Partner and Head of Platform and Benefits, Barnett Waddingham
Many companies are still failing to prioritise the wellbeing of their workforce alongside other risks, warns an industry expert.
While firms prioritise economic, reputational, operational and financial risk, ‘people risk’ rarely features highly on the corporate agenda. But timely steps to ensure staff wellbeing can prove pivotal in a company’s success.
Julia Turney, a partner with a risk, pensions and investment consultancy, warns that the financial wellbeing of a workforce, particularly during the cost of living crisis, is as important as physical, emotional and mental welfare.
This, she emphasises, is more about providing knowledge and education to help people make effective financial decisions in their lives. She suggests that ‘people risk’ — the risk of staff underperforming as a result of welfare issues — must be a higher priority.
“Companies should look at it as they would operational, financial, economic and reputational risk,” she says. “Whereas events such as reputational risk could be one-off, people risk is an ongoing risk. If people aren’t engaged, performing, happy at work and being productive, that is a huge risk to the business.”
Whereas events such as reputational risk could be one-off, people risk is an ongoing risk.
Turney, who is Head of Platform and Benefits with Barnett Waddingham, outlines how companies can minimise that risk and look after their people.
“Understand your employees. It will vary, and stresses can depend on the environment such as being physical in more manual jobs, mental health or a combination.”
Turney, who leads the company’s employee wellbeing and engagement platform called ‘4me,’ says employers should use data and analytics to understand their workforce.
“We call it understanding your ‘employer DNA’,” she adds. If productivity has gone down or absence is increasing, analytics can form the basis of a plan to address that.
She points to the value of improving financial literacy as a step to improving mental health. Barnett Waddingham, which employs more than 1,500 people in nine offices, offers financial wellbeing seminars, pension help and guidance — and has mental health first-aiders as part of its own employee engagement initiatives.
“We have adopted an open culture which helps with employee wellbeing,” she continues. “The senior partner’s door is always open. We do not have barriers at Barnett Waddingham.”
Lack of employee wellbeing programmes covering financial, emotional, mental and physical health can lead to low morale, falling productivity, rising absences and staff turnover with increased recruitment costs.
“You need a well, happy and engaged workforce to continue economic growth within an organisation,” she concludes.