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We all know that the cost of living in Australia is out of control: Everything costs more and it’s dialling up collective stress levels. The upcoming high-spend holiday season, with gifts, food, holidays and events, is only going to exacerbate these pressures.

As HR and business leaders, you have to manage your own stress while alleviating this same stress for your own people. In my recent conversations with HR leaders, inflationary pressures sat at the top of their key concerns.

Cost of living pressures are affecting businesses and employees alike, forcing everyone to do more with less both at work and at home.

Compounding this are tight HR budgets, with many leaders lamenting the fact that they can’t afford to give their people a competitive pay rise, or at least a pay rise that matches the rising cost of living.

That’s a really difficult thing to work through with your people. And it’s even more stressful if you’re also feeling cost of living pressures and a reduced or overworked HR department that’s expected to do more with less.

Let’s go over three actionable tips and strategies to help you support your employees this festive season and ease the impact of the cost of living.

1. Introduce a discounts program

We recently surveyed 1,000 Australian employees and asked them what they would like their employer to do to help them manage the cost of living outside of a pay rise.

40% of employees listed financial, mental and physical wellbeing support in their top ten ‘must-haves’ from an employer. In fact, one in three employees believes that a competitive benefits program is a ‘must-have’ and expect an employer to provide some sort of retail discounts program to offset inflation. 

Discounts programs are increasingly making their way into employees' top-ten 'must have' lists at work.One in four Australian employees said they would leave an organisation that didn’t offer a benefits program.

When you factor in all the costs surrounding payroll, a 3% company-wide salary rise for a 500-employee organisation could cost around $1.125 million. And the net increase per month for your people would only be around $190. But a discounts program, which costs a fraction of that salary increase, can provide around $100 worth of savings per month, depending on an employee’s spending habits. That’s a great way to put money back in their pockets.

A lot of companies are adopting this practice, and our research shows that HR managers spend about a third of their total rewards budget on benefits and discounts programs like this. Plus, 73% of surveyed HR managers say they plan to increase the amount that they’re investing in employee benefits and discounts over the next year.

When you think about how much we spend over the Christmas period or the holiday season, discounts on major brands for petrol, groceries, holidays and gifts can make a huge difference to your employees.

2. Think outside the box for reward and recognition

Does your current reward and recognition program give people the flexibility to redeem rewards and gifts how they wish? Do your bulk awards account for the diversity of your workforce and the different holidays they may celebrate? 

Your rewards and gifts need to be relevant to all employees, taking into account the diversity of lifestyle, background and life stage throughout your organisation. Not all your employees travel regularly, celebrate the same holidays, eat at the same restaurants or shop at the same stores – which means your rewards should be as diverse as your staff to ensure that there is something suitable for everyone, regardless of their circumstances.

Your rewards and gifts need to be relevant to all employees, taking into account the diversity of lifestyle, background and life stage throughout your organisation.Now, Australian businesses are using digital reward and recognition platforms to automate appreciation, reduce manual work for HR teams and give their employees the freedom to choose the rewards that will make the biggest difference to them. What we’ve found in our research is that 68% of employees want to be able to use rewards, however small, on essentials, rather than luxury items. 

Whether that’s discounts on movie tickets or simply putting money towards the weekly grocery shop, employees need to have that power to decide where their rewards go.

It’s clear that a lot of people would like to just save money on groceries and food, so the fact that we have a platform that allows you to gift to people without having to go through a million spreadsheets, and then give them the freedom to redeem it flexibly is really quite powerful.

3. Boost employees financial wellbeing and literacy

Another way that employers can support employees to manage the rising cost of living is access to financial advice. 

When people are stressed, they can be more prone to making bad financial decisions, and less likely to be actively looking for ways to improve their financial understanding. As an employer, if you can provide that financial literacy and education, that’s an incredible resource to your people. For example, your CFO or someone on your finance team could lead internal sessions with employees on various financial literacy topics like investments, budgeting or retirement planning. You could also reach out to your business partners and set up various training or learning opportunities through them to strengthen your business’s position in its industry.

Alternatively, ask an external speaker or coach to visit your office or host a webinar and speak to staff about ways to improve their financial wellbeing.

If you don’t have budget or bandwidth for these activities, you can also host external guides and resources on your internal platform.

Acknowledging that everyone is feeling that cost of living pain, particularly around the holidays, and providing your people with free resources to offset this pain is something that can make a huge impact.

Additionally, remind your people of any EAPs (Employee Assistance Programs) that you offer and include links to support and resources. Emphasise that it’s crucial to be proactive when it comes to financial wellbeing. Don’t wait until your employees are in crisis; take steps today to support them.

If you’d like to learn more about how benefits and rewards can ease cost of living pressures, check out our recent webinar, Enhance Your EVP With Impactful Benefits & Rewards to Support Your People This Festive Season.

Did you know that we can help you launch a new discounts program in as little as 48 hours? Introduce top offers from more than 500 leading Australian and New Zealand retailers to your people and provide immediate financial support, at a time when they need it most. 

Talk to an Engagement Consultant »

Joy Adan

Joy spearheads RG's research about employee experience and engagement, and as our resident presenter, loves to inspire and challenge people to think critically about how to improve the way we work together. Joy’s passion for creative and inclusive storytelling, combined with experience in change management and corporate communications has allowed her to partner with global organisations to improve connection, culture and community in the world of work for over 15 years.

Senior Thought Leadership Manager

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