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Financial wellbeing: Why the gap between desire and success?

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Employers want to help alleviate their people’s financial stress yet figures show that many staff are still feeling unsupported. So why the disconnect?

25th May 2022
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Desire among UK organisations to reduce the financial stress of their employees is significant – and has swelled in recent years. At the same time, employees want more support in managing their financial wellbeing. But many of them aren’t feeling supported. What’s causing this paradox?

Nearly all employers (93%) responding to Wagestream’s State of Financial Wellbeing research say they have a financial wellbeing policy in place, up from 51% in a year, and 87% say Covid-19 has increased their organisation’s focus on financial wellbeing.

If your financial wellbeing strategy doesn’t include a way to help boost savings, that’s a big shortcoming

At the same time, 68% of employees say they want more support from their employer when it comes to money. However, while 91% of employers think they provide a supportive environment when it comes to financial wellbeing at work, just 51% of employees agree. There’s a disconnect here – and if we want to improve financial wellbeing at work, we need to understand what’s driving this. Here are three potential reasons.

1. There’s a lag between impetus and results

In March 2021, just over half (51%) of UK employers had financial wellbeing policies in place. A year later, this had risen by 42%, suggesting a massive spike in the number of employers focused on financial wellbeing. We know that results don’t immediately follow action, so it may be that any initiatives stemming from this mass adoption of financial wellbeing policies have not yet had an impact.

2. Employers are focusing on the wrong things

Half of the employees (50%) in the study say they want help with savings the most in 2022, but only 18% of employers plan to introduce savings support over the next 18 months. This may suggest that while employers are committed to improving financial wellbeing, they’re not sure how to best go about it. Saving is a core pillar of wellbeing – made more important because of the savings-depleting nature of the global pandemic – and if your financial wellbeing strategy doesn’t include a way to help boost savings, that’s a big shortcoming.

3. Engagement campaigns are not working

It might be that employers are focused on the right things, but employees just aren’t aware that they’re being offered. For example, close to a quarter (21%) of employers say they provide financial education, but just 7% of employees say they are provided with financial education. Perhaps the communication channels being used do not have wide adoption? Or perhaps the employer has not understood how best to target their staff and therefore needs to engage employees in a different way or at a higher level to ensure they know what support is on offer. 

Communicating financial wellbeing support often defaults to email because it’s easy to do and scalable

Time for action: How to plug the desire-success gap

There are some actions employers can take to solve the financial wellbeing desire-success gap. Understanding what your employees want is critical.

Action #1: Focus on what your employees want and need

As discussed, 50% of UK employees responding to Wagestream’s report say they want more help with saving in 2022, but only 18% of employers plan to provide more support over the next 18 months. Employers need to focus on the things that build long-term financial wellbeing and tackle short-term acute needs to get the most bang for their buck – and saving fits firmly into both categories.

Action #2: Engage the ‘on-the-fence’ cohort

The reasons why 28% of UK employees saying that they do not know if they want more support from their employer when it comes to money can be numerous. Perhaps employers need to provide clarity on what support is available, or maybe employees feel unable to reach out because of their poor financial education. To improve financial wellbeing, organisations must understand and engage this cohort beyond product communications, so that they become aware of the benefits of financial wellbeing at work.

Action #3: Make sure you communicate with your hard-to-reach employee base

Communicating financial wellbeing support often defaults to email because it’s easy to do and scalable, but there are cohorts that either don’t use email or aren’t confident doing so. Equally, what about your night shift workers who may not have regular access to in-person communications and events? You need to understand the best ways to reach each cohort of workers and ensure your communications are tailored to each one, both in terms of the medium and the message.

Money champions, trained to support and signpost, can help employees better access the resources on offer

Action #4: Make use of money champions to spread the word and get feedback

Over two-thirds (68%) of UK employees with money issues would not tell their employer about them. This makes it much harder for employers to provide effective support because they don’t know what staff want or when support is most needed. Employees cite feelings of shame and embarrassment as the biggest reasons why they don’t talk to their employer, but fear of discrimination and lack of trust also factor in. Money champions, trained to support and signpost, can help break down the stigma over time and help employees better access the resources offered by their employer. 

These ways can help you to better engage your workforce with any financial wellbeing support you have. Clarity, communication and understanding are needed if employers are able to help their staff build financial resilience in the wake of the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.

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