Supporting employee financial wellbeing – the options available for employers
Financial wellbeing should be a no brainer. Our finances directly impact our mental health – which in turn affects our work life. It’s a core part of employee experience, productivity and retention.
The trouble is the taboo. Mental health awareness might have soared in recent years, but there’s still a layer of shame wrapped around our finances. There’s an unspoken assumption that people shouldn’t need any help in that department unless they’re desperate, a little like the now-outdated assumption that people shouldn’t need therapy unless they’re unable to handle things on their own.
So financial wellbeing is usually ignored until we hit breakpoint. But long before then, employees can feel the impact on their health, their happiness, and their productivity. In the Close Brothers Financial Wellbeing Index 2019, 3/4 employees said that financial concerns directly affected their work. It’s a problem. It’s widespread. And that was before Covid-19.
While most people are sitting in silence, worrying, many companies are missing the opportunity to make a difference. Even the ones who think they’ve already got financial wellbeing figured out.
A matter of deployment
Let’s get right out there and say it: no one wants to sit in a seminar about finances. At least, very few people do. For a start, it’s just about impossible to make a financial seminar relevant to everyone in the room, and even harder to make it relevant for them at a single point in time.
So what should you rely on then? App technology? Ongoing support? This is certainly the direction in which many HR managers are looking. Everyone wants something innovative, simple and tech-based. But the question of what that technology delivers is another matter. It’s possible to appear cutting edge but actually be backward looking.
Ease of use is critical. When Bippit was developing our own financial wellbeing system, it was clear that we needed to make something that didn’t interfere with an employer’s existing system and could be rolled-out instantly. We also made sure that registration for employees takes no more than 2 minutes. And this, in part, helped us create engagement levels of >40% – much higher than the turnout for most seminars.
Answering the right needs
The delivery is key to get you started, but information alone won’t cut it. People need a financial wellbeing system to be more than an FAQ page. Some are in crisis. Others have complex needs. Many don’t know where to start. And everyone is coming at it from a different life stage.
People use Bippit for a broad range of purposes. But we’ve found that most people kick things off by taking our health check. They’re looking for the right questions to ask because no one ever taught us what we should be asking.
When people do ask a direct question, it can be about any number of issues. “How do I get on the property ladder?” is a big one, as is “How does my pension work?” But by far the most popular topic is “Savings and Investments.”
These are the kind of pre-emptive issues that many companies miss. It’s important to help employees in financial crisis but it’s just as important to help them before they reach that point.
What many employees crave is someone to talk to. A PwC employee wellness survey shows that 1/3 of employees would rank access to a financial expert as the top benefit they want to see employers introduce.
If companies can outsource financial coaching with a trusted partner, they can ensure their employees get the safe, confidential support they need. Monthly money worries can subside, crises can be averted and as financial stress decreases, productivity can rise.
Although there’s high demand, there’s not much that’s answering this need. Only 1 in 10 employees have spoken to a financial expert according to the Financial Advice Market Review. And this is partly because of the associated costs. Financial experts are expensive – and most companies don’t want to foot the bill.
Financial advice is also usually tied to a larger lender or mortgage provider. This can add an element of bias to recommendations – something most HR managers are keen to avoid.
To work around this issue, we found a way to match impartial financial coaches with employees through our Bippit system. The delivery format keeps costs incredibly low but also optimises it: helping employees to figure out the questions they want to ask, before they send their one-to-one expert a message. This enables employees to feel comfortable and respected in every coaching interaction.