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​10 tips for looking after your people in the cost-of-living crisis

I recently had the pleasure of speaking as a panellist on APSCo’s Impactful Rewards webinar, where we discussed the cost-of-living crisis and current economic uncertainty. It was great to hear perspectives from other panellists and preparing for the session really got me thinking about what has worked well for us and why. As many business leaders may soon be faced with critical decisions for supporting employees through challenging times ahead, I wanted to boil my thinking down to 10 key tips and share them with you here.

1) Consider raising awareness across your business on financial wellbeing and how to manage it

We know that generally people don’t necessarily have strong financial literacy as it’s often overlooked in early education. If people don’t manage their money carefully then the cost of living could easily outgrow what’s in their bank account. It’s therefore becoming ever more important that employers take on the responsibility of helping people learn to manage the money they earn. We know that we don’t always have the answers internally, and that we aren’t experts at everything, so we created a partnership with Bippit, a financial coaching and wellbeing platform helping people to learn how to set a budget, manage any debt and start saving. We’ve had huge engagement in the tool and the feedback has been really positive.

2) Look to see how you can relieve some of the financial pressure that some of your people could be under currently

We reviewed who might be most impacted by the current situation in our business and we decided to make a one-off payment for people earning under £60k within our core functions, to help them in these challenging times. We made sure we were clear on the parameters of this arrangement, and why we made the decision, before we communicated it.

3) Equip your managers to ask, listen and respond sensitively

Your managers will have the best relationships with their teams and are likely to be aware of any challenges individuals might have quite early on. We have a dedicated team who work with our managers, to ensure they are well equipped to have regular, quality 1:1 time with their teams, focused on how they are doing generally and not just on that week’s tasks. So, for most difficult situations that may arise, managers can identify and manage them properly in a timely manner.

4) Ensure your people know what’s on offer … and keep reminding them!

We know people are really busy doing their day jobs, and often that means they forget about the benefits companies offer, which often give savings on things such as shopping, holidays, fitness and health initiatives. So, we run a benefits fair twice a year that we call ‘Investing in You.’ This showcases all the things we offer and allows people to chat to experts from the suppliers and from our own People and Culture team, so they can really understand how to use everything on offer to them as an employee.

5) Leaders need to show they care and invest time in reviewing what’s going on

Things change all the time and as much as you can try and plan, there are always things that come and hit you square between the eyes. No one saw COVID coming a few years back, for example, so we make sure we have a regular agenda item at board meetings to discuss anything that we feel is going to impact our people. Considering the impact of the cost of living has been a key one for us recently. We use internal data and feedback as well as external publications and insight to ensure we are having the right conversations and can therefore make more informed and timely decisions.

6) Look to where you can gain internal feedback

Seeking feedback and suggestions from the business on an ongoing basis is so critical to understanding what your people need. We use our existing forums such as our DEI and Wellbeing and Engagement Committees, and any employee surveys – especially if they have free text options – as this allows people to have a confidential and anonymous voice. It’s so important that people are asked the right questions and are listened to – and in turn, positive action is taken. It builds a level of trust, and they will feel more secure.

7) Make sure people feel comfortable speaking to you

We ensure both our leadership and our People and Culture team have an open-door policy, and that there is a culture that supports psychological safety in the business, where people feel really comfortable in coming to talk to us. This again allows us to make better decisions and of course, deal with any individual matters as needed in a timely manner.

8) Develop your leaders so they can lead through any market

In our discussions with our leaders, we’ve introduced topics such as ‘resilience of yourself and your team in a tougher market,’ as it will inevitably change at some point – we just don’t know when or by how much – and ‘what selfless leadership looks like.’ This ensures our leaders truly look out for any tell-tell signs in their teams on anything that’s a concern, and lead as best they can through any potentially difficult times.

9) Review any company policies that would affect people in difficult times

We recently enhanced all our family leave policies (maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental leave) so people are more financially supported when they need it most.

10) Finally – borrow with pride!

There’s nothing wrong with seeing what your competitors and other sectors are doing in this space, and adapting and implementing what works for you. We see it as additional resource that helps us come up with new ideas! You can learn from their mistakes and successes and adapt accordingly for what you need.

These actions have been incredibly helpful for us and I hope they’ll be useful for you too. If you want to discuss any of them in more detail or you’d like to speak to us about how you’re looking after your people in the current challenging financial climate, please get in touch with our People and Culture team.