Can credit unions use a financial health survey to learn about employees' financial wellbeing?

Email variations
Experiment Type
Field Experiment
Increase engagement
Reduce expenses
Focus Areas
Marketing & messaging
Behavioral Concepts
Self-Help Credit Union
Partner Type
Bank/Credit Union

What Happened

It didn't work. It seems that different versions of the email did not create any significant impact on the open rates, click-through rates or survey completion rates.

Lessons Learned

There seems to be a need outside the current framing strategies to increase their desired survey metrics. This may mean a structural intervention or just more familiarity with the survey could be needed to move the needle.


Credit unions have long understood the value of “doing well by doing good” – that is, finding ways to bolster financial well-being of their members can help ensure the health of the institution itself. Increasingly, this understanding has reached inwardly with many credit unions now recognizing the importance of their employees’ financial health. However, understanding how their employees are doing and what might be undermining their financial well-being is a critical first step to take before trying to improve it.

We partnered with Self-Help Credit Union to help them learn more about their employees’ current financial well-being. The first step to learning about their employees was to encourage them to complete the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) Financial Well-being Scale. Understanding what motivates people to provide insight into their financial lives helps the credit union to identify gaps where financial health can be improved, and what resources to provide to address those gaps.

Key Insights

To collect the critical information about employees’ financial lives that would help Self-Help provide resources for improving financial well-being, we needed to motivate employees to complete the survey and provide this information. While self-help credit unions provide employee benefits, these benefits may not be apparent to every employee. Understanding what benefits are available and how to access them may be overwhelming and/or confusing. Moreover, assessing and learning about these benefits are likely longer-term and may be outweighed by the time, effort, and privacy concerns employees may have when completing the survey.

To motivate employees to complete the survey, we utilized principles from behavioral science to understand what encourages survey completion, including:

  • Tapping into the idea of time scarcity by identifying and highlighting a deadline for completion;

  • Indicating the importance of everyone taking the survey for the benefit of their colleagues and fellow employees’ financial wellness (social reward and reciprocity);

  • Clearly stating the call to action (survey completion) and the associated details (answers are completely anonymous) and requirements (the survey would take 5-7 minutes).


Emails encouraging survey completion were sent to 789 Self-Help employees. Employees were randomly assigned to receive one of three different types of emails.


Employees were sent an initial email according to their random assignment and a follow-up reminder email one week later that mirrored their initial email. Email open and click-through rates, and survey completion rates were collected for all three groups.

Self-Help reported relatively high email open and click-through rates for a first-time survey campaign (one that had never been offered before). Across the entire company, 51% of employees opened the initial email; of those who opened the initial email, 67% clicked through to the survey.

Of those who opened the reminder email, 44% clicked through to the survey. Finally, across all employees who received the email, 45% completed the survey. However, there were no significant differences between open rates, click-through rates, or survey completion rates across the three email conditions.

Self-Help is planning on making this an annual survey at their credit union to not only address the current status of their employees’ financial well-being, but also examine how changes within their credit union affect these survey results over time. In future years, increased familiarity with the survey may increase survey completion rates and provide greater insights into the needs of their employees.