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How PayPal built a financially resilient workforce

A financial health program, built with employee input, creates stability and sparks engagement from hourly and entry-level workers.

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Challenge
Build a financially resilient workforce, especially across the large percent of hourly and entry-level employees struggling to pay bills each month.

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Solution
Launch the Employee Financial Health program based on four key policy changes. Keep evolving the program based on results and employees’ needs.

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Impact
Net disposable income up from 4–6% to 18% or more. $700+ average emergency savings within six months. Higher employee sentiment and benefits enrollment.

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PayPal takes its mission to help everyone take control of their financial lives, regardless of background or economic standing, just as seriously for its employees as its customers. To understand how well it fulfilled this mission internally, PayPal conducted a survey of its global customer operations function in 2019.

PayPal learned that despite paying wages at or above market rates, a large percentage of its hourly and entry-level employees (about 30% of PayPal’s total workforce at the time) did not feel financially secure. Those struggling shared that they had difficulty meeting their financial obligations each month.

CEO Dan Schulman, who sees PayPal’s employees as its most important shareholder, saw the results as a call to action. “We needed to step up, take a hard look, measure the stress our employees were feeling and put into place initiatives that would raise the disposable income employees would have,” he said on CNBC’s Squawk Box.

“We felt like again, we needed to put our money where our mouth is when we're out there talking to our employees and saying, ‘We’re going to support your financial well-being.’”

Traci Memmott Global Payroll Lead at PayPal

paypal logo

Challenge

Build a financially resilient workforce in a way that upholds PayPal’s mission

PayPal’s leaders rallied around a vision of a more financially resilient workforce. “We were adamant to do better for our employees and in a form we could be proud of,” Global Payroll Lead Traci Memmott said. To create as much better as possible, PayPal had to identify what goals would drive the most impact.

Goal 1

Increase net disposable income (NDI) to 20%

Net disposable income, or NDI, stood as one of the most telling statistics about employees’ financial health. PayPal defines NDI as how much money employees have left after taxes and living expenses. Hourly and entry-level employees averaged as low as 4–6% NDI at some U.S. locations. Margins like that make it difficult to escape living paycheck to paycheck.

Goal 2

Help employees prepare for (and bounce back from) the unexpected

PayPal established its Employee Relief Fund in 2017. It provides immediate assistance to employees facing hardship due to an unforeseen, life-altering personal event. But when leaders took a close look at fund requests, they saw employees needed as much help with smaller, more everyday emergencies.

“We started to notice that people were coming in for things like car repairs and small home repairs. Those are not insignificant, but it’s not a $10,000 medical bill,” Memmott said. “Those types of expenses where people just needed extra cash for an extra expense in a month pointed us in the direction of helping our people be able to get some money more frequently.”

That kicked off a series of roundtables and studies of industry best practices throughout 2019. PayPal learned a great deal about its employees’ financial situations, including the impact small amounts of money could have when available at the right time.

in a conference

Solution

Launch a comprehensive employee financial wellness program

After assessing hourly and entry-level workers’ financial realities, PayPal developed and launched the Employee Financial Health program in 2020. CEO Dan Schulman’s vision wasn’t for set-it-and-forget-it policy changes, but instead a dynamic program that would continually evolve based on the needs of PayPal’s employees.

The pillars of PayPal’s
Employee Financial Health program

In October of 2019, Schulman announced four substantive changes for 2020 that laid the foundation for the Employee Financial Health program:

  1. Lowering the cost of health care benefits.
  2. Making every full-time employee a shareholder.
  3. Raising wages where appropriate.
  4. Offering new financial education and counseling programs.

PayPal expected those foundational changes alone would drive employee net disposable income (NDI) to 16% within a year. But there was a wrinkle. The program launched during the pandemic, which brought a whole new wave of financial stress to PayPal’s hourly and entry-level workforce.

Evolving the program during COVID-19

To help employees remain financially resilient throughout the pandemic, PayPal responded by adding new policies and benefits to the Employee Financial Health program:

  • A second round of “wellness grant” equity awards to those who also received an initial grant.
  • Earned wage access (also known as EWA or on-demand pay) to all U.S. employees through Even, and equivalent services to its employees in other markets.
  • Stipends to offset remote working costs for eligible employees.

In recognizing how the pandemic reshaped employees’ financial realities, PayPal showed its commitment to fulfilling its mission internally. “We felt like again, we needed to put our money where our mouth is when we're out there talking to our employees and saying, ‘We're going to support your financial well-being,’” Memmott said.

group around computer

“We want Even to be a core benefit. We believe it can help our recruiting, and if we go the extra mile of covering the fees, then it gives us a competitive advantage.”

Results

Increased net disposable income, employee sentiment, and benefits participation

Even with the challenges of the pandemic, PayPal saw improvements to employees’ financial health, especially net disposable income (NDI). What’s more, those improvements drove measurable progress toward business goals from employee engagement to benefits adoption.

$1.3M

in Instapays taken to date

18% NDI

up from 4–6% NDI

$700+

average savings within 6 months

Net disposable income up
from 4–6% to 18%

With employee NDI up from 4–6% to at least 18%, PayPal is on pace to meet its goal of 20% NDI. This is a core measure of employees’ financial health because it shows how much discretionary income they have left after taxes and normal living expenses.

PayPal also made sure hourly and entry-level employees got the tools and knowledge needed to make good financial decisions. In Even, employees get on-demand pay paired with a suite of financial tools including automatic budgeting, emergency savings, and pay projection.

In under a year “we've seen just over $1.3M taken out in Instapay dollars and the average is about $60,” Memmott said. She also mentioned how employees are saving more and using EWA less as they build up financial resilience. That’s huge for PayPal, because it means financial benefits aligned with its mission.

$700+ average employee savings within the first 6 months of using Even

PayPal’s hourly and entry-level employees who engage with the full Even platform average more than $700 in savings within their first six months of becoming Even members. That means they’ve climbed out of the 40% of Americans who, according to the Federal Reserve, couldn’t come up with $400 in an emergency. And they did so in less than a year.

“We're very pleased as well with the level of savings that people have accumulated over the 8–9 months that we've had Even in place. Over time, you can see the people that are registered and using it, Even has become core to how they manage their finances,” Memmott said.

“The reason we wanted to partner with Even was their focus isn’t on continuing instant pay forever. It’s actually about getting people to a space where they don’t need to.”

Millions of dollars avoided in added costs

Because Even operationalizes all the financial benefits available through its platform, PayPal didn’t have to expand its payroll. Earned wage access meant PayPal didn’t need to move from biweekly pay to weekly. Running payroll twice as often would have added millions in annual operational costs, all for a benefit not every employee would want or need.

Those savings alone more than justified PayPal sponsoring Even for its employees, but there was more to it than that. “Sponsoring it helps make sure people in need take advantage of it,” Memmott said. “Even was a really reasonably priced and easy way for us to open up financial benefits without additional costs.”

Just as important, Even aligns with PayPal’s mission, vision, and values, so the company makes good on its promise to employees. “There were discussions around, ‘Hey, we want Even to be a core benefit. We believe it can help our recruiting, and if we go the extra mile of covering the fees, then it can give us a competitive advantage,’” Memmott said.

Increase in positive employee sentiment and benefits participation

Since PayPal’s initial survey of its global customer operations function, the company has seen improvement across its measures of employee engagement. Follow-up surveys show:

  • Increased positive employee sentiment toward PayPal, plus more employees indicating their intent to stay at PayPal.
  • Increased enrollment in health care benefits, and upgrades to existing plans.
  • Increased enrollment in 401(k) and employee stock purchasing program.

On top of that, a noteworthy decrease: Fewer employees running out of money between paychecks.

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What's next for paypal?

Launch more benefits with Even, and work with other employers to make financial resiliency a C‑suite priority

True to its mission to democratize financial services for all, PayPal plans to continue evolving its financial wellness program. That includes rolling out more financial benefits through Even, such as savings interest currently at 2X the national average.

But building its own financially resilient workforce is just the start of PayPal’s ambitions. CEO Schulman sees the widespread lack of good employee financial health as a “national crisis.” So much so that PayPal partnered with JUST Capital and the Financial Health Network to launch the Worker Financial Wellness Initiative.

The goal of the initiative:
Make workers’ financial health a C-suite priority.

The first cohort includes Chipotle, Chobani, Prudential Financial, and Verizon. Each company commits to conducting at least one financial wellness assessment of its workforce within a 12-month period. The results will show each employer where its workers’ biggest financial vulnerabilities are. With that data, leaders can find the solutions that will most help their employees build long-term financial wellness.

To learn more about the Workforce Financial Wellness Initiative, visit JUST Capital or the Financial Health Network.