In a survey earlier this year, QSuper reported that only 35% of Australians surveyed are satisfied with their financial wellbeing. And yet, some HR professionals are still considering financial wellbeing as "taboo" in the workplace.
But recently, we’ve seen a change in the HR world when it comes to financial benefits. It’s become clear that today’s workforce values an organisation that prioritises the financial health of its staff. In fact, according to a recent report by Willis Towers Watson:
51% of employees surveyed have significant worries about their current financial state
39% of Australian employees would like their employer to offer tools to help improve their financial wellbeing
If you’re not already considering financial benefits in your overall reward scheme, it’s time to pay attention and starting doing something about it.
What’s in it for us?
In the past, a common misconception among employers was that we don’t bear any responsibility when it comes to employees’ financial wellbeing – surely that’s what banks are for? Plus, I’ve found that many companies are afraid to offer anything money-related, because they’re worried that if things go wrong, it will reflect badly on them.
It’s important to break through these barriers and recognise the benefits to a company of a financially healthy workforce.
If a member of staff is going through financial difficulties, it’s inconceivable that they’re not bringing their worries into work with them, that it’s not affecting their levels of concentration. According to a Willis Towers Watson’s 2017/2018 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey, the effect in the workplace is real. Employees troubled by their finances are twice as likely to be in poor health, report considerably higher stress levels, more absences, and significantly lower levels of workplace engagement.
Ultimately, all of these factors put a drain on our employees and on our businesses. And employees worrying about their finances can have a serious effect on a company's bottom line, resulting in decreased productivity and disengagement. Providing the right kind of benefits that can help ease financial troubles for employees can help improve your workplace, and boost your Employee Value Proposition.
The role of employers to provide financial benefits
Employees go through a lot of different stages throughout their working life, all of which bring unique financial hurdles – marriage, children, buying a house and university fees, to name just a few. The question for organisations is: what can we do for employees who are struggling with money at each stage? How can we help them to move into a more comfortable position?
Your company’s EAP (employee assistance program) isn’t just there to help with the crisis points in someone’s life, as lots of people think. The program deals with everyday issues, too – financial wellbeing being one of them. If an employee is struggling with money or has questions on how to manage their money better, it may be a good idea to encourage them to use the EAP to get some help.
According to a Barclays report, 1 in 5 employees said they would value broader financial guidance, debt management and counselling if they were in financial hardship. Companies could consider offering financial education programs to address these needs and provide employees with tools to effectively manage their finances.
An employee benefits program lets employers stretch their employees’ disposable income in tangible ways, offering generous discounts or cashback at a variety of retailers to help ease financial burdens of everyday grocery shopping, vacation planning or around Christmas when buying presents can be a worry.
Keep in mind that when you’re choosing an appropriate set of financial wellbeing benefits for your organisation, it’s important to collect employee data and understand your workforce – this will show you the areas in which you need to focus the most effort. For example, what percentage of your workforce are in debt? What percentage own a home? What percentage earn under – or over – a certain amount per year?
This way, you’ll be able to decide on the right range of products – for some companies, an increased emphasis on an EAP may be most appropriate; for others, it may be about implementing an employee discounts program. There is no one-size-fits-all approach – as with all employee benefits, it’s about deciding what suits your company and your people best.
What kind of benefits have you introduced to your organisation? I’d love to hear ideas in the comments!
Debra is the co-author of "Build It: The Rebel Playbook for Employee Engagement," which she wrote with Reward Gateway Founder, Glenn Elliott. She's a Rewards guru, having over 20 years experience as a rewards leader, speaker, teacher and a frequent contributor to the Reward Gateway blog.
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