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01 Feb 2024

Jonathan Watts-Lay of WEALTH at work on how financial wellbeing is shifting from tactical to strategic

Employers are moving a way from short-term financial wellbeing support to a more strategic, long-term approach



More employers are starting to take a longer-term approach to employee financial wellbeing, according to Jonathan Watts-Lay, Director at WEALTH at work. 

Speaking on the Ways financial wellbeing is being reshaped to meet strategic HR goals REBA webinar on 19 October 2023, Watts-Lay said there were several reasons for this change in approach, from the realisation that financial instability is often not a short-term problem – be it related to the broader economic environment or individual circumstances – while the ageing workforce is also having an impact.

REBA’s Financial Wellbeing Research 2023 report revealed that an increasing number of employers are shifting from a tactical approach to financial wellbeing support to a strategic one. The 2022 research showed that just 36% of organisations planned to make this change, compared with 74% of organisations in 2023.

Watts-Lay said: “There’s a lot of things going on that have big, strategic implications for organisations. If we take the ageing workforce as an example, for some organisations, they will say that they need new skillsets. So, actually, they want to make sure that people can afford to retire because it’s in their strategic interest to get on new people with new skills,” said Watts-Lay.

“In other organisations, there might be a skills shortage. If some of those older workers don't retire and they carry on working for longer, that is a win.”

There are also broader reasons, at corporate level, for giving more attention to financial wellbeing and the way in which it is aligned to corporate values.

“If there was an umbrella, strategic or corporate view on this, I would say it is the growth of ESG [environmental, social and governance], and the ‘S’ in ESG. Organisations are increasingly looking at the S and asking – what does that actually mean for our staff, for our employees?

“Increasingly organisations want be very clear and prominent about what their ESG strategies are. So the ‘S’ element of ESG – what they’re doing for staff is really important,” he said.

Previously, financial wellbeing was perhaps the poor relation to physical and mental wellbeing, but as organisations continue to join up their wellbeing strategy, the links between financial and mental wellbeing in particular have become clearer.

“There is a more joined up approach now. When we look at the research data, and organisations becoming more strategic, it’s those sorts of things that are driving that direction of travel,” said Watts-Lay.

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WEALTH at work is a leading financial wellbeing and retirement specialist - helping those in the workplace to improve their financial future.

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