The Cost of Living Crisis - How HRs Can Support
The cost of living crisis is affecting everyone. And with energy bill increases on the horizon, we can be sure that the problem is only going to get worse. As HR people, we tend to be empathetic and sympathetic and want to help, but increasing wages isn’t always an option - particularly when costs are going up for organisations themselves. We talked to some of our experts about what can be done to support our employees.
1. Carefully Consider Your Communication Strategy
Our Co-Founder and Co-CEO, Matt Phelan, reminds everyone to check their privilege before sending out any communications around the cost of living crisis. While it’s important you talk to your team about this pressing issue, think carefully before sharing generic advice, as it might not be applicable or helpful for everyone.
As Matt says “don’t patronise your staff with naff advice when what they really need is financial support”. Although you need to acknowledge that this is an issue for your staff, being open and honest about what you can actually do to offer solutions is better than trying to fob people off with half-baked financial advice or platitudes.
2. Consider One Off Cost of Living Bonuses
Many organisations are giving their staff an extra Cost Of Living bonus. This can be a great option for those who are able to support their staff as it shouldn’t have a long term impact on their costs. These bonuses can even be weighted to ensure that you’re supporting those who need it most, for example some organisations are prioritising those who are on lower incomes.
When discussing this topic with our community members, they were keen to remind us that you need to discuss this with your team. The reason for this is that you don’t know which of your colleagues are receiving additional state benefits. Giving bonuses may mean that your team no longer qualify for help they rely on (such as tax credits), so as ever it’s important to really consider how you can best help the individuals you work with.
3. Think Creatively About Your Payment Processes
Although many organisations cannot afford the kinds of pay rises their people want at the moment, that doesn’t mean you cannot offer any financial assistance. Organisations around the world are thinking more creatively about how and when they pay their teams.
Our very own HR expert, Laura Page, shared some ideas to think about such as flexible payments or pay on demand. She says “more organisations are increasing their flexibility, you might want to talk to your finance team about different options and whether they would work for you.” As Laura explains, this can really help people who are feeling the pain of rising costs, particularly those on lower incomes, keeping them away from costly credit card debt or worse, payday loans.
4. Consider Your Benefits Package Holistically
Even if you cannot give your team a direct pay increase, there may be value you can add through your overall benefits package. Thinking creatively about benefits such as Bike to Work, Season Ticket Loans, Supermarket Vouchers and Employee Discount programmes. All of these can allow your team to make savings on their everyday expenses.
Gemma Shambler, Head of People at THI, explains that offering flexibility as part of your benefits can also greatly support your people. For example, it can help those with care commitments, and mean that people don’t need to travel at expensive peak times.
5. Remember One Size Doesn’t Always Fit All
As with everything in HR you’re always dealing with unique individuals. This means that solutions that worked for other organisations may not be a great fit for your team. Our Co-Founder and Chief Platform Officer, Tony Latter, explains: “Even within your organisation there will be differences between the needs of different people. Allowing people to pick and choose, and giving your team true flexibility will help you to support everyone.”
There are as many examples of this as there are people, but here’s one from Tony, “For some people like me even with increasing energy costs working from home will be cheaper than travelling into the office every day, but for others, who live close to their workplace, the commuting cost might be less than heating your house during the day.” The key thing is not to assume that you know what everyone on your team wants without asking.
6. Investing In Real, Two-Way Communication
There are probably loads of ways you’re already supporting your team. Whether that’s because you have benefits in kind already in place, you have support available for your team’s mental health, or other resources that will help your colleagues weather the crisis. As our Co-Founder and Co-CEO, Chris Hyland, points out “it’s not necessarily about changing your strategy but rather about communication.”
Now is an important time to really consider two-way communication. Being really clear about exactly the resources and benefits you already have in place might be key - particularly for those who haven’t accessed these before. However, Chris also reminds us that listening is equally if not more important. “Now is the time to invest in a listening strategy if you haven’t already. Organisations need to understand how their people are feeling, and what they are thinking”.
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