Catherine Rickard: How can employers support financially stressed employees?

A culture of ‘spend today, rather than save for tomorrow’ is affecting many employees’ wellbeing and productivity. Institute for Employment Studies (IES) and Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) research, the Employee financial wellbeing report, published in January 2017, confirmed this by showing that one in four employees report that money worries have affected their ability to do their job. But how can employers spot the signs of financial stress among their employees?

A financial wellbeing employee survey is a great starting point for identifying the types of support that employees need. The aim is not to appear intrusive but to show that the employer cares about their wellbeing. Considering the demographics of a workforce may also help identify particular support needs and financial priorities within different employee groups.

Exit interviews or employee attitude and engagement surveys can also point to areas of reward, wellbeing provision, and communications that could be improved. Analysis of benefits take-up could also help to spot any groups that are not making the most of what is on offer.

Many larger organisations typically view supporting employee financial wellbeing as an ethical responsibility, with Willis Towers Watson’s Global benefits attitudes survey 2015/16 report, published in February 2016, suggesting that more employees than ever before are interested in obtaining support and guidance from their employers about financial issues. There is also a lot employers can offer without crossing the line into regulated advice, by offering staff access to, and signposting them to, sources of advice to make good financial choices.

In order to communicate effectively with employees on their financial wellbeing it is important to pick the right moments. By targeting financial information to different employee segments or at a significant life event, for example marriage or the birth of a child, employees can be encouraged to examine their changing needs or priorities. Alternatively, identifying workplace champions for financial wellbeing, who can signpost colleagues to sources of advice, can help increase employee engagement with their financial wellbeing.

Catherine Rickard is senior research fellow at the Institute for Employment Studies (IES)