to discuss employee financial wellness and how it greatly affects employee productivity, communication and overall wellness.


0:00:06.0 Lynne Jarman-Johnson (LJJ): Money, I’m Home. Welcome in. From finance to fitness, we have it all. I’m Lynne Jarman-Johnson with Consumers Credit Union, and I’ll tell you what, we love to touch base with our members, and our business partners, and the people that we know, especially those who have a great story to tell. And today, I am so pleased and honored to introduce you to Meegan Fritsma, and she is a very dear friend of mine for many years, but here’s the cool part, I found out from a colleague of mine that Meegan has a really cool story to tell about wellness, meeting your financial wellness, and growth, and helping those that might be stumbling along with financial assistance. Now, the reason that Meegan is an expert is because she works in HR, and she’s extremely caring about her employees that she works with on a day-to-day basis. You’re currently with the John Ball Zoo. That’s a brand-new spot for you, Meegan. Welcome in.

0:01:07.8 Meegan Fritsma (MF): Thank you.

0:01:10.0 LJJ: Oh my goodness. Tell me a little bit about your background, and then also how you got to the zoo.

0:01:15.4 MF: Well, I’ve been doing HR for about 12 to 13 years, maybe a little longer, I think I’ve lost track, starting out as different specialists, and worked with a really neat company that had just a handful of people and grew to several hundred, and learned to really set HR together. And recently found out about the position at the zoo, and even though the zoo has been around for a really long time, it’s only had HR and only been a non-profit for around five years. So, it’s still relatively new.

0:01:48.2 LJJ: Really?

0:01:51.1 MF: Yeah. So, I love that piece of helping to grow it into what it needs to be. And they’ve got a… They have a real good backbone. They worked with a good company to get it started. But being able to jump in there… And it was definitely not something I was looking to do, is make a job change during COVID, but it happened, and it was a wonderful choice, wonderful decision.

0:02:15.9 LJJ: You know, what is really interesting to me, especially, you mentioned COVID and everybody you know is like, “Okay, is this ever going to end?” But looking back, don’t you think it’s been an absolute eye-opener and a focus for companies that, boy, if you have great HR teams and education and training, it really did change the way that people think about going to work, how to work, how to make sure your employee has a 365-day balance of life.

0:02:54.6 MF: Definitely. Well, I think HR everywhere has really been jumping and adapting to the challenges and things that have happened in this past year, the people being at home, the new tracking that has to take place, so many different things that didn’t exist before. The working from home, there are so many companies that didn’t have that at all, and now so many companies in the same boat, that didn’t have it at all are looking to full-time working from home or a flex plan, where they’re doing both. And things that didn’t exist… And I know our employee assistance programs and stuff with wellness and everything this past year have really been utilized. I think people that never thought about using them before have been able to jump in. And even the financial end of it, so many different things. What do you do when, all of a sudden, people are not having the income they have because their spouse or themselves are unemployed? How can they access the money they need to survive? So many different things. It’s all over the place with HR this year.

0:04:05.8 LJJ: Well, I know that one of our programs has just exploded in the workplace, and that’s our Consumers @Work program, which is a complimentary program that we provide to companies and their employees, and it focuses on financial wellness. One of the things I think that has really made that jettison is because of the fact that people are now becoming much more open to talk about their finances, but especially if they’re in a trusted environment. Meegan, how do you find and how have you found that financial assistance and wellness is helping an employee on their day-to-day life?

0:04:46.1 MF: Oh, wow. So, this is my third employer, John Ball Zoo, that would be working with Consumers Credit Union with financial wellness. And my first experience with it was probably… We haven’t quite dug into it deep yet, I’ve only been in the zoo five weeks, but my first employer that I use Consumers, they would come out and just do wellness talks, lunch and learns, different things, just kind of common things that people just don’t have time or know where to reach out about. And after I was gone there for about six months, I got a phone call from an employee, that he reached out after lunch and learns and really got connected with Consumers. He wasn’t in a good place, couldn’t have his own checking account. Consumers really worked with him, and he called me after I left. And owns his own first home. He’s in his 50s. It was pretty amazing. He was pretty teary-eyed. And when you see so many things that employees are going through, and you don’t know what it is, and come to find out a lot of it is financial worries, a lot of it. It’s just knowledge of how to get out of where they’re at and how to improve where their financial situation is.

0:06:01.5 LJJ: Well, it is an amazing program that I’m very proud to be able to talk about today, especially with what’s going on in our economy. And the one thing that I think that you hit the nail on the head with is that… And anybody who’s listening, if you’re in a situation where you’re maybe stumbling or you have questions, maybe you’re fearful, or maybe it’s just the fact that, you know, I really don’t know what it means about credit score, and I’m trying to wrap my arms around it. If you go to work and you’re stressed, what happens on your side, Meegan, right? Doesn’t productivity just immediately fall off if people are stressed about their finances?

0:06:42.7 MF: Yeah, not only productivity but communication and relationships at work. Somebody that’s not doing well away from work and tries to come in and do their normal day, it can affect so many different aspects of the business, especially getting along with others, if you are not in the mindset to be able to be doing what you’re doing without worrying about things, you’re not getting sleep because you’re worrying about it, and so many times I’ve found that just having that person to call or that person that could answer the questions… I’m the last person to know financial answers, but I have lots of numbers to give people so they can get them.

0:07:26.1 LJJ: Well, and one of the things that we like to say, especially since the pandemic, we love to be in-person with companies in the break room and during maybe your first week at work. And what’s happened with the pandemic is it has truly curtailed that in-person education and connection, but what it also did was help us establish a digital component that allows people to be able to learn and to watch videos, listen to podcasts, really reach out and do one-on-ones, if you’d like to, via webinars, and/or in person, as we are slowly getting vaccinated and starting to see people in-person. That has been a game-changer for people, because I do think what you just said is critical. It’s… You have a trusted person to talk to that is not involved in your work of every day. And sometimes people still feel uncomfortable talking about money. It’s a block, instead of having it be an open conversation to get a plan of action to where you can succeed.

0:08:29.0 MF: Right. And so many people make assumptions from things they read or hear or something their friend did or their family member did or didn’t do. And once you hit a roadblock, it’s pretty normal for you to just stop, unless you’ve got that extra supportive person or group or something to get you past that roadblock.

0:08:53.3 LJJ: So, Meegan, on your… You’re five weeks into your new position. Thank you so much for bringing Consumers @Work into the zoo. Where do you… When you’re looking at the programs and plans for your employees… And if there is an employee or employer listening today, you know, what does that entail? You mentioned EAP. Explain what that is and how people can get involved or ask questions of their own companies if they don’t have those things.

0:09:21.9 MF: Yeah. So, the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is great. It’s got so many things, from counseling, if somebody wants to talk to somebody, anybody, usually, most of them are anyone in their household can utilize it. They have wellness programs where you can have challenges like drink X amount of water each day or each week, walk these amount of miles, but always… And so many more of them are bringing up the fact that financial wellness is also part of your wellness because, once again, if you’re worried about your weight or if you’re worried about the fact that you can’t do a direct deposit and have to find a place to cash your check, and you have to… You owe half your check when you’re getting it. There’s so many of those things that are worrisome. And the EAPs do have financial counseling and stuff, a lot of times, available too. And I know, with the meetings that we’ve had, just giving people those directions too, like you said, the FICO score and the different things that’s available to them. People that have never had a mortgage, what you should do. What are your first steps to do before you decide to buy a home. Kids going to college. So many different things. What steps can you take? You don’t know if you haven’t done it before.

0:10:43.6 LJJ: Well, Meegan, we sure do appreciate the fact that you brought us along in your journey. You’re learning every day, too. Isn’t it incredible how HR has changed to be so… And I don’t necessarily know… Maybe I shouldn’t have said, “changed.” How it’s grown to be so people-oriented with the whole person.

0:11:03.4 MF: Yes. Yeah, definitely. I think, years ago, it was personnel, and then it became HR, and we definitely need to be more strategic and figure out what we’re doing for the company, and how to help that, but that strategic balance also has to work with how to help each employee. How to make it be the place the employee wants to be. What can they get out of it. Why would they work for the zoo when they could work down the street somewhere else, you know, those things…

0:11:31.1 LJJ: Well, because there’s red pandas, Meegan, let’s be clear [chuckle]

0:11:34.8 MF: There is. There is. Five of them right now, so pretty exciting.

0:11:39.1 LJJ: Well, there’s lots happening at the zoo, and we’ll keep everybody updated on really cool exhibits that are coming, that I know about. It’s not public yet so… Isn’t that fun? But anyway… Meegan, thank you so much for your time today. We really appreciate it. Great conversation.

0:11:53.3 MF: Thanks, Lynne.

0:11:55.6 LJJ: Money, I’m Home. Welcome in, guys. Hey, if you have a topic that you would like to share, please send it our way. We’d like to thank Jake Esselink for his production skills today, and we hope everybody has a wonderful week.


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