Employee wellbeing programmes provide a valuable framework for employee recruitment, development and retention. But traditionally the emphasis has been on physical wellness and practical support, delivered against traditional success measures such as job candidate volume and quality, employee engagement and absenteeism figures.
According to Working well: a global survey of health promotion and workplace wellness strategies published this month, some 65% of employers believe that wellbeing programmes are ‘extremely’, or ‘very important’ to attract and retain employees. The study surveyed more than 1,000 employers in 37 countries.
Effective approaches to engagement
In terms of programme components, the focus remains on flexible working and paid time off, with Employee Assistance Programmes – which can offer everything from legal advice and concierge services to child care and counselling – coming next on the list. But organisations admit that they still struggle to find effective approaches to motivate workers.
Wellbeing is a much broader proposition than simply health, or ensuring that both the kids and the dry cleaning get picked up on time. Some of the most critical challenges are around ambient workplace stress, which is harder to define, measure and treat. Yet, because it is harder to define, measure and treat, it is, paradoxically, easier to ignore.
In another survey of 2,100 UK employees and 100 employers published earlier this year, 90% of employees felt their bosses were not interested in their financial wellbeing. Financial wellbeing: the last taboo in the workplace? highlights the impact of poor financial wellbeing on employee engagement and productivity and the potential knock-on effect on company performance. The survey stressed the importance of how people managed their money rather than simply their salary levels.
Money Fight Club’s approach to employee financial wellbeing is a combination of money management skills, financial information and, just as importantly, money attitude. “The ‘last taboo’ is less about how much you earn and more to do with how well you cope with the increasing range of wellbeing-critical financial decisions we are required to make as individuals,” explains Money Fight Club co-founder Anne Caborn.
“In fact, the well paid senior member of staff who is secretly juggling multiple credit card debts, a large mortgage and big bills may feel less able to articulate the strain they are under than a less well paid and more junior member of staff failing to make ends meet.”
Making financial wellbeing engaging
Even employers looking to deliver against financial wellbeing as part of a broader programme need to do this with care. “First there is a regulatory distinction between giving information and advice,” explain’s Money Fight Club’s other co-founder, Lindsay Cook. “Financial advice must be given by an acredited financial adviser and there are significant requirements in terms of understanding and defining an individual’s personal financial circumstances and attitude to risk.
“The other alternative is to simply deliver financial information, online, in booklets, or in open sessions. These may well contain really valuable information but can often be very broad in remit and rather dry.”
Money Fight Club’s solution is deliver interactive workshops and sessions from a menu of topics, based around the demographic of the audience. “A business made up of younger people is going to be more interested in credit card issues and student debt, for example,” said Lindsay. “We take a detailed look at the demographic, pick the most relevant topics and then get employees to vote for the topics they prefer – this makes up the session shortlist.
The sessions themselves may be delivered in breakfast or lunch sessions over a number of weeks, or in half or full day workshops,” she explained. “The aim is to make them relevant and very interactive, with pop quizzes and prizes as well as practical information. We can blend what we do with elements of the existing wellbeing programme, which might offer rewards for attendance.”
Money Fight Club takes a psychological as well as a practical approach financial wellbeing. “Most people don’t get into debt because they can’t add up. Sometimes they are driven to spend by other issues, not least the marketing techniques used by modern retailers,” explained Anne. “They may have been mis-sold or poorly advised and be too embarrassed to come clean about it. We reveal some of the tactics and techniques that we’re all exposed to and get people to work through these in an upbeat and interactive way.
“For example, if you begin to understand how a sales person sells you begin to understand how to resist those techniques. We once got a room of people taking it in turns to sell each other biros using a standard four-point selling model. The session was fun but you could see people becoming more aware of and more immune to those selling techniques as they used them. Suddenly the pieces started to fall into place.
“And armed with more confidence and an awareness that everybody faces financial stress, employees are more able to think about making changes or perhaps seeking one-to-one advice.”
In the workplace, this more robust and proactive financial attitude can bring signficant benefits. Worrying about money impacts productivity at one end of the scale and employee recruitment and retention at the other. Financial wellbeing: the last taboo put the productivity loss due to worrying about money at 4%, while 38% of employees said they would move to a company that made financial wellbeing a priority.
Working well: a global survey of health promotion and workplace wellness strategies – Buck Consultants
Financial wellbeing: the last taboo in the workplace?