- Employers can offer financial wellbeing support based on which benefits are most frequently used, which will highlight prevalent financial issues among employees.
- As employers often have wide-ranging demographics that have varying preferences and needs, different communication methods will be required for each group.
- Tailored benefits that are personalised to employees’ needs offer an effective form of support.
The rising cost of living is creating more financial stress for female employees than their male counterparts, according to July 2023 research from financial wellbeing platform Mintago, with 48% of females and 31% of males saying they are either very or somewhat stressed. With different employee demographics experiencing varying financial wellbeing needs, how can employers best target support to specific staff groups?
Addressing issues with benefits
Issues such as the cost-of-living crisis and inflation are affecting everyone, but each employee will have their own specific financial needs. For example, some will be looking to buy their first home, whereas others are preparing for retirement.
As a starting point, employers can survey staff to ascertain their situations, and get creative with benefits that can help employees both today and in the long-term, says Steve Watson, director of policy and research at Cushon.
“With national insurance (NI) savings for both the employer and employees, a pensions salary sacrifice arrangement can help employees maintain their pension contributions while putting some extra pounds into their pay packets each month, all at no additional cost,” he says.
The employer savings can be used to help fund financial education, while employees can also be encouraged to save into individual savings accounts (Isas) to help with short-term savings goals, adds Watson.
Another good place for an employer to start is to look at the benefits on offer to see whether some are more or less popular among certain groups. This will show what is most frequently used and can shed light on any issues. An employer can then offer further guidance to staff.
Different financial concerns require varying support, so a financial wellbeing programme should include a range of features such as one-to-one financial coaching, interactive sessions, on-demand courses, educational content in different mediums, and access to budget calculators and tools, says Stacey Lowman, head of employee wellbeing at Claro Wellbeing.
Employers also need to ensure that the benefits they offer to employees are not only easy to access, but can also be personalised to their needs. Tailored benefits provide a more effective form of support and can lead to improved employee experience, morale and productivity.
Financial coaching is a good way to engage staff across different life stages, as it is personalised for each individual’s goals, adds Lowman, using the example of providing budgeting and saving tools for younger employees.
“Older workers are likely to be concerned with retirement planning, so could benefit from workshops and webinars on how to effectively prepare,” she explains. “Offering support with managing childcare costs through schemes to access vouchers or budgeting tools to keep track of household income and outgoings would be beneficial for parents. Low-income employees may need support with budgeting or debt, whereas high-earning ones might want investment guidance.”
Considering employees’ need from the points of view of short-, medium- and long-term savings and then offering suitable support for those with these goals can also be beneficial, says Jonathan Watts-Lay, director of Wealth at Work.
“Short-term saving goals would suit cash Isas, cash accounts with a bank or building society, or employer share schemes that do not involve investment risk, such as save-as-you-earn plans,” he says. “Medium-term savings goals would suit equity Isas or share incentive plans, while long-term savings goals traditionally refer to saving for retirement, with a workplace pension a core part of retirement income planning.”
It can be a challenge to reach every employee with the most appropriate and supportive financial wellbeing initiatives, as employers often have wide-ranging demographics. Data from benefits platforms can highlight what benefits appeal to each.
Matt Russell, chief executive officer of Zest, says: “Being able to easily identify employees by factors such as age, team and gender not only provides insights for businesses, but is a vital component to ensuring that the right benefits are reaching the right workers.”
Different channels of communication will be required for each group. Providing engaging education in a mix of formats is crucial; older staff may prefer in-person interactive sessions or one-to-one coaching, while short, snappy videos, webinars, webcasts, animation and microsites may be more effective for younger and entry-level workers.
While desk-based staff have constant access to a computer, those working in front-line roles in industries such as retail, construction and care, for example, may not have a workplace desktop or email address required to access a benefit, says Lowman.
“Multiple channels should be used,” she explains. “Posters can be displayed in the workplace to advertise the offering, alongside reminders over email and during meetings. Regular check-ins with employees where feedback can be given will also ensure provision is meeting needs.”
Separating a workforce into groups based on life stages and demographics is essential to target financial wellbeing support effectively. The best schemes allow employees to use these as and when they need, while ensuring an element of personalisation.