HR unaware of staff money worries in some cases, poll finds

8 Sep 2020 By Jonathan Owen

Research also reveals nine in 10 people professionals don’t feel supported by board-level managers in offering financial wellbeing initiatives

Some HR practitioners appear unaware of the true extent of employees’ financial wellbeing problems despite rising levels of money worries among workers, according to research.

The survey of 250 HR and reward professionals and 2,000 workers, conducted by Nudge Global and Censuswide, found that 14 per cent of HR managers rated the financial wellbeing of their workforce as ‘extremely good’, compared to just 5 per cent of employees.

And one in 10 HR professionals admitted their workforce had ‘poor’ financial wellbeing, compared to one in seven employees.

In the poll four in 10 (39 per cent) HR managers said increased financial stress among employees had negatively affected their business this year – a steep rise from the 14 per cent who said this was the case before 2020.

And while nearly three-quarters (70 per cent) of HR professionals surveyed believed it was their responsibility to help employees with their financial wellbeing, almost nine in 10 (88 per cent) said their top management could support financial wellbeing better, and more than four in 10 (44 per cent) believed they should be given more autonomy to help improve staff financial wellbeing.

Despite the rise in money worries, two-thirds (66 per cent) of employees did not feel their company provided enough support for their financial wellbeing, and just 7 per cent said they could talk openly to their employer about money problems.

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Responding to the findings, Charles Cotton, senior policy adviser at the CIPD, said: “This data suggests that some people professionals regard the board as a stumbling block to investing in workplace financial wellbeing. It is important for HR to make the case for spending money in this area because of the benefits there are for organisations, employees and society.

“The findings indicate that despite all the resources being expended on reward, some employers could still be failing to reap all the benefits because they do not have an employee financial wellbeing strategy in place.”

Debi O'Donovan, director of the Reward and Employee Benefits Association, told People Management: “HR is correct to push for more autonomy and work out what is best for their employee base because it will differ from organisation to organisation.”

Financial wellbeing is “a taboo subject so can take a while to build trust”, she said.

“The most powerful way to help staff is to have employee champions sharing their own financial stories and how they solved problems or achieved successes.”

The disparity between HR teams and other staff in terms of their perception of the magnitude of the problem “emphasises how important it is that HR properly engage with staff, be it through surveys or focus groups, and not simply assume”, she said.

O’Donovan added: “There is also an increasing use of data to flag up problems. For example, high absence on the last day before payday may point to people unable to afford to travel to work on those days.”

Jeremy Beament, co-founder of Nudge Global, said: “There are powerful actions that employers can take right now to help employees feel more in control of their finances, from opening up the conversation about money within the workplace to helping them develop the right skills and knowledge. Not only will this improve their general wellbeing, it will enable them to dedicate more time and attention to their job – boosting overall company performance.

“But these initiatives must be driven from the top. Leadership teams have a responsibility to empower every level of their business and ensure their teams feel supported as we navigate this uncertain period.”

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