Gethin Nadin, Director, Employee Well-being
A household name in the UK, EDF are the country’s largest producer of low-carbon electricity. With 12,000 UK employees across 25 sites including power stations and customer contact centers, they have a broad and diverse employee population to cater to when it comes to their employee benefits and employee well-being initiatives. I caught up with Vanessa Corsie, Pensions Operations Manager, who spearheads EDF’s financial well-being program, to discuss what they’ve implemented, how it all got started, and how their proactive approach to financial well-being is ultimately affecting their employees.
Vanessa, to get us started, why do EDF think financial well-being needs to be taken seriously, and what first steps did you take?
Well, there are a few reasons as to why we started to look more seriously at supporting our employees’ financial well-being. Firstly, well-being is all-encompassing, and EDF believe from a moral perspective that making sure we’re giving our employees the support they need across all aspects of well-being is the right thing to do to.
Secondly, we often talk about the ‘vulnerable’ groups that are affected by poor financial well-being. But for me, the eye-opening thing has been that people across all pay-grades can face financial difficulties. The average UK household debt is something like £15,000. I’m lucky in that, when growing up, my dad took money very seriously, and this meant that I picked up bits of information around interest, borrowing, APR etc., but not everyone had this education from an early age – or even in adulthood.
Plus, we considered the impact of financial wellness on presenteeism and absenteeism. Of course, it’s difficult to measure, as these are impacted by many different things, but our research showed that 63% of employees are worried about finances, and as a result are distracted at work. And a Mind survey of our workforce recently found that 73% of our employees were finding it difficult to concentrate in the world of Covid.
The first steps we took towards financial well-being initiatives were largely researching employee needs through anecdotal feedback and open feedback channels through colleagues and managers. We also engaged with the trade unions to get their input, and we needed support from the HR senior leadership team to take any initiative forward. And, to be honest – particularly with some free tools and content – we thought ‘let’s give it a go and see what kind of uptake we get!’
Recent research found that less than 20% of employees are aware of where to go when looking for well-being support from their employers. EDF, however, created a single place for employees to go; how did you get to that point?
I had found it difficult to navigate all the different ‘things’ that came under the world of well-being and benefits, and we worked with Benefex to put these all together under our ‘my Benefits’ platform within One-Hub, to make sure it was intuitive and straightforward to navigate. Having all of the tools and content centralized and easy to signpost helped us improve our communications as well, as we could just point to a single place that people could land on, which increased engagement. My aim was to get to a point where – if someone new joins the organisation – they can just log on to ‘ my Benefits’ and find what they needed from Day One.
Just leading on from that, what financial education tools do you use and are they all integrated into ‘my Benefits’?
Largely, yes. All of our benefits products sit within my Benefits, then from there we use a well-being provider who links directly from my Benefits, and the employees are able to build their own accounts on that provider’s platform. In doing this they can curate the kinds of content they’re most interested in, and they can find out their financial well-being ‘score’ and build from there. Plus, we’ve ventured into the realms of salary-deducted loans. We believe that consolidating loans and making debt easier to manage is a subset of financial education, so the provider we use for this also offers financial advice and education. We were keen that this was positioned and used primarily as an education tool, with the option to go with a salary deducted loan as part of that. We know this benefit isn’t for everybody, which is ok, but this catered for those who wanted and needed the comfort of a consolidated debt payment at perhaps a better rate than they could get elsewhere.
What kinds of wider impacts have your financial well-being initiatives had on the business?
They’ve opened up a lot of opportunities. As we launched the financial well-being service as an anytime benefit, it’s increased engagement levels with my Benefits. Our people have realized they can engage with their benefits more regularly than once a year, and they’re finding other content along the way. It’s also broadening the conversation around things like pay negotiations. Rather than always focusing on ‘cash is king’ during recruitment and salary reviews, we’ve worked with various teams – including recruitment – to highlight the value of the total benefits package, so that it’s not just seen as a ‘tag on’ but that well-being is a larger part of the experience of working with EDF. Plus, it’s improved links between HR and occupational health. We know that poor financial well-being often has an effect on our emotional and physical well-being too, so we’re looking at engagement with our platform in relation to occupational health to see if we can identify any trends between the scoring of people’s financial well-being and what kinds of insurances claims that employees are putting forwards.
As part of the wider CSR strategy, which well-being obviously feeds into, you’ve made a conscious environmental effort with your car scheme as well.
Yes, we launched an electric vehicle car scheme with Tusker in February 2020. Since launch, it’s helped to take 359 petrol cars off the road. But as well as the environmental positives, it’s helped our people to understand the savings they can make through our salary sacrifice car scheme vs. a private lease, and the uptake was unprecedented! It also worked very smoothly with our ‘generation electric’ company campaign. As an energy organisation, we’re working to build an ‘electric future’, so it’s helped bring employees on board in that journey as well. Plus, as an added bonus EDF has made a huge NI saving, too.
That’s hugely impressive! So, in terms of communications, how did you raise awareness around financial well-being, and has the Covid-19 outbreak changed this approach?
We went for a different approach on communications this year. We use Benefex’s Communications Manager (a branded email building tool), and through that, all our emails would come ‘from’ the providers but through us, ensuring everything was dual branded to help reassure employees that these financial well-being services were trustworthy. Plus we held a series of briefings before launch to make sure our employees understood the offering from Day One. Firstly, we briefed our HR teams so they were aware of what the service was, what messaging to use, what kinds of questions we might get etc. We then briefed line managers in a similar way and made sure they knew to point their colleagues towards my Benefits for the information. Then we briefed employees, too. This staggered process really seemed to work and we had over 3,000 employees set up a profile on the provider’s site. We also found that having everything together in one place meant that things like pensions – which sometimes just don’t engage certain employees – were getting increased attention as it was easily accessible alongside other financial content
Since the Covid outbreak, we’re just trying to be a bit more sensitive with our communications. We’re now promoting the financial well-being services as part of a suite that we’ve called ‘Alongside You’. So, this also includes things like exercise videos, updates from our company doctors – basically a whole package to help support our employees as much as we can.
How did you reach offline or field-based employees?
Most of our people who work in the field are all online – they all have what we call ‘tough pads’ that make sure they all have access to our systems including my Benefits. We do sometimes send things like leaflets to people’s homes, but that’s quite rare. We’ve made a big deal about the fact that my Benefits is accessible from any device, so all of our employees can log on outside of the workplace in one way or another. We get about 1,000 people log on to my Benefits and the well-being services every weekend! Employees are going to make a lot of their benefits and financial decisions while at home with partners and families so the mobile aspect of the platform is essential to help with that.
As a result of all of these efforts, EDF’s employee engagement went up by 26% this year! EDF’s people are better engaged with their my Benefits platform, and their advocacy of EDF increased. As well as this, there were personal successes. An apprentice-level employee at EDF had eight existing debts – credit cards, payday loans etc. But he took out a £2,400 loan through EDF’s financial well-being provider and, through consolidating these payments, he saved £265 per month on fees and interest. For someone at apprentice level, this effectively equates to a 24% salary increase. While the increased engagement and proven returns on investment are wonderful, it’s personal stories like this that show the real impact of workplace financial well-being, and of this, EDF should be incredibly proud.
If you want to find out a little more and hear some interesting research on the current state of employee financial well-being, you can listen in to Vanessa and Gethin’s full interview, here!