Thursday, 8 November 2007

'My Budget Day' - an opportunity for Employers of Choice?

Insurance provider AXA is launching My Budget Day later this month - a national programme designed to encourage all UK adults to commit one hour a month to sorting out their finances.

The company is calling on all UK employers to make a commitment to helping employees take control of their finances by giving them one hour off work each month to spend on personal money management. The company has pledged this to its 12,000 UK employees and is asking other employers to do the same. The initiative is supported by both the CBI and the UK's largest union, Unite. Personnel Today has also run a very favourable story.

There are certainly some potential merits in this initiative, for AXA, and any other organisations that choose to implement it.

Providing employees with time off to manage their financial affairs helps to show that AXA cares about its people and to position it as an employer of choice. It shows that AXA understands that work and life are separated only by a very porous boundary and that if staff are stressed in their non-work lives, this stress will percolate through into the organisation as well.

Life is certainly getting more difficult, complicated and more stressful and I think organisations need to recognise this.

I certainly understand the need for sound personal financial management - I've just had my report and accounts returned to me for more work by HMRC!

But other areas of life are complicated too. One of my main frustrations is the post office's new charging system. I am sure that as a nation, we waste more value standing in line to weigh and measure envelopes than the post office saves us through their own increased efficiencies.

So why are AXA focusing on financial management here? Because of the sector they are in, of course. And this isn't just about the PR benefits of this scheme. It makes a lot of sense for AXA to ensure that all of their staff spend time on their own financial management, just as AXA's customers must do.

But for other organisations, there are a lot of other areas they could focus on to show their staff they care. CSR / green initiatives in particular, are likely to resonate with staff at this time.

So while I support AXA's recognition of potential stress contagion between work and life, and their proactive actions to manage this, I wouldn't suggest that other businesses feel that financial management needs necessarily to be the focus of their energy to deal with these issues within their own organisations.

So my question is, what are you going to give your employees one hour off per month to do?