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27 Jul 2022
by Alisdair Seenan

5 practical things organisations are doing to help employees through the cost of living crisis

How you respond to the cost of living crisis depends on the make up of your workforce

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How do you provide the right support for employees during a once-in-a-generation cost of living crisis? There is no one answer – and most employers recognise their response should be led by the make up of their workforce.

This is the right approach. ONS cost of living figures released in June 2022 show that some employees such as women and parents of young children are more worried than others. Employers with a large percentage of these groups in their workforces should tailor their plans and communication accordingly.

Employers should also approach the challenge differently depending on whether they have a large field force or operate in the private or public sectors.

Edenred recently interviewed HR heads from different organisations and discovered that while they aren’t following an established playbook – because there isn’t one for such a seismic shift – certain practical responses are starting to emerge.

1. Listening more to employees

From private sector businesses to local authorities, employers are taking the pulse of workforces more regularly – either through surveys or improved communication through line managers. This is critical to ensuring that communication stays open and honest and responses to the crisis stay flexible and relevant.

2. Making more effort to ensure employees can speak up anonymously

Not all employees are open to sharing their troubles – or indeed feel like they have anyone they can talk to if they work alone regularly. This has led to an increase in anonymous communications channels.

As one HR head who works for an organisation dominated by field workers put it: “We have a 24/7 anonymous advice service run by an external provider that covers financial support. We’re aware that if someone really needs help and doesn’t know which way to turn this will be the place where they will start. Over the rest of the year, empathy with people’s personal circumstances and their wish for confidentiality is going to be crucial.”

3. Creating financial wellbeing hubs

While most organisations said financial wellbeing has been on their radar for a few years, they also admitted that resources haven’t been as coordinated as they could have been. This year’s cost-of-living crisis has been a catalyst for change that has seen employers pull all their financial wellbeing offerings and advice together into a single hub – with clearer signposting to both existing and new resources such as energy consumption advice services.

4. Financial, physical and mental wellbeing support is coming together

HR teams have also focused on bringing financial, physical and wellbeing together to provide more rounded and connected support. Many have also appointed new wellbeing leads that provide more accountability. “We believe in a holistic approach and are going through a process of relaunching our overall wellbeing strategy,” said one HR head working in the private sector. “This has meant transitioning the people who are accountable for all elements of wellbeing across the organisation into a new role called Wellbeing Business Partners.” This is a trend that will almost certainly continue beyond the present crisis.

5. Improving communication to all parts of the workforce

HR directors also stressed the importance of making sure communication about financial support is clear and focused – and will reach field workers that rarely have access to PCs or a desk.

One HR head with a local authority said: “Like lots of other organisations, we have challenges around reaching all of our workforce, but we’re working hard to put systems in place to connect everyone and make sure that key information reaches everyone, regardless of how or where they work. We’re also prioritising improving our induction processes, so that our new employees are aware of the support available right from the off.”

More on the challenges facing HR leaders in 2022 is available in the Edenred Employer trends 2022 research report.

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