This week we got more evidence from the CIPD that frozen wages and falling living standards are continuing to take a toll on our employees.

As financial wellbeing is increasingly recognised as an important factor in employee performance, I think it makes business sense to consider how benefits and reward can be brought in line to help out. This isn’t about being paternalistic but pragmatic and recognising that as the world around us has changed, the type of support our organisations give their employees also needs to evolve.

With many organisations are at the point of planning for the coming year, I thought it would be useful to expand this on thinking with some practical ideas around how we can ensure benefits and reward play a role in supporting our employees’ financial wellbeing.

 1) Talk to your employees about what they need: It’s an obvious question but one worth asking: is your benefits and reward investment going on things that your employees want? Are you sure? Now is the time to ask your employees about what they want so you can ensure your benefits spend is making a difference to them.

2)      Don’t underestimate the positive impact small changes can make: Listen carefully to what your employees ask for and think hard about the small things which you can change to enrich the benefits mix. You may not value retail voucher schemes or salary sacrifice but they can make pay packets go much further and act like a hidden pay rise.

3)      Don’t just communicate – illustrate: The majority of benefits communication fails to drive uptake. This is because many employees fail to link their own situation with the benefits which are on offer and don’t understand how they can profit from them. Take a fresh approach to communications, illustrating the benefits on offer to typical employees and what this means in cash terms so your existing mix works harder. And without sounding simplistic, don’t rely on words to convey the message: charts, pictures and infographics can do a better job than the best produced brochure.

4)      Rethink your reward: it is still the case that many forms of reward for good performance are inappropriate or undervalued. Whether it is cash, wine or chocolates – some of the most common reward – don’t assume your employees want it and rethink how and when you reward your employees for good performance. Vouchers and pre-loaded cards give employees choice and ring-fence the reward you give away from day-to-day spend.

5)      Introduce financial education: This is now more than just a fad or a nice-to-have as many organisations are including financial education as part of the benefits mix. This is different from advice as it puts the onus on employees to help themselves and keeps employers free of regulatory issues. One-off training or online financial education charged at a ‘per seat’ rate can help employees budget and ensure their finances go further.

It will already be clear to many employers and their employees that 2013 is unlikely to see the unleashing of bountiful salary increases. With that in mind, commitment to helping employees reduce debt, save and plan the resources they do have becomes ever more critical.  And given the impact of finance-related stress on individuals and organisational performance it is certainly preferable to doing nothing at all.

Andy Philpott is sales and marketing director at Edenred –

Twitter – @Andy_Philpott