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Erica Farmer

Quantum Rise Talent Group Ltd

Co- Founder & Business Director, Digital Learning & Apprenticeship Expert, Speaker & Facilitator -

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How L&D can support employees in the cost-of-living crisis

Fighting sky-rocket living costs is tough but here’s what L&D can do to help learners.
cafe, building, greece

You might think the natural fit in organisations to support when it comes to something like a cost-of-living challenge would be in HR, payroll, and finance. Conversations around one-off payments and support mechanisms – such as employee benefits and employee assistance programmes – seem to be ramping up.

In the LinkedIn HR groups, HR leaders are seeking to understand what other businesses are doing as this challenge rises up the priority list, looking out for the golden chalice which can be harnessed and rolled out across organisations to support people (and ultimately enhance the employee value proposition).

Many wouldn’t see the initial link between supporting employees in this new way, and what L&D can bring to the table

However, these tend to be short-term, or one-off events which have a limited impact, and not the longer-term benefit which people are looking for. Don’t get me wrong, an additional payment isn’t going to be turned down by anyone, but is it really a sustainable solution?

The new dawn of Learning and Development

Now, to start with, many wouldn’t see the initial link between supporting employees in this new way, and what L&D can bring to the table. But let’s bring ourselves back to the challenges which L&D historically face around commercial awareness, adding tangible value and business impact, and this new dawn of opportunities to make a real difference. A human difference.

 It’s all about two things. Firstly, a shift in mindset and secondly, agile thinking. And I’m talking about L&D first and foremost. Time to put down the development programmes, and committed plans, and time to pivot (again).  

We’re no longer in a world that will ‘settle down’. Change is the only constant

This topic might feel a little alien if you are used to planning business content, skills training, or learning which is aligned to organisational-related competencies and processes. So, I want you to ask yourself these questions, which might help get you and your team into the right headspace for this one:

  1. How engaged is your workforce right now and what does this mean for current and ‘run of the mill’ training and learning initiatives?

  2. How appropriate are your current learning plans and strategies to meet their needs (or do you need to be more agile)?

  3. What needs to change considering the change we have seen in 2022 and what is forecast for 2023/2024?

  4. Who is more likely to be affected in your organisation by the cost-of-living crisis and why?

  5. How are your managers set up to be able to be empathetic, supportive and action orientated with their teams?

These can be done as a team, or individually. Perhaps spend a little time speaking to your typical learner, or stakeholder, before clarifying your answers. Then spend time with other functions who you can collaborate with and provide a unified tool kit – this would usually be HR, finance, payroll, internal communications and senior managers.

But whatever you do, don’t do nothing

Once you start thinking about it, there is a huge amount that L&D can do as ultimately, we’re still working with people, and businesses. We just need to think about things in a different way and understand what is going to make the most impact in such a challenging time.

Here are some examples you might want to consider. None of these is a magic wand or the answer to all our problems, but suggestions which you might want to take forwards to support your teams and individuals with their cost of living challenges:

1. Understand the mindset

This could be a challenge for employees at this time. It could be seen as all a bit ‘doom and gloom’ recently with rising costs, the passing of the queen, interest rate rises and challenges with bills. Think about how people are feeling right now and how they can be supported to consider their personal situations. Introduce short, targeted group coaching sessions where you introduce growth mindset principles, and help people to see what they can do, as opposed to what they can’t do.

2. Empower employees to become solution focused

Run action learning sets and problem-solving events. You are giving them a key skill set that can easily be transferred into their context and situation. Many people can get bogged down in challenging times by solution blindness, so working through an actionable process can help a more objective view.

If you don’t have someone with the skill to make maths, and more importantly, budgeting, easy, then bring someone in

3. Curate free content

There is already so much out there, such as resources, podcasts and blogs from organisations such as Money Buddies, Citizens Advice and Help for Households on the .gov website. You can pull these items together in a podcast, and maybe invite your local Citizens Advice rep to be a podcast guest. This can be recorded on Zoom or Teams and doesn’t need professional editing to become a valued resource which people will listen to on lunchtime walks with the dog.

4. Help those with health conditions

Let’s also consider those in the organisation who might need more targeted support due to health conditions, caring responsibilities, and additional needs. Work closely with your HR team to provide additional information from sources such as Learning Disability England. Sites like these are really helpful for upskilling ourselves and helping to understand more about the wider challenges in our organisations and communities.

5. Bring in experts

If you don’t have someone with the skill to make maths, and more importantly, budgeting, easy, then bring someone in. Many people do not manage a monthly household monthly and live month by month. The latest research shows that 80% of us are two payslips away from poverty, so let’s help our employees get a handle on their monthly incomings and outgoings in a real practicable, adult-to-adult way. Once complete, a budget can feel really comforting and reassuring.

6. Help demystify government information

For example, there has been some confusion around the new energy price guarantee as well as the term ‘price cap’ and some people believe this is the maximum price that they will pay, no matter how much energy they use.

This is not the case and could get people in real trouble and worry, so work with resources on sites such as Martin Lewis the Money Saving Expert to communicate clear guidance and provide clarity.

There are lots of calculators, guidance, suggestions, and support to which you can signpost people to. You might want to partner with your communications team to build something which is packaged in a way which is easy to access and digest.

7. Offer bitesize and practical communication skills training

This will help employees speak with energy providers, financial institutions, and other household suppliers. This will be difficult and daunting for many people, so delivering skills practice in being able to negotiate, influence, be assertive and how to conclude a conversation with a win/win will go down well. Clear tips and techniques in these areas will be highly valued and appreciated.

8. Don’t expect your team members to stump up finances to travel to in-person training and events

Budgets are going to be tighter next year and asking for £50 on petrol and parking is a big deal. We know great virtual training and digital learning can be as good as, if not better, then in-person, so time to step into the new digital world and upskill your L&D team, managers and everyone else delivering coaching and training interventions.

9. Don’t underestimate the support that managers will need for their teams

Dial up skills practice around empathy, listening and communication, as team members will be looking to their managers, now more than ever before, for this support and guidance. This is where we sort the wheat from the chaff, so make sure your managers are the former, rather than the latter, or you will have greater problems down the line.

This doesn’t mean big management and leadership training programmes. You can run a highly impactful and interactive webcast, having managers practice these skills on mass, to provide competence and confidence in something they have likely never dealt with before.

Just like in the pandemic, learning and development now has a clear opportunity to step up and make a real difference

Taking responsibility

Just like in the pandemic, learning and development now has a clear opportunity to step up and make a real difference. This should be at the top of our priority list with a clear, concise, and agile playbook to support employees with what is becoming one of the largest crises we’ve seen in 40 years. 

One thing is clear, you cannot ignore it and you must see it as a real learning need. So, let’s become the trusted advisor we all want to be and elevate our human impact in our organisations, to help get everybody through what is likely to be a rocky few years. 

It will be much easier for all of us if we are in it together.

Interested in this topic? Read ‘What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger’  and other resilience myths.

Author Profile Picture
Erica Farmer

Co- Founder & Business Director, Digital Learning & Apprenticeship Expert, Speaker & Facilitator -

Read more from Erica Farmer

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