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Restoring workplace opportunities for ‘Generation Covid’

By Jeremy Beament, co-founder of nudge

Covid-19 has been a plight suffered by many, not least the younger generation. Thousands have faced sacrifices across their wages and career progression, not to mention the young adults leaving education, now attempting to begin their careers during the most uncertain economic period in decades.

Last month’s research from BBC Panorama found that those aged 16-25 were more than twice as likely as older workers to have lost their job as a result of the pandemic, while 6 in 10 have seen their earnings fall.

There are several reasons why younger people have been disproportionately impacted by Covid-19, including being more likely to start a career in weakened sectors. And, if left unaddressed, the damage to UK business and enterprise will be immeasurable. Not only will organisations suffer from a lack of new and ambitious talent to drive their businesses forward, but it is likely that younger employees will continue to be plagued by increased financial stress. In fact, our own research revealed that half (49%) of 16-25-year olds are feeling more anxious about money than they were six months ago.

This huge level of financial anxiety is undoubtedly impacting business productivity –  it’s no surprise that four in 10 (41%) employers surveyed said that increased financial stress amongst employees has negatively impacted their business this year.

Evidently, employers have a prime opportunity to build financial resilience for the younger generation and businesses alike. So, what steps should your business take to support this generation while protecting your company’s bottom-line?

Equip your team with skills, confidence and knowledge

Even if your business was fortunate enough to avoid using furlough or making redundancies during the height of the pandemic, it is still important to take action and employ an education-first approach within your company.

Providing employees with the necessary education, skills and knowledge will help them make the best financial decisions. For instance, increasing education among younger staff will ensure they opt-in to benefit packages – helping them to build an emergency savings buffer for future periods of economic turbulence. This is particularly important as our study highlighted that 35% of 16-25-year olds reported eating into their savings during Covid-19 – an alarming figure that is only likely to increase as we move deeper into the recession.

Creating a workforce that is financially savvy will also help to increase workplace productivity, as younger staff members will become less distracted by money worries and increasingly free to dedicate more attention to company strategy and goals.

Look to implement innovative employee schemes

From our research, we know that cash concerns are rife across the UK, with one in five (20%) of 16-25-year olds stating that they are struggling to pay their bills. This shows us that even when younger people do manage to land a job, it is not very often that money concerns simply go away overnight.

Crucially, this means that providing financial education will not be enough if efforts are not supported by correct and tailored monetary plans within the workplace.

There are several useful schemes that allow younger workers to save more than average person. Allowing employees to redirect excess pension contributions to student loans or lifetime ISAs, for instance, will place them in better stead to pay off debt and achieve long-term financial goals.

Extend support beyond the walls of your workplace

This week’s ONS figures revealed a huge fall in the number of 16 to 24-year-olds in employment – decreasing to a record low of 3.5m. This means that even if your younger employees are handling the current disruption well, it is likely that some of their friends or family members may not be feeling the same way.

Extending your financial wellbeing programmes to your staff’s loved ones is a cost-free and generous approach to encouraging financial literacy across the whole community.

Not only will this benefit your organisation’s reputation – which is vitally important for a generation hugely concerned by social and governance initiatives –  it will also improve brand image, as community members begin to associate your company with strong CSR policies.

Review workforce management and planning

As a business leader you know that strategy is always key. So, evaluate your workforce management plans to ensure that older generations can retire on time, and that there is space for younger talent to enter your business.

With older generations moving towards a well-deserved retirement, your people strategy will pave the way for a new workforce focussed on innovation and creative ideas.

If willing, every business can play a significant role in helping the younger generation successfully navigate this difficult period. Why not boost financial wellbeing, engagement and productivity while securing the best and brightest talent for your business?