Coventry University supports employees’ financial wellbeing with education programmes

Coventry University

Coventry University refreshed its financial education programme to help support employees with their financial understanding and also promote awareness of the organisation’s total reward package.

In June 2015, the university introduced pilot financial education workshops in response to a number of factors: employees were taking more interest in their own financial wellbeing; the pace and complexity of pension changes; and a desire to create greater engagement among employees with its total reward package.

Renu Birla, rewards strategy manager, says: “[This] all led us to the conclusion that we really needed to offer our employees financial workshops that would enable them to take more ownership of their own financial wellbeing. The workshops were intended to offer guidance and support employees in making their own decisions, whichever life stage they were at. They also raised awareness of the value, choice and flexibility of the individual benefits that we offer at the university so that employees could leverage them to make savings or gain other advantages.”

The university chose a face-to-face workshop style in order to enable open discussion among employees. The content was agreed with the provider because the university wanted to ensure that staff got an independent view, but it also canvassed the views of employees. Birla explains: “As part of the pilot, we sent out pre-evaluation surveys to find out from employees what they wanted to achieve from the workshops. We also asked them after they attended the pilots did they feel they met their objectives. Their responses informed the design of the programme going forward.

“The feedback from all those that attended was that they found the workshops incredibly useful, both in the way that we’ve designed them, and the fact that they focused on take-away points and actions that they could follow up on going forward.”

After positive feedback from employees that attended the pilots, the university introduced a full financial education programme, provided by Wealth at Work, that runs each spring and autumn. It focuses on different life stages: those employees just starting out; those with more commitments that want support in managing finances; and those getting ready for an easier life [in the run-up to retirement]. It also offers a specific separate programme on retirement planning, mainly for those up to 10 years away from retirement.

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Employee feedback from the pilot and workshops so far has been extremely positive. Birla says: “Employees appreciated getting a one-stop shop including what the whole university package is all about. Second, across the board, they appreciated the open-forum discussion workshop, so people were almost learning from each other. They also felt they had improved their understanding of the choices they had under the pension scheme. They definitely felt that they left knowing how they could keep on board and updated, it was something ongoing.

“It’s really about [employees’] financial wellbeing and trying to get them into that discipline of looking at it on an ongoing basis from the start of their career. It also gave us a platform to make sure that they realise the value of the total reward package we offer, everything from training and development to cash benefits,” adds Birla.