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14 Mar 2023
by Jonathan Watts-Lay

A joined-up financial wellbeing strategy is key to hitting HR goals

Providing financial wellbeing benefits is good for business, according to research

A joined-up financial wellbeing strategy is key to hitting HR goals.jpg 1


Financial wellbeing support is integral to employers being able to meet their high-level HR objectives, according to research by The Reward & Employee Benefits Association (REBA) in association with WEALTH at work.

Nearly all (94%) of respondents to the research hope to use their financial wellbeing strategy as a tool to meet their HR objective of improving employee wellbeing, while 81% hope to use their strategy to help retain employees and the same proportion hope to boost employee engagement levels.

More than half (53%) of employers hope to use their financial wellbeing strategies to attract new talent to their organisations, while 46% are focusing on attracting a more diverse workforce.

Almost half (46%) of organisations hope to improve their employee performance and productivity, a key benefit of financial wellbeing support. It’s well known that employees who are supported to understand their financial situation and how to manage their money are less likely to suffer financial stress and absenteeism, resulting in higher levels of workplace attendance, engagement and productivity.

Meeting employee demand

Employee demand is driving employers to bolster their efforts in more than four in 10 (44%) organisations.

Accordingly, the report found that employers across the board are considering providing access to and funding for financial wellbeing support for their workforce.

More than a third (34%) of employers plan to fund a workplace financial education programme within the next two years, while 39% of organisations already do so. Meanwhile, 26% plan to introduce financial coaching, which is more than double the 12% of organisations already doing so, and 23% have plans to fund guidance on budgeting and general money management, with 43% currently already doing so.

Further, 22% of organisations plan to fund guidance on financial emergencies, with 24% currently already doing so.

A range of benefits

Organisations are also funding a range of employee benefits to help employees’ money stretch further. This includes employer pension contributions above auto-enrolment minimum (88%), salary sacrifice plans (85%) and product discounts and voluntary benefits (84%). The report also found that 32% offer savings via tax-free saving funds such as ISAs, with 19% planning to do this within the next two years.

However, a more connected approach is needed if employers have any hope of achieving their HR goals, given that 23% say they have lots of financial wellbeing benefits but they are not joined up in strategy. Just 5% have a mature financial wellbeing strategy that is integrated into their company culture.

This can perhaps be explained by the fact that just 12% of board members take a strong lead on financial wellbeing within their organisation, with fewer than half (45%) of HR professionals taking the lead. Almost one-fifth (19%) of organisations have no financial wellbeing strategy leader at all.

Jonathan Watts-Lay, director, WEALTH at work says: “It’s time that financial wellbeing became a keystone of workplace wellbeing. This means looking beyond offering isolated and disjointed products that serve short-term needs as the solution, and instead creating a cohesive strategy that aligns with HR and corporate strategy.”

He adds: “A three-pronged approach by employers is required. Firstly, they must secure buy-in for their financial wellbeing strategy at the top of their organisation. Support from board members and leadership, as well as from line managers, employee networks and other stakeholders, ensures financial wellbeing is taken seriously.”

A joined up strategy

Secondly, he says, organisations should review their offering and explore if they are joined up in strategy. They should look at the take up of existing benefits, as well as looking at employees’ current and future financial wellbeing needs. Anonymised and confidential focus groups and surveys can help here.

Thirdly, employers must then help their employees understand the financial benefits and services on offer, how and when they may want to use them and how they join up with other benefits on offer. Financial education and guidance is key to this.

Watts-Lay adds: “Many leading employers are integrating holistic and proactive financial wellbeing programmes that include financial education, guidance and regulated financial advice, to help employees build their financial resilience.”

The research cited is from The REBA/WEALTH at work Employee Financial Wellbeing Survey 2022, carried out online between April and May 2022. Responses were received from 289 wellbeing, HR and employee benefits specialists, representing around 1 million employees, working at organisations of various sizes and across a broad range of industry sectors.

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