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No Limits: What will help engage your team in your workplace pension, savings, and financial education initiatives.

By Charlie Goodman, Partner

No Limits: What will help engage your team in your workplace pension, savings, and financial education initiatives.

By Charlie Goodman, Partner

Were you ever called “big boned” as a kid? I certainly was.

Despite playing every sport under the sun pretty much daily, I was always the big slow one trailing at the back as we ran round the rugby pitches. Useful in the scrum but never a runner, I always tried, which led me to enter the 1500m race at the school’s sports day.

Taking it into extra time, I kept everyone there for at least a further 5 minutes than they were expecting, crossing the line to a rousing reception of a collective sigh of relief that they could finally go home. It seemed to be the natural end of my running career.

Over a decade goes by, sport falls by the wayside, smoking and drinking replace it, and during a drunken night with friends, I’m convinced to sign up for the Windsor half marathon. Nine months later, and I’m crossing that finish line, foolishly wearing a business suit, shirt, and tie, coming in ten minutes under the two-hour mark.

What changed? My mind.

The morning after I’d drunkenly accepted we were laughing about the thought of me, the overweight chain smoking, non runner doing this half marathon. But a chance encounter with a mate who was a personal trainer proved a turning point. She started quizzing me on how I was preparing for this race, and I found myself recounting my 1500m story and many more, as to why this was all a bit of a joke. And it was no surprise to me I wasn’t any good I went on.

I don’t come from a family of athletes or sports people. Sure dad watched cricket and football, but neither him, mum, my brother, or my sister actively played or did any serious exercise. She asked me if I’d tried running since I signed up. Well my friends had invited me to run 5k with them, and I’d barely made a kilometre, before I was spluttering out, and I walked most of the rest of the way with a stitch.It was then she suggested a mobile app.

And this app designed me a training plan based on when the race was being run and how many days I thought I could train. Day 1 it literally asked me to run for 10 minutes. And it broke down those 10 minutes into a walking, slightly jogging, jogging, and a short burst of running. It was so easy I thought it was useless. But I didn’t stop for a minute whilst doing it, unlike my previous attempt at a 5k. The first week followed the same pattern, apart from Sunday when it challenged me to my “long run” and I did 20 minutes, walking, jogging, running.

Over the following weeks, the session time gradually increased, while the walking sections gradually decreased. Soon I could do 5k jogging without stopping. I felt like running with my friends which was fun. And before I knew it I was no longer at the back but running up at the front.  Six months and I’m finishing a half marathon under two hours having not been able to solidly run for 10 minutes. Which suggests it was always possible, I just didn’t believe and couldn’t imagine it was. Because I’d always been told I wasn’t the type, I’d not got a role model to follow, and the evidence that presented it when I tried to run only re-enforced this both internally and externally.

The reason I first became interested in what we now call financial wellbeing and left my potentially far more lucrative career as a financial adviser was my experience at a large insurance company in the City. Similar to what we do now, I’d carried out a pension presentation to educate the employees about the benefits of their workplace pension scheme. And the benefits of their workplace pension were good, they received a 10% employer contribution without having to make one themselves.

This was before automatic enrolment so they needed to sign up for it, but their employer paid for us to give them 1 to 1 advice. Yet still around 10% of employees failed to sign up.

Why did this happen?

I understand now that for many it wasn’t too dissimilar to the reasons I didn’t think I would ever be a runner, and the reasons we still hear from employees in the workplace now as to why they will never be good with or engaged with their money.

“I’ve never been good at maths or with numbers”

“I’ve made mistakes with money in the past and got myself into debt or trouble”

“My parents / grandparents / family members lost their pension so it’s a waste of time”

“I will never be able to afford to retire”

There are many more but this gives you a flavour of the common ones.  These are examples of what coaches and psychologists call limiting beliefs, a state of mind or belief about yourself that restricts you in some way. For me these stopped me from finding out I was good and enjoyed running until I was nearly 30.

For your employees, it’s stopping them from engaging with your most expensive employee benefit, the financial education you might have put in place, and sorting out their finances both now and for their future. I often joke that there’s lots of great information and education freely available on the internet from the government’s Money Helper website to things you’ll find on your pension provider’s websites.

So in my opinion before you increase contributions, put in workplace savings or payroll lending, or run a pension presentation – you need to help your team address these limiting beliefs so they can find their motivation to actively engage with them.

And of course, here at the Employee Benefits Collective, we’ll be happy to help them do that.

Then give them the structure to succeed.

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