Financial wellness must be at the heart of any employee benefits programme, expert says

Talent retention strategies will need to go beyond just a salary and be inclusive of benefits such as life cover and other financial safeguards


Rohma Sadaqat

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Individual purpose, their contribution to society and life-long learning are as important to today’s talent as is their paycheck - KT file
Individual purpose, their contribution to society and life-long learning are as important to today’s talent as is their paycheck - KT file

Published: Fri 29 Apr 2022, 5:08 PM

Wellbeing at all levels, mental, financial, and physical, is now an integral aspect of the relationship between an employer and employee, says Swarnaleka Vyas, head of Corporate Life and Pensions at Zurich International Life Middle East.

“Employee benefit programmes must evolve to satisfy the shifting needs of employees and meet them where they are at. The organisations who acknowledge this and demonstrate care for their employee’s welfare are best placed to attract and retain talent,” she said.

When employees are loyal to their employer, the organisation will benefit in terms of staff morale, levels of productivity, reduced turnover rates, improved services, happier customers, and ultimately a better bottom line, she explained. “Our data suggests that financial health and wellness are increasingly important for UAE businesses, with almost six out of 10 employers stating that they plan to provide financial wellness support to their employees in 2022. This trend has been amplified by the pandemic.”

Individual purpose, their contribution to society and life-long learning are as important to today’s talent as is their paycheck, she added. Other important considerations employees identified include a balance between their private life and work life and having access to career development opportunities. Employers “must be allies”, who show empathy and demonstrate a long-term commitment. With more expatriates settling long-term in the UAE, financial benefits such as life cover and pension plans are essential to making sure employees feel taken care of.

“Education about these benefits and how they stand to benefit employees as individuals and their families can improve overall financial literacy and trust,” Vyas noted. “When it comes to managing their financial wellbeing, the myriad tools, products and benefits must be championed by their employers who have historically seen a limited role for themselves in offering financial education and benefits advice. Financial futures of employees can also receive a boost if they have access to information around managing personal investments, and retirement planning, among others. Liberating employees from these worries would directly contribute to improved job satisfaction.”

As another example, she cited how income protection provides support in the event that an employee cannot work due to illness or injury. It offers peace of mind that he or she is financially supported should they be unable to work for a prolonged length of time. Investment funds and gratuity schemes are other financial programmes that are part of benefits packages.

“These benefits indicate how responsibly an employer might view their talent,” she said. “To ensure the best outcomes for the employee, education around financial wellness must be an ongoing process and part of the overall organisational culture. Across touchpoints such as during hiring, on-boarding, and at regular intervals during employment, employers should communicate their employee benefits package to ensure talent attraction and retention and to position themselves as employers of choice.”

To leverage the structural shifts in the labour market, the UAE has already introduced reforms within types of work permits and work models, paving the way for more streamlined employer-employee relationships. The UAE’s success in mitigating the impact of the pandemic and hosting Expo 2020 Dubai against all odds is a solid indication that economies develop when they invest in people, Vyas said.

Employee benefits will continue to be a crucial influencing factor for talent in selecting their next employer or deciding how long to stay in a job. Skilled labour will still be important even when new technologies and automation are widely applied, she added.

“The World Economic Forum's Future of Jobs Report estimates that by 2024, 40 per cent of workers will require up to six months of reskilling, while 94 per cent of business leaders expect their workers to pick up new skills,” she added. “Reskilling and upskilling from within is a trend that’s here to stay, so it is important to keep your employees close. The future of business will continue to be powered by human beings. It is time employers took notice and helped their employees create a brighter future.”

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