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Author: Jonathan Kerr

Financial wellbeing – more important in the ‘new normal’ than ever before

We explore considerations and steps employers can take to support their employees financial and overall wellbeing as organisations slowly ease back into the ‘new normal’.

Whilst most organisations have been primarily concentrating on the impact of the COVID-19 situation on their business operations and supporting their employees’ wellbeing and their transition to the ‘new normal’, many are now turning their attention to the new future state.

Our Global Benefits Attitude Survey 2019/2020 showed that employees who have financial problems are more likely to suffer with stress and anxiety, be less productive at work and have strained family relations. Employees appreciate the help employers provide in relation to their financial wellbeing and our survey showed that 68% of employees want their employers to provide them with financial tools. These tools can be for example access to an advisor, suitable savings and investment products or employer sponsored tools that help manage/track savings.

We see financial wellbeing support as helping employees (and pension scheme members) understand their finances, be in control of these, and build up a resilient financial position. This article sets out the considerations and actions that companies can take in this important area.

Steps being taken

In the short-term, employers have been looking for ways to help their employees feel in control of their finances to overcome any immediate personal money worries. This has often included communicating the existing benefits available and any wider support they have access to from the employer.

The results of our 2020 COVID-19 UK Benefits Survey indicate that the next step for Irish employers, as attention turns to coming out of the ‘lockdown’, will be looking at the long-term financial wellbeing strategy and the design and financing of the benefits package.

Our survey highlighted that 60% of employers in the UK are planning to enhance the wellbeing programmes offered to employees. This picture is consistent across all employers, irrespective of whether they expect the pandemic to have had a low, medium or high impact on business performance. Of the elements that contribute to overall wellness, financial wellbeing is a particular focus, with companies stating that supporting employees in this area is a ‘top three’ priority.

How to get started

Whilst companies are looking to implement a financial wellbeing strategy, many are left wondering how to go about it.

Willis Towers Watson has developed a clear and practical framework to support clients and help them articulate and design a good, tailored financial wellbeing programme. Here are the key steps:

1. Setting the vision

Every company should have a vision, and objectives for its financial wellbeing strategy. These might be related to productivity, attraction and retention and paternalism, and will be influenced by what their competitors offer. Setting out what success looks like is an important first step to an organisation’s financial wellbeing strategy together with how it integrates with other aspects of wellbeing.

2. Listening to employees

Time should be taken to understand what support employees might need with their financial wellbeing. This could include direct employee feedback in the form of surveys and virtual focus groups to help validate an employer’s initial ideas. Data analytics also plays a part – reviewing current benefit selections and analysing employees’ financial wealth can build a picture of the workforce to better equip an employer to review the wellbeing programme.

3. Benefit design

Reviewing the current benefit programme and existing communication approach against the requirements of the workforce is an essential step to determine whether the organisation is offering the right support to its employees, now and in the future. Should they consider introducing new benefits or redesign existing ones? Some options include: workplace loan facilities and debt management assistance; retail vouchers; introduction of short-term savings arrangements; providing flexible access to monthly earnings by allowing salary advances; making sure life cover and income protection benefits are at an appropriate level and introducing more pension flexibility.

4. Engage and trigger action

Employee engagement and motivation form a key part of the success of an overall financial wellbeing strategy. Deciding how to more effectively deliver and communicate their existing, and any new benefit options is a critical step. Given the move to a ‘new norm’ in working patterns, there is a desire for a multi-channel strategy with a focus on digital approaches such as on-line ‘hubs’ to manage communication and support effective decision-making.

5. Analytics, insight and reporting

Once an employer has implemented its financial wellbeing strategy, success will be determined by measuring the impact it is having. Employers might look to regularly review and measure benefit selections, the impact of productivity and level of absence. Monitoring how employees have engaged with communications enables the wellbeing strategy to be adapted and improved.

What should employers be asking of themselves?

Why not challenge the status-quo by asking:

  • How are you staying connected with employees? Are you seeing any demand from employees for support with financial issues?
  • What role should employers play in employees’ financial wellbeing?
  • Have you started considering how the business may change as we emerge from the COVID-19 crisis, and how you can differentiate when considering how the ‘new norm’ will impact your employees?
  • Are you looking to offer more support to your employees in the area of financial wellbeing and how does this integrate with your broader wellbeing strategy?

If you would like to speak to us about your financial wellbeing strategy and the support we can provide, please contact Jonathan Kerr or your Willis Towers Watson consultant.

Willis Towers Watson and LifeSight

Willis Towers Watson has developed a number of tools to help educate employees on their financial wellbeing, whether it be through virtual financial wellness training, retirement adequacy tools and ecard prompted engagement.

Our LifeSight product encompasses all our best thinking in respect of financial wellness, active/responsive member engagement and market leading communication material.

Additional resources

Feeling stuck, with so much to focus on? Find support

As we have discussed, the outcome of our Global Benefits Attitudes Survey shows how financial wellness education and tools are key to employee retention, employee health, job satisfaction, etc.

With the impact of COVID-19 on business, employers are more stretched than ever. Time to prioritize financial wellness is passing. Why not see how we can help you quickly get a handle on what you have to tackle now and what might be coming your way in employee financial wellness. The right approach is going to be different for every company. Why not contact me to help, where I can assist with tools to review your employee’s financial wellbeing and help you find gaps in your suite.

Jonathan Kerr BA AIIPM, Associate Director

Direct  + 353 (0) 1 614 6802

Mobile + 353 (0) 87 220 0993

Email : jonathan.kerr@willistowerswatson.com