Following on from my previous blog relating to the general need for a vastly improved level of financial literacy across the nation as a whole, it is reasonable to ask why any such initiative should be linked to the workplace rather than through some other mechanism, particularly for smaller businesses already drowning in “add-ons” to the basic notions of trying to trade and make a surplus at the end of the week.
One basic reason is that working provides structure to our lives and the workplace is the one environment which provides the necessary routine, discipline and camaraderie for us to focus in and confront our “gremlins”. Once out of this arena, confidence and motivation will dissipate whatever good intentions may have existed. “Tough” you may say.
So there has to be more to it than that. There have to be positive reasons why employers should take it on board. There are. But let us be clear – employers are only being asked to provide an enabling mechanism – possibly a speaker and a room that is available at lunchtime or after work.
However, more than that there are some very positive reasons why employers should see it is in their interests to support the idea.
Firstly, there is strong evidence to suggest that stress, lack of concentration and lack of productivity are all being impacted by individual financial worries so much so that these worries account for a significant amount of time off work and a much greater amount of time at work dwelling on financial concerns rather than working.
Secondly, in an era when pensions and pension provision are changing rapidly it has to be to everyone’s advantage for people to be able to take on board what is happening to their own pensions and how better they might participate in what their employer is putting forward, Or, if not, they should understand fully the implications of alternative courses of action. At present there is just a huge “reality gap” between what people are saving and what they need to save.
This leads us to the third point which is that clear retirement plans will lead to a smoother transition from work to non-work at the most appropriate time, in the most appropriate manner following open and meaningful discussion between employer and employee. Financial planning is only the monetary expression of life planning in general and this includes all manner of things at all stages of life; flexible working, sabbaticals, when is the need for advancement and when is the time to ease off, to name but a few.
Fourthly, when finding appropriately skilled workers is going to be increasingly difficult this will promote loyalty, improve morale and provide the space for them to focus on their jobs. And in a world of increasing corporate social responsibility it will signal an organisation which is good to work for and good to deal with.
Lastly, it cannot be overstated that the core of good personal financial discipline runs totally parallel to good financial discipline in any arena. Those who have the right attitudes and mindsets will also use them for the good of the organisation.
However, do beware of the dangers of ambiguity. One organisation I worked for had a well meaning code of conduct which included the exhortation “Treat the company’s assets as though they were your own”. Unfortunately, I had a colleague who did exactly that!