If you are an employer, it will come as no surprise that financial concerns impact your employees’ mental and physical health, and can even affect work performance. Research estimates that money worries cost the UK economy £120bn and 17.5 million lost hours of work. The good news is, employers can play a vital role in supporting their employees with financial matters. And there’s an appetite for it! Research from the FCA shows that over half of employees (57%) want financial advice in the workplace, and a third (33%) would pay for an in-house financial advisor provided by their employer.
Financial guidance in the workplace
Providing access to free and impartial financial guidance on everything from debt to mortgages and pensions to insurance is one way employers can support employees’ financial well-being. Despite the availability of financial guidance online, such as the government-backed MoneyHelper service delivered by the Money and Pensions Service (MaPS), people often don’t know where to look and who to trust when it comes to money advice.
With this in mind, MaPS developed the Financial First Aider (FFA) programme to make this guidance more accessible to people in the workplace. This is a peer-to-peer financial guidance service, where company employees are trained to discuss and support their colleagues with their financial matters and signpost them to relevant and trusted sources of impartial financial guidance.
Evaluating the peer-to-peer financial guidance service
BIT explored the implementation of the FFA programme in a pilot study with MaPS and the Yorkshire Building Society (YBS). Here, twenty YBS employees were specially trained to offer impartial financial guidance to their colleagues. Staff felt that the availability of the service conveyed the message that YBS genuinely cared about their staff’s financial wellbeing and Financial First Aiders noted the positive impact on employees.
I think they’re a really, really great employer. I think over the past year, they’ve really demonstrated that […] through just the way they’ve communicated with us and sharing sources of information to do with mental well-being as well as financial well-being.”
I’ve seen the impact it can have on someone’s life and mental health and well-being. Just speaking to someone and getting someone to listen and get that signposting, I know how powerful that can be.”
Financial First Aider
Below we evaluate the implementation of the FFA programme at YBS and provide suggestions of how similar schemes can be delivered in other workplaces.
Designing and implementing a Financial First Aider Programme
While the FFA service was delivered by volunteers it became clear that its success also depended on employers providing sufficient support in facilitating the programme. Other criteria that can ensure the success of the FFA programme include;
- Nominating a project lead in charge of the set-up and launch of the service. The project lead would be responsible for engaging internal stakeholders, organising the promotion of the service and recruiting volunteers to become FFAs.
- Centralising the coordination of promotional activities for the service and organising regular check-ins amongst FFAs to discuss their activities and needs for support.
- Ensuring participants have enough time to partake in their responsibilities as FFAs by allowing them to work more flexibly and reduce their existing work commitments accordingly.
Promoting a Financial First Aider Programme
The pilot revealed the importance of creating a tailored engagement plan to promote the service and its benefits to employees. Specifically, including personal stories and realistic case studies of financial struggle and success can make the service more relevant to potential participants.
We found that integrating the service into the company’s broader wellbeing offering helped make the service as accessible and visible as possible to employees. FFAs should strive to be more visible within the organisation so that users know who they would be interacting with.
One of the unexpected barriers to using the service, we found, was the name Financial First Aiders which was misconstrued by employees as guidance offered only to those struggling with their finances.
I think I felt like it was possibly something to do with financial difficulties and I didn’t personally feel like I was in a position that was of financial difficulty at the moment.”
Future employers hoping to implement the programme should therefore clarify that the service is aimed at all employees – both those in financial distress and those who simply wish to understand more about their financial position.
“It might be that actually you just need someone to sit down and help you budget, …which some people struggle with. I suppose I might be one of them, if I’m honest. If my situation changed overnight would I comfortably be able to sit down and be really strict and say, ‘Right, I need to do a good budget plan that is going to make me ok, over the next however many months or years.’ Could I do that myself? I don’t know.”
Furthermore, we recommend that future FFA initiatives assess the needs of employees before fully launching the programme in their workplaces. By doing this employers can specifically tailor the offering to meet workers needs. For example, we found the workforce at YBS was more interested in financial advice rather than guidance, mostly due to their experience working in a financial institution.
I’ll go to speak to CAB or StepChange who actually are qualified in that; rather than someone for whom it’s their side activity.”
Providing tailored training for Financial First Aiders
The training that was provided to the FFAs was tailored to their needs and experiences. Specifically, a trainer conducted interviews with FFA prior to delivering the training, to understand their pre-existing knowledge and interests. This ensured that technical aspects of the training were tailored to FFAs’ existing knowledge and that training exercises allowed FFAs to showcase their pre-existing knowledge to build their confidence. FFAs’ experiences of the training confirmed this:
It was all material that you could relate to, and you always had something to say”
Financial First Aider
Whilst the training was generally well-received, FFAs felt that it could have been enhanced with a module on financial skills and knowledge which would have given them more confidence to carry out their role.
I just felt, at the end of it, I still needed to do a lot of reading and learning on the other topics before I could start engaging with everyone”
Financial First Aider
The FFA service is the first peer-to-peer financial guidance service to be applied and tested in the workplace. The pilot identified several encouraging elements such as the positive impact it has had on the Financial First Aiders themselves. It also identified ways to overcome some of the challenges in the programme, particularly when it comes to service uptake. We hope that the findings will be of particular use to employers who are looking to implement financial wellbeing programmes for their employees.
If you are an employer who is interested in learning more about free support and practical ways to build financial wellbeing across your organisation, contact the Money and Pension Service’s regional partnership team here.