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How should you talk to employees about the cost-of-living crisis?

With soaring energy costs and high inflation making headlines in 2022, employees’ finances have never been so tight, and this is having a direct impact on employee wellbeing. T

The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute found that employees with money worries are 50% more likely to report performance-affecting signs of poor mental health. 

As the cost of living continues to rise, more companies will look to address these challenges. But how should they speak to employees about what can be such a delicate and emotional topic? 

How employers can help in the cost-of-living crisis:

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How to start the conversation

Before a communication strategy is implemented, it is important to gain an insight into what your employees already know and get a feel for what they might need.

There can be huge variations in levels of financial literacy among employees, so using the right techniques to engage with each group can go a long way in making sure you are communicating with impact.

Tools such as listening exercises, surveys and focus groups can be a great way to find out how much employees know about what steps they can take to improve their financial wellbeing, how comfortable they feel about addressing financial concerns and what type of messaging will be most relevant to them.

Collecting this information directly from employees is a solid starting point for employers to build their communication strategy that is specifically targeted towards your people.

For employers, a clear and well-structured strategy based on this feedback can help to set out specific objectives of how you want to support your employees.

This can range from raising awareness of financial wellbeing among the wider team, providing individuals with access to specialists, showing how financial wellbeing aligns with the company’s core values, and signposting the support systems available to facilitate access.

Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to communicating financial wellbeing, and it is important to acknowledge that every employee will be affected by the cost-of-living crisis differently.

Conversations about money can lead to deep-seated emotional responses and building a culture of trust is one of the best ways of normalising those conversations.

Knowing your people

As best practice, the most effective way to communicate with employees is to keep it simple.

Jargon-heavy or inauthentic-sounding communications can be a turn-off, so it’s important to keep in mind how you can communicate with clarity and impact. Ultimately, the success of the message is often only as effective as the way it is communicated.

An effective way to do this is to find out how your people like to consume messages. It is important to involve everyone in the communication process to make sure they feel that their voice is heard.

Tech can be key to this. Reaching out to employees via text or on a call, rather than just over email, can allow employers to communicate in a way that’s easier or more comfortable for employees and so can be beneficial in some cases.

Others may respond better to more human contact. Managers and wellbeing champions are great for facilitating ongoing training, gaining useful feedback and opening up a personalised communication channel. 

Whether through emails, apps, in-person workshops or one-to-one conversations, engaging in a two-way stream of communication and being committed to taking actions can help to ensure your employees feel valued and recognised, while showing that you care about their wellbeing.

Every initiative or outreach should be rooted in a clear-sighted goal of creating impact for employees that goes beyond any one-off campaigns and building a culture of trust at every level of the organisation.

Ultimately, the best strategy will involve a mixture of tactics and tools, as well as a little trial and error.

But organisations should ensure that they align their workplace to their employers’ values and with visible engagement and accountability in sight, whether that’s by amplifying the work of your existing tools, leading by example or organising workshops on financial wellbeing.

If your goal is to help your colleagues through the cost-of-living crisis, they should know that you are doing the work.

Chris Andrew is strategy director at Caburn Hope