How one workplace learned to ditch donuts and foster financial wellness

September 04, 2023

For any employer who wants a happy, motivated and productive workforce, creating the conditions where your people can thrive is a must. But employee wellbeing means getting the basics right before adding the frills.

Here are three approaches we’ve found deliver results through our work advising small and medium-sized businesses in Ireland on pensions, benefits and staff wellbeing.

No. 1: Benchmark the service

A major client of ours in the media sector had installed the basics years ago – essentially an off-the-shelf pension, using their local mom-and-pop advisor. But the business had moved on. It was bigger, had a new layer of management who had experience of big-company benefits, and was regularly adding to its workforce. On top of that, it had completed a small acquisition for some specialist services and was now running two systems in parallel. At the same time, staff expectations – not to mention the employee benefits game itself – had moved on too.

At Moneycube, we stood back from the situation. There was an opportunity to reset the financial benefits package. That involved consulting with staff on the kinds of benefits they wanted, a beauty-parade of possible pension providers, and an account plan to engage with staff and management throughout the year – from employee onboarding, to pensions season top-ups, and wider financial education.

On top of that, we were able to drive down cost, increase employee participation in their financial wellbeing, and make administration of the benefits plan more efficient within the finance and HR functions.

No. 2: Sell the sizzle

No matter how good your financial benefits are, as an employer, you’ll need to sell the sizzle as well as the sausage. Fact is that financial matters are very abstract to most people on your team. Sausages and donuts have a clear advantage on this front! If you’re building your financial wellbeing proposition, there’s a need to make it tangible.

Ask yourself what your company pension advisor is doing to make that happen. Good starts with the basics, such as regular employee updates, online dashboards, and responsive, plain English communications. Better again is enabling staff to max out their tax allowances, finding a provider who is a trusted wealth advisor to the senior management team, and helping top-rate taxpayers understand how a pension turns €100 into €167 overnight.

No donut tastes as good as a 67% bonus feels: but it needs to be explained in a way that resonates with your team.

That’s the purpose of Pensions Awareness Week, which runs this year from 25-29 September. We’ll be hosting a series of online and face-to-face events to engage employers and pension savers alike on building engagement and financial resilience through pensions.

No. 3: Broaden the benefits – at surprisingly low cost

Employers are often surprised how they can develop a strong employee benefits and wellness proposition at relatively low cost. There’s no doubt that employer pensions represent a material cost to an employer (which will soon become unavoidable with the introduction of auto-enrolment).

But wider benefits, such as death-in-service cover, counselling, or online GP access can be added on at surprisingly low total cost – perhaps a couple of hundred Euro per year, per staff member. Our media client was pleasantly surprised at how they were able to build a broad offering of employee benefits, from nuts-and-bolts financial stuff like a pension, to more need-based benefits such as counselling, on a comparatively modest budget. What’s more, they were able to tailor that package to different seniority levels within the business, offering a suite of options which could stand comparison with any large corporate.

If your benefits package looks like it came from the noughties, it’s likely you could do something similar in your business today.

Pensions Awareness Week is returning later this month to engage your team on their financial future – see the agenda and sign up for online events here or if you want to take action straight away you can review your company employee benefits here.

Feargal McKenna
Head of Corporate and co-founder of Pensions Awareness Week