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Communicating benefits to help staff with the cost of living

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Making sure your employees are fully aware of the benefits you offer can help lead them through the cost of living squeeze.

15th Jun 2022
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We don’t need to tell you how much recent world events have had an impact on the financial wellbeing of working people. We’re in a cost of living squeeze that is impacting us all and highlighting the need for good financial wellbeing.

As financial stressors can also have a negative impact on mental health, ensuring your employees are fully aware of all the support and benefits you offer can help them through the cost of living squeeze. In turn, you’ll give them one less thing to worry about and provide a positive boost to their mental wellbeing.

Your business has to acknowledge that you understand times are hard right now and sympathise with the fact people are struggling. 

All benefits are financial wellbeing benefits

We believe that financial wellbeing is how much control, empowerment and freedom someone’s financial situation gives them in life. It isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution – financial wellbeing needs to be tailored to the individual’s relationship with money at that specific moment.

That’s why it’s important to realise that any benefit you offer which saves employees money is a financial wellbeing benefit. For example, employee discounts are an obvious way to put more money in the pocket of your workforce. Beyond that, you’ve got childcare schemes, cycle to work offers, pension plans – the list goes on and on.

You may already have benefits in place that your employees will save money by using. In the short-term, providing the biggest impact right now, there are employee discounts, salary-linked loans and financial education, to name a few.

For employees eyeing the long-term, pensions and salary-deducted savings can help them feel more confident about their future.

Employee comms have never been more important

Communicating with your employees about their benefits has never been more important. Recent cost of living research from Salary Finance shows that there's a gap between the appetite employees have to use financial wellbeing benefits – such as employee discounts, salary advances and low-interest loans – and what they say their employer provides.

This finding may also suggest that those employees simply might not be aware of the financial wellbeing benefits that their employer currently provides.

An important take away for benefit/wellbeing/internal communications professionals here is that there’s a huge opportunity to communicate with your people about the support and benefits on offer in a way that is natural and interesting to them.

Acknowledge the cost of living squeeze

Before you dive into communicating with your workforce, your business has to acknowledge that you understand times are hard right now and sympathise with the fact people are struggling. 

Outline what you’re able to do to help and what support they can get right now. That level of transparency is so powerful as it stops employees from thinking you’re just pulling the wool over their eyes.

From that acknowledgement, you can build your communications on the back of a more open and transparent stance – and people should be more responsive to that. Explain that you don’t want employees to bury their heads in the sand and pretend nothing is happening. Show that you’re there for them with benefits available for them to use today.

I should point out, people are always going to ask for more money. Let’s park that to the side right now. Focus on how you can better communicate your overall employee benefits package, helping to take away some of the financial strain.

Get to grips with the benefits yourself and educate

In my experience, low uptake in benefits comes from the challenges employees face when using them. Whether that’s not understanding how to use their employee discounts or not having the digital confidence to use them, you can solve these challenges with your comms.

Start using the benefits yourself, and familiarise yourself with the products and how they work. As a communicator for your business, don’t forget that you’re entitled to these benefits as well. Why wouldn’t you want to use them?

Even if you don’t need a particular benefit, still go on that customer journey to understand what it’s like to access it. You don’t have to complete the process, go as far as possible so you can create content which guides from first-hand experience.

Having that authenticity will make it so much easier for your people to access their benefits and save money.

Ninety-five percent of those who worry about their financial situation say it has a negative impact on their mental health – that’s 25.3 million UK employees.

Getting the message across to diverse workforces

When communicating with employees, we need to understand the demographics of our workforces and tailor the way we get our message across to them. For example, there may well be language barriers in your business with not everyone having English as their first language.

Identify the key voices in those groups and find the best ways to engage with them. It’s all about finding how your benefits will resonate with people most and save them the most money. 

As a good base, our recent cost of living research showed that employees prefer the following top five communication channels:

  1. Emails
  2. Managers telling staff information directly
  3. Messages on payslips
  4. In-person employee benefits events
  5. Letter sent home

But don’t let those channels be the only ones you use. Get creative. I’ve worked with a business that had a fleet of engineers who are always on the road. We created a radio playlist for them which included adverts about the benefits on offer. This cuts through much more deeply than sending a series of emails ever could.

Understand the cost of living impact

Our research confirms the link between an individual's financial situation and their mental health. Ninety-five percent of those who worry about their financial situation say it has a negative impact on their mental health – that’s 25.3 million UK employees.

This is putting huge pressure on their ability to be productive at work with 40% of UK employees saying their current financial situation affects their ability to be productive at work – costing businesses £31 billion a year.

At a time when business margins are fine, finding productivity gains by improving an employee’s financial wellbeing is a cause for employers to take note of.

You can get your copy of Salary Finance’s research report here.

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