Financial wellbeing: Examining the 'on-the-fence' cohortby
Research shows that a portion of employees are unsure of what financial support is available to them within their organisation, why they might need it and what it should look like. Now is the time to reframe financial wellbeing support to include everyone.
According to a new report from Wagestream, over two-thirds (66%) of UK employees want more support from their employer when it comes to their finances while less than 8% (one in 10) do not. What may surprise you is that almost a third (28%) are not sure if they do. Is your financial wellbeing strategy ignoring this group?
Before we answer that question, it’s important to note that employers may not even be aware of this cohort in the workplace. Just under one in 10 (8%) of employers responding to the State of Financial Wellbeing 2022 research said they weren’t sure if their employees wanted more support. Employers, it seems, are overestimating the number of people expressing a clear desire for support and underestimating how many need educating on why financial wellbeing support may be beneficial.
People with problem debt, for instance, will often delay seeking help for years as they can’t see a way out
Why are so many UK employees not sure about support with money?
There could be a variety of reasons driving this uncertainty. The first is that employees are simply unaware that their employer is able to support them in the workplace, either because they don’t think an employer should or because they can’t envision exactly what that support would look like.
Alternatively, they may think that other sources of support outside the workplace may be more appropriate and therefore be uncertain as to whether it’s worth pursuing in-work support at the expense of other forms of support, especially if they are time-poor.
Finally, for those with very poor financial wellbeing, they may be isolated by their issues and unwilling to consider forms of support. People with problem debt, for instance, will often delay seeking help for years as they can’t see a way out.
If employers aren’t aware of the on-the-fence cohort, what effect does this have?
The most relevant impact is likely to be that financial wellbeing strategies and communications are broadly or universally tailored to those employees that know they want some kind of support from their employer. For the on-the-fence cohort, the focus needs to be on crystallising why they might need support.
One in five (18%) UK employees who said they wouldn’t tell their employer about money worries cited a lack of trust in their organisation as a contributing factor
Without knowing about this demographic, financial wellbeing strategies may also lean towards treating the employee base too homogenously. For example, night workers or part-time workers may be more likely to be ambivalent towards greater support at work because they’ve been underexposed to internal communication campaigns about the support that already exists and about how their employer is currently taking care of them.
Finally, if this cohort feels ignored in the workplace and yet the employer is not aware of their existence, it may lead to misaligned expectations and potential friction in the employment relationship, along with a greater chance of attrition and disengagement in the workplace.
How should employers better serve the ‘on-the-fence’ cohort in the workplace?
This can take a range of angles. Firstly, employers must bring to life that the workplace is a positive and viable route to improve financial wellbeing. This cohort must be able to see this clearly.
Secondly, it needs to be made clear that employees won’t suffer any negative consequences for seeking support with money at work. One in five (18%) UK employees who said they wouldn’t tell their employer about money worries cited a lack of trust in their organisation as a contributing factor and non-judgment needs to be embedded in financial wellbeing strategies.
If employers are to ever help their people deal with the increasing burden of the current living cost crisis, they need to reframe their offerings
Finally, employers must assess the way they communicate support and ensure that no employees are underexposed across a range of dimensions including demographics, number of hours worked, gender and more. This may require extending and/or diversifying the number of communication channels used and embedding money champions in appropriate groups.
If employers are to ever help their people deal with the increasing burden of the current living cost crisis, they need to reframe their offerings, making any financial wellbeing support packages available as a company-wide strategy that includes all employees, particularly those that don’t even know that they may need it.
Interested in this topic? Read Why do employers underestimate employee money worries?
Jamie Lawrence is Insights Director at Wagestream, a financial wellbeing app that makes money less stressful for people in work. Founded by a group of leading financial charities, Wagestream's mission is driven by their social charter: everything they build must improve financial wellbeing. Jamie was previously Managing Editor of HRZone,...