Sage Advice UK

The realities of delivering financial education to staff

No money, more problems

Employers have a certain level of responsibility in how they manage their workforce and look after the people within it.

One service that could prove particularly beneficial for many workers is financial advice.

Research has suggested that employers tend to agree on the value of offering education on monetary matters but there is a lack of clarity around exactly how it should be funded and delivered.

The importance of financial education

A substantial majority (85%) of employers believe their workforce would benefit from financial advice. That’s according to a survey of more than 300 organisations by financial consultancy Mattioli Woods.

However, only four out of 10 companies (40%) had an appetite to pay for advice.

Just over a third (35%) of respondents said the government should take responsibility for delivering financial education but Mattioli Woods stressed that “this is clearly not going to be the case”.

Other findings showed that nearly six out of ten employers (58%) expect to help their employees make more informed decisions about their financial situations as they prepare for retirement.

Almost half (47%) had concerns that workers were not making adequate provisions for their retirement. However, 45% of firms admitted they only paid the statutory minimum of 1% in pension contributions.

Nathan Long, senior pensions analyst at financial services provider Hargreaves Lansdown, told People Management magazine that it is now “dawning on” employers that financial education is a necessity, not a discretionary benefit.

This is particularly relevant considering the ageing workforce, with an increasing number of people approaching retirement age without having made the necessary preparations for life after employment.

Nathan said: “Employers are becoming more aware that they could end up with a sizeable number of older staff who simply cannot afford to retire.

“Workplace financial education flags these issues to staff so they can take control of their own future.”

Making financial education effective

Once your business has made the decision to invest in delivering financial advice for your workforce, you will want to feel assured that your methods will yield results.

So what can you do to maximise the likelihood of your efforts being successful? Here are a few principles and strategies to consider:

Make it relevant

Members of staff will want to receive education on topics that are relevant and useful to them. Get your education schemes underway by talking to people and finding out what they want or need to learn about.

It can also prove useful to customise your plans, based on employee criteria such as age, income levels and career stages.

Use a range of formats

There are various ways of delivering education and information to your workforce – through one-to-one sessions, group classes, workshops, online resources and workbooks, for example. Mixing them up will help to keep people engaged and interested.

Measure the impact

Conduct frequent assessments and regularly engage with employees to gauge the effectiveness of your education programmes.

If workers are not finding them useful, consider an alternative approach that could be more successful.

Persevere

Financial education initiatives will not necessarily deliver instant results. Research has indicated that the success of a programme is often linked to the amount of time it has been in place.

Financial education for businesses

It’s not just employees that need financial education about their own situation – businesses require it too.

All firms from SME level to enterprises could do with educating when it comes to finances if they want their processes to be working smoothly.

However, one sector that gets exposed to the realities of the financials pretty quickly is the start-up.

If you’ve moved from employee role to business owner, it can be a steep learning curve when you have to juggle running the business with buying and selling products and services, managing customer expectations, nurturing employees and dealing with legal frameworks.

But if the finances aren’t working smoothly, there won’t be a business to run.

Here are some skills that start-ups and new business owners should brush up on if they want to make a success of their firms.

Accounting and bookkeeping

While it’s true that you can simply give your accounting and bookkeeping work to an accountant, it makes a lot of sense if you understand the processes.

That way, when you’re talking to your accountant, you can have an informed discussion about the state of your finances and whether your cash flow is in a strong position.

There are lots of courses that will help you brush up on your accounting and bookkeeping skills.

It’s worth investing your time to make sure you can read and interpret the numbers so you can determine how well your business is doing.

Budgeting

As a start-up or small business owner, you’ll be in charge of the finances. With that comes the responsibility of managing the budget.

If you were previously an employee, becoming a business owner can be a shock to the system when you realise you can’t simply raid the stationery cupboard for notebooks, pens and pencils – you have to pay for them.

That’s one thing that will have to come out of your budget, along with computers, printers, wages, office equipment, rent, sales inventory and much more.

Being able to manage a budget is akin to spinning plates – lots of them.

If you can do this well, you can make sure your business is going in the right direction.

Understanding financial terminology

If you’ve heard of a profit and loss statement but don’t know how to read and interpret one, it’s worth learning how to.

The same goes for a balance sheet and a cash flow statement.

If you’re just starting up, you might think you don’t need to understand these just yet. But it’s essential to know how to read them so you can determine how well your business is doing.

And if you have plans to seek funding for your business, these documents are vital to ascertain the financial health of your firm.

If you’re creating a business plan for investment purposes, you’ll need these documents and more.

And there are lots of other financial terms that are worth learning.

If you have a good grasp of financial terminology, speaking to the bank, your finance manager and potential investors will be a lot easier and you’ll get much more out of your conversations.

Understanding the numbers is vital if you want your business to succeed. Need some help in this area? Check out our ultimate guide to basic business accounting.