The importance of trust in financial wellbeing

A report suggests only 3 per cent of employees would ask their manager for financial help, so how can HR promote more openness around the subject?, asks Monica Kalia 

Trust is in short supply these days. As consumers, employees and people managers, it sometimes feels harder to know who we can count on. So it’s easy to see why a stressed employee trying to meet short-term performance goals, whatever their role, isn’t going to put the kettle on, pull up a chair and have a chat about their home-life issues with their manager.

Indeed, at a core level, it’s hard for humans to show vulnerability or ask for support. It’s not helped as managers and leaders are addressing their own pressures and few earn that level of personal trust.

In fact, according to Neyber’s DNA of Financial Wellbeing 2018 report, only 3 per cent of 10,000 employees surveyed said they would turn to the HR team or their line manager if they had financial worries. Most would prefer to try and handle it on their own.

Interestingly, many employers don’t see it that way; they have a vested interest in helping employees. Indeed, 72 per cent of CEOs see that financial pressures impact employee behaviour, performance and relationships at work. As many as 63 per cent of employees are suffering from some type of money-related stress, up 5 per cent on the previous year.

The impact on individuals and employers is stark – 35 per cent of employees have felt stressed, 33 per cent felt anxious, 26 per cent lost sleep and 20 per cent felt depressed. What’s more, 45 per cent of employees and 65 per cent of employers feel that the issues impact job performance. And 60 per cent of employees said that money worries change their behaviour. This rises to 72 per cent among those under the age of 34.

I could go on. But a positive upshot from the widespread discussions about financial issues is more openness and honesty, and with that, more understanding of the impact on employees of all ages. The knock-on effect is that increasing numbers of employers are genuinely keen to help staff improve their financial wellbeing, not least because doing so benefits both employees and the business itself.

Creating an environment of trust is an essential part of delivering a successful financial wellbeing strategy. Employers are well placed to help staff deal with debt, plan for day-to-day living, get the best possible support with housing costs and save for retirement. But first, they need to convince employees that they are willing to help.  

Everyone in an organisation has a part to play in making that culture change happen. HR departments might be in charge of deciding what’s included in a financial wellbeing strategy, but line managers really know their staff. They are best placed to spot warning signs, such as a drop-off in performance, or other signs of stress. Training managers to have open conversations with their staff, and making sure they are aware of what’s on offer to help employees is every bit as important as financial education or savings products.  

To convince employees that they want to help, employers need to genuinely understand the issues that staff are facing, build an environment where help and guidance is readily available – without judgment or detriment to individuals’ future work prospects – and make those values part of an organisation’s everyday working culture. Only then will employees see the workplace as somewhere they can be open about money problems and get the support they really need to improve their financial health. 

Monica Kalia is the co-founder of Neyber and a trustee of debt charity StepChange