Only 14% of UK employees feel comfortable talking about money.
Our toolkit Removing the taboo around money: How to enable culture change has been created to give employers effective tips that will facilitate creating an open culture around money.
Alison Balson is Director of Workforce at Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust. The Trust provides hospital and community health care services to 350,000 people and employs just over 6,000 people. Alison’s full case study on how she built a social movement around talking around money, can be found in the toolkit. Here are some of the key insights from the case study.
Employees were drowning in high-cost debt
Every year, The Trust completes Vitality Britain’s Healthiest Workplace survey, and a few years ago the results showed that a large proportion of employees were struggling financially, with many saying they had “unmanageable levels of debt.” The background to all of this was that there had been years of public sector pay restraint and lots of reports in the media of NHS staff resorting to using food banks because they were struggling to make it to payday. Alison recognised that something needed to change.
Finding the right financial wellbeing partner
Alison’s first step was to find a financial wellbeing partner and to “implement something that could truly change lives.” Creating the right culture is vital in order to help eradicate shame, but it needs to be underpinned by the right benefits that will enable financial freedom. Salary Finance was brought on board as a financial wellbeing partner. There was a recognition internally that employees who feel engaged and supported would ultimately result in improved patient experiences.
Integrating financial wellbeing
The second step for Alison was to ensure that financial wellbeing didn’t sit as a separate programme. It, therefore, made sense to bring it their Steps 4 Wellness programme and sits alongside their other range of wellbeing benefits and offers.
Expect the unexpected
The Trust began by introducing Salary Finance’s loan product alongside financial education. The loans enabled employees to consolidate debt at a much lower rate or a much more competitive rate than from a traditional lender.
By ensuring they had the right communications activity, the initial product launch saw a high level of engagement with 40% of their workforce engaging with the educational platform and 8% seeking support to manage their high-cost debt. 96% of the workforce have currently engaged with the educational platform.
Alison and the team had presumed the type of employee that would need help would be lower paid or young. But when they looked at the data, it showed that the average employee was middle-aged and had a higher than average salary. This matched findings from The Employer’s Guide to Financial Wellbeing 2019-20, that found that employees earning less than £10,000 a year have the same level of money worries as those earning £100,000 or more - financial worries are not just a function of income.
Let’s start talking about money
One of Alison’s main goals was to break down stigmas that often surround “people that struggle with money”. The key area that allowed her to drive this forward was employees that came forward and shared their financial wellbeing journeys and the way that the financial wellbeing programme improved their lives. Alison explains that “it only takes one or two very brave individuals to openly share their experiences in order to start a bit of a social movement within an organisation.” Once a few employees had shared their stories, it made others more confident in coming forward to share their own.
Employees have opened up about the impact that their poor financial health had on both their personal and professional lives - feeling distressed and distracted, exhausted because they couldn’t sleep, and the impact that personal relationships breaking down had on their lives. She shared these stories at internal meetings and presentations with senior leaders, as well as in the communication activity to drive forward the financial wellbeing programme.
Employees need help now
Alison believes it’s vital that employers don’t assume “that their people are not experiencing financial worries. Every organisation should be supporting their staff with the provision of financial wellbeing services. They shouldn’t wait, as staff are struggling now and need help.”
More recently, The Trust launched Pay Advance, which enables staff to draw-down on a proportion of their earned pay before payday, as Alison says it “helps in an emergency situation when previously their only option would have been high-cost debt.” They have also launched savings through pay which allows employees to save simply through salary deduction every month. Alison feels they are now providing a “full range of benefits for our staff managed through payroll.”
Materials to educate staff on budgeting and managing their money
Low-interest loans to assist with debt consolidation
Getting into the habit of saving
Interested in creating an open culture around money?