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How to support employees amid financial strains

By Marcus Beaver, UKI Country leader at Alight Solutions

Financial concerns are emerging to the forefront of employees’ minds, amidst spiralling energy costs, rising interest rates and UK inflation hitting its highest level since 1981 at 11.1%. The 2022 Alight International Workforce and Wellbeing Mindset Study has now uncovered that over half of employees (60%) feel their salary is not enough to cover their costs.

Despite wellbeing plans being commonplace for many companies, finances remain an often neglected aspect. The solution cannot simply be to increase salaries, which isn´t entirely realistic. When developing financial wellbeing plans, it is essential to link strategies to pay and benefits policies that help employees regain control of their finances. Employers have several paths available to achieve this objective.

Accurate payroll systems

It might seem obvious, but the first step of any financial wellbeing strategy must be ensuring that employees get paid on time, everytime. A missed payday or miscalculated payment can result in worry and broken trust. However, ensuring perfect payroll is challenging, especially if employers have an international workforce or differing pay legislation and operational structures. Delivering multi-country payroll is no easy task.

Today’s payroll solutions, integrated with HR and finance systems, can streamline payroll processes, control costs, and improve payment accuracy. Ensuring a continuous flow of business intelligence between systems can automate employee bank data verification, enabling accurate, compliant, and secure payment delivery. It can also reduce the administrative burden of global bank transaction management with reliable and fast payments across multiple currencies.

Centralising systems allows organisations to embrace automation and avoid costly payroll process failure while also allowing for greater flexibility for employees.

Pay flexibility to support employees

Waiting until the end of the month to access salaries leaves many employees facing financial pressure, with the last of the week ramping up the pressure to make last month’s wage stretch. Instead, flexible pay models such as Earned Wage Access (EWA) put employees in control of when and how they access their pay.

EWA echoes the digital experiences that employees are used to as consumers, and for employers can provide an essential point of differentiation in a tough labour market. It demonstrates employees are valued for their work, empowered, and supported in their workplace.

The traditional weekly or monthly pay run does not always meet the needs of today’s workforce but has continued to be the dominant method of remuneration. This is mainly due to the rigidity of employers’ payroll processes, a lack of digital integration, and wariness from payroll practitioners. There are many pervading myths surrounding the implementation of EWA.

Besides the rich benefits EWA provides employees, on-demand pay solutions also enable integrated technologies to deliver faster and more efficient payroll solutions. This optimisation mitigates common mistakes or issues that could result from human error and affect business and HR operations.

Offering support when times demand it

Alongside the practical solutions that can support flexible and faultless payroll, employers can also support their employees with information and resources. Crucially, they should also consider how they can communicate with empathy and understand employees’ financial pressures.

Less than a fifth of employees (15%) say they currently receive personalised communications around financial-related benefits. This should be enough for employers to consider how they can support access to information and advice to better fit their staff. Whether partnering with a relevant third party, creating a digital information hub or empowering managers to signpost employees more effectively, much can be done to show workers you recognise their worries. Helping people take control of their financial future is a powerful way to build trust and loyalty.

Of course, this also requires employers to truly understand their workforce. Two-way empathetic communication is essential to building a picture of your workforce, so you can tailor your approach to financial wellbeing to their needs.

Embracing financial wellbeing

The impacts of today’s economic crisis are undeniable and being felt by us all. During tumultuous times, employers have a duty to think of their employees and offer whatever support they can. Improving financial wellbeing programmes calls for a new and fresh approach. This can be achieved leveraging HR and payroll technologies for an efficient and cost-effective delivery. These strategies can meet the needs of employers, as well as employees, and represent the future of workplaces that put wellbeing first.

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