In the 2010s, when workplace well-being initiatives started to appear, their focus at first was to encourage an improvement in employees’ health. The fruit bowl, yoga class and staff gym membership are now ubiquitous – few even think they are more than simple hygiene factors. Other pillars emerged and today we take a more holistic view of wellness which includes our physical, mental, and emotional health.
There is still, however, one area that is largely underdeveloped – our financial well-being.
The pandemic has changed the way we work; for many it compressed our world, challenged our conscious and subconscious behaviours and views on everything from financial planning and investing through to personal health and choice.
When we add border restrictions, the ‘Great Resignation’, increased remuneration expectations, and a growing skilled worker shortage, the situation for employers becomes even more stark. Staff retention, health, and productivity have become some of the biggest employment issues facing employers. A recent AUT survey found that 72% of workers were ‘moderately’ or ‘highly’ motivated to quit their jobs.
To support employee retention strategies 2022 will see a growing call for employee benefit and wellness programmes to make a measurable difference in people’s lives. This means an increased focus on delivering initiatives that empower and educate, addressing short and long term employee needs.
One thing I have observed in my nearly 20 years of leadership, is that it’s easy to feel we have done the right thing by simply raising employee awareness of financial matters. However, where I have seen this fall short time and again is when the employees that would benefit most don’t take further action beyond the financial introduction provided. This is often due to a belief that they are already doing everything they can or because of concerns about perceived costs, even if there is a discount on offer.
When it comes to employee benefits, I am a big fan of levelling the playing field by removing the issue of income level or access to available funds. Take getting insurance for example. We can teach people the importance and the significant financial benefit of having it, which most people fully agree with once they understand it all. However, if we then ask them to spend the money to protect themselves or their family versus pay the rent, it’s a no-brainer decision.
As we head into a new financial year, and recognising that financial wel-lbeing is a key component of any overarching people strategy, I thought it might be helpful to provide a few simple questions to consider and a high-level checklist that you can use to get a quick snapshot of your present financial wellbeing approach.
Questions to ask yourself:
- What is our philosophy on employee benefits as they pertain to financial wellbeing?
- Do we want to give or enable, or provide a mixture of both? If so where are the lines of separation and why?
- Is our approach to provide an introduction and discounts to financial services then leave the costs and next steps to employees?
- Do we want to provide more than introductions and discounts and cover the costs of certain benefits to remove inherent barriers that come with different income levels and personal budgetary challenges? If so where are the lines of separation and why?
- What does success look like for us and our employees and how will we measure it?
Financial Well-being employee benefit checklist, do you provide:
- 24/7 access to information and educational content
- Goal setting and achieving tools
- A contribution to KiwiSaver or other retirement fund
- Life, trauma and or income protection Insurance
- Estate planning resources
- Access to financial industry experts, money management tools and resources
- Health insurance, additional leave, child-care support
I have seen first-hand how improving financial literacy can enhance a person’s overall well-being. If an individual is empowered to better understand and address their financial concerns, and given additional knowledge to improve them, they will gain further insights and develop better lifelong financial management tools.
However, from a life coaching perspective, achieving any goal, financial or other, needs to be driven by the individual. We can educate and enable all we like when it comes to financial wellbeing, but it will be each individual’s belief system that is likely to influence results.
This means there is significant scope for applying a coaching methodology to employee well-being programmes, and there is a role to play for organisational psychologists who can help improve the well-being and mental health, and capability of teams. Through life coaching and business leadership experience, leaders can build strategies on the premise that sustainable change is achieved through creating awareness, increasing knowledge, and enabling action-based exploration to deliver results.