The recent focus on gender pay, and the work organisations need to do to close their pay gaps, has added plenty of work to HR professionals’ plates. But broader media coverage has also shed light on an equally important aspect of women’s pay: the impact that lower wages have on the ability to save for a decent retirement.
Now is the time to think about how your organisation communicates with its employees about saving. Many HR and benefits teams have set up – or are in the process of setting up – financial wellness programmes to help staff manage their money. This is an ideal time, then, to make sure the way those programmes communicate is empowering and motivating for the entire workforce.
What the research tells us
In 2017, a study by BlackRock reported that two-thirds of women would not consider moving their money from a cash investment. Safety and security are often our most important considerations, as opposed to maximising growth.
In a world that’s dominated by investment language that talks about risk and ‘maximising your investment’ as you build your savings, perhaps communications aren’t making sure that everyone’s approach to savings is included.
Bearing that in mind, employers need to start thinking more about these gender-specific differences in communicating savings information, particularly around investment approach and attitude to risk. Here are some tips on how to use communication more effectively to help close the gender savings gap.
Help employees manage their debt
Debt affects 8.8 million people in the UK. According to the Money Advice Service, 64 per cent of them are women. So while your financial wellness programme could also be a great tool for helping employees manage debt, it should also ensure that the language and tone used to communicate appeals to everyone, taking into account the differences in approach between the genders that has been highlighted by research. It should be a resource for tips on how to manage budgets, how to make your money work for you, and prioritising spending and saving – as well as the more traditional subjects of managing credit card payments and maximising savings.
Understand attitudes to risk
Most finance-related communications dwell on product features and risk profiles to meet regulatory requirements. A more inclusive approach should be taken in this area – focusing on what the attitudes to risk look like as real-life examples, and incorporating the values that women say they’re looking for when it comes to financial communications. According to consultant Kantar, these are “expertise… independence and smart choices”.
Provide ‘back to basics’ workshops
Consider running workshops on the basics of savings and investments, including how to make your money go further, and how investment choices can affect your pension pot. Linking it all together can often be the ‘lightbulb’ moment needed for people to start making decisions. The underlying messages may be targeted at the issues we know women have identified as areas they don’t feel confident in, but these workshops should be open to and appeal to everyone.
Offer guidance on choosing a financial adviser
Women have reported that they feel ‘uncomfortable’ with financial advisers – viewing them as ‘distant and lacking in empathy’. Suggested best practice is simply to advise employees to speak to a registered independent financial adviser at unbiased.co.uk. Why not go that bit further by providing more helpful guidance on what IFAs do, what they charge, what to expect from a meeting with them and how to prepare for it?
Banish jargon; mix up the approach
Finally, and importantly, use simpler, jargon-free language and multimedia, with imagery, in your communications – make them accessible and more engaging for all your employees.
Changing the way you communicate with women is definitely not about turning every communication into a ‘women only’ conversation. Every topic here is one that applies equally to men and women in terms of its importance. But HR professionals can play an important part in supporting pay equality and providing education and support to women by ensuring they also include the information women say they’re looking for to make better spending and saving decisions.
Nikki Thompson is a communication consultant at like minds