An increasing number of employers are taking action to improve employees’ financial wellbeing. Maggie Williams, content director at the Reward and Employee Benefits Association (REBA), describes some of the good practice they observed in their financial wellbeing award category.
In February 2019 REBA hosted our second annual Employee Wellbeing Awards, which benchmark and celebrate businesses that are pioneers of employee wellbeing.
REBA is the professional association for employers offering rewards and benefits to their staff as part of a wider HR strategy, to engage talent and drive success.
The Employee Wellbeing Awards launched in 2018, to recognise the exceptional practice across all aspects of wellbeing taking place in UK and global companies. Our 16 award categories in 2019 covered many different aspects of wellbeing, from leadership and culture, through to physical, mental and financial wellbeing, innovation and global strategy. You can find a full list of our 2019 winners.
What the judges look for
The standard of entries across the awards was incredibly high, but our financial wellbeing category presented judges with one of their biggest challenges when it came to selecting a winner.
The depth of interest we saw in this category shows that outstanding employers have woken up to the effect that employees’ financial concerns can have on their broader wellbeing and ability to perform at work. The link between money and mental health can result in everything from financially stressed employees losing sleep at night, to more serious long-term mental health issues.
Employers also benefit from well-designed financial wellbeing programmes, with workers who are worried about money unlikely to perform at their best.
Common challenges for employers
But establishing how best to support employees can be challenging for employers.
- Should they get involved in individuals’ personal finances at all?
- What should they offer and to which parts of the workforce?
- How can reward professionals convince the board that financial wellbeing will help them achieve broader business goals?
- How do you measure success today when some aspects of financial wellbeing such as retirement saving last a lifetime?
- And, how do you then link financial wellbeing to other areas of workplace wellbeing?
Exploring the ways in which businesses have addressed these questions was at the heart of our Financial Wellbeing Award judging process at REBA.
We wanted to see an inclusive financial wellbeing strategy based on the specific needs of the workforce, supported by a compelling communication approach. Crucially, we were looking for employers that went beyond the ‘lip service’ of standalone financial benefits and instead were taking a joined-up approach, making financial wellbeing part of a wider workplace wellbeing programme.
The quality of the entries we received was exceptionally high – so much so that we awarded a ‘highly commended’ accolade as well as the award itself.
Understanding employee needs
Our highly commended winner, Shell, also won this category at REBA’s inaugural Employee Wellbeing Awards in 2018. Its 2019 entry showed that it has a clear understanding of its employees’ needs and has built a strategy that joins up life at work and home for its 5,000 UK staff.
The category winner was Yorkshire Building Society (YBS). Its financial wellbeing strategy impressed our judges with its well-researched approach to meeting the needs of its workforce.
YBS found that 37% of staff had less than £500 in savings and one in ten struggled with sleep due to financial worries. It responded by launching the first wave of its financial wellbeing progamme in April 2018, fully backed by senior leaders and the YBS board.
The programme focused on education, ease of access to appropriate resources and products and help for colleagues who are in difficulty.
It also launched three engagement campaigns:
- Taking control, which explored financial education and helping employees take control of their finances.
- Getting into a savings habit enabled staff to see how small changes in their day-to-day spending could add up to a significant pot of savings over time. Finally,
- Coping with the unexpected helped employees to focus on being able to resolve a financial crisis.
Overall, YBS showed that the whole organisation, from the board to individual employees, were committed to financial wellbeing. Its strategy was inclusive, focused on its own workforce and had clear goals for the future. That combination meant that it stood out as the winner, even in this incredibly tight category.
Growth in financial wellbeing
Next year, we expect this category of our awards to be even more hotly contested. As more employers begin financial wellbeing journeys and others evolve their strategies using learnings from their earlier experiences, this area of wellbeing will show rapid growth.
And while there is still resistance from some employers who see employees’ personal finances as none of their business, there is now far greater understanding that a productive workplace culture is intrinsically linked to all aspects of wellbeing. Financial wellbeing has a major part to play in achieving that.
Learn more about financial wellbeing resources and research for employers to improve financial capability in work contexts.