29 November 2019
Over the course of my career, I’ve been witness to a rather rapid evolution of workplaces and work cultures. This change has been particularly prominent in its recent stages – with an influx of new-age professionals joining the workforce. As a result – we now experience noticeably different work practices, styles, and cultures.
Of course, this isn’t solely due to our changing workforce. New age businesses, enabled by technology that came up only about a decade ago and matured even more recently, have led to new conventions that can seem challenging to the more established HR folks. For example, flexible timings, working from home, a range of office perks and benefits – all of these are now taken to be the norm if an organisation is looking to attract the top talent.
In this context however, working on long term strategic goals – like promoting financial wellness – can be challenging. How can the HR function effectively implement its agenda and plans, and even measure their outcome when they’re dealing with a predominantly workforce with seemingly varied priorities, that often works remotely, or simply has different expectations? In my opinion, the key lies in the following:
When faced with a workforce exhibiting varied characteristics, it’s prudent to identify commonalities and channel focus there. The findings (and probably action items) are likely to be those that can be applied as a whole, with reasonable certainty of results. I believe this is optimally achieved by relying on surveys, word of mouth, and a keen eye for detail.
For example, many new age orgs are likely to find that in terms of benefits, a millennial workforce, more than any other before it, prefers flexible working hours, cash bonuses, and healthcare. Identifying such focus areas is the first step to executing on the organisation’s financial wellness goals.
#2 Building A Compatible Agenda
Conventional plans are unlikely to be effective in an unconventional workplace. If, for example, you intend to host financial literacy seminars, is there adequate data to verify its potential effectiveness? Is the organisation confident that this is what the workforce is looking for? In PWC’s 2018 employee wellness survey, only half (49%) of those surveyed agreed that their compensation was keeping up with the rising living costs. But when offered employer benefits, such as “financial wellness with access to unbiased counselors,” only 25% of respondents preferred the option.
Data like this can be indicative of a mismatch, if any, between the workforce’s expectations and the organisation’s plans. It’s critical to keep an eye out for these and work on an agenda that is democratic and inclusive.
Financial wellness programs require consistency to be effective. Tuning the frequency of your action items and agenda in line with your workforce’s needs are key. Perhaps once a month is too little, and once a fortnight too much. Rely on data to arrive at an accurate perspective on your plans, and constantly iterate to improve on this accuracy.
#4 Focus On Engagement
Like all other tasks, financial wellness too, must be approached customer-backwards. The customer in this case, being your workforce. With engagement being a fairly reliable metric of effectiveness and success, it is important to observe if your workforce is truly making use of your program. This isn’t reflected in just attendance numbers, login sessions, or other such simple metrics alone. Repeat surveys for individual feedback, the organisation’s performance on demands from the workforce – it is actions like these that add up to make a comprehensive result-driven conclusion on the programs.
#5 Identify Leaders
Expanding on the significance of building engagement, a predominantly millennial workforce may find itself engaging better if the programs can be led by their peers, or someone similar. As multiple surveys have indicated, this workforce desires empowerment, and enabling that via agendas like these can serve the dual purpose of improving job satisfaction both with and without the context of financial wellness.
#6 Think Big
In 2019, financial wellness isn’t solely about imparting financial literacy, providing cost effective healthcare, or dealing with financial stress. It’s vulnerable to impact from multiple other factors – emotional, physical, family, and more. By working on a holistic agenda that addresses these other needs of your workforce, you’re in a better position to succeed on all fronts. Health programs, promotion of a work life balance, and a focus on mental health are key ingredients to getting to the organisation’s larger goals. Think big.
It’s heartening to see a growing number of organisations shifting focus to, and prioritizing, financial wellness. I’m sure many would agree, there has never previously been a greater need for it, in the context of the diverse workforce we are a part of, and the exciting nature of businesses we have across all sectors.