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Institute for Employment Studies final evaluation report - What Works Fund

Evidence type: Evaluation i

Description of the programme

In January 2017, the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) and Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) launched the IES/CIPD financial wellbeing practical guide for employers. The guide is designed to help promote and guide effective employer actions in supporting their employees’ development. CIPD launched theirs aimed primarily at the Human Resources (HR) sector.

The IES What Works Fund (WWF) project worked with two large public sector organisations, based in England and Wales to test the key delivery stages of the guidance to a diverse range of employees.

The project aimed to:

  • Build a business case within each organisation for supporting employee financial wellbeing;
  • Assess the level of support needed by employees through the launch of a baseline employee survey;
  • Assess the effectiveness of actions taken by looking at before and after observations through a follow-up employee survey and interviews conducted in early 2018.

The study

The key research objectives for the evaluation were to measure whether the stages of the IES/CIPD practical tool were effective in helping to promote and guide effective employer actions in supporting employee financial wellbeing by:

  • Helping organisations to build the business case for supporting employee financial well-being;
  • Helping employers to assess their employees’ case for support and key variations in those needs across their employee population;
  • Taking the most appropriate and effective action to improve employee financial well-being.

The evaluation included:

  • Quantitative baseline surveys with employees (333 and 748 online responses achieved across the two organisations respectively) conducted in Summer 2017;
  • In-depth interviews (during September 2017 and April 2018) with five senior stakeholders from across the two organisations;
  • A quantitative follow-up survey with employees from one organisation (200 online responses achieved) conducted in January 2018;
  • Follow-up in-depth interviews conducted by telephone with eight employees participating in actions across both organisations.

In addition, organisation 1 ran a series of employee roadshows in September 2017 to improve awareness of existing employee benefits which support financial wellbeing. Organisation 2 ran pensions sessions between March and April 2018 aimed at employees thinking about retirement.

Key findings

  • Making the well-evidenced links between improved financial wellbeing and improvements in productivity, employee engagement and improved corporate social responsibility can help to capture senior interest and buy-in.
  • The employee surveys were an effective tool to assess employee needs for support. The results highlighted needs within both organisations for support of their employees’ financial wellbeing by identifying areas where employees may benefit from support, information and guidance. The results were also useful in helping them to get initiatives off the ground, and subsequently to build a more strategic and impactful approach.
  • Over half of the employees at both organisations agreed that there was a role for their employer to provide financial support and guidance in the workplace. One quarter of employees in the baseline surveys felt that employers did not have a role in this area, however, this had reduced to one-fifth in the follow-up survey at organisation 2.
  • At organisation 1, there was a significant increase in employee awareness of three particular employee benefits showcased at the roadshows, suggesting that the roadshows had a positive impact of increasing awareness.
    • There was a 31 percentage point increase in the number of employees who were aware the organisation offered a salary sacrifice scheme for‘Cycle to Work’ (from 51 per cent to 82 per cent);
    • There was a 16 percentage point increase in the number of employees who were aware the organisation offered a voluntary employee benefits discount scheme (via Edenred) (from 60 per cent to 76 per cent);
    • There was a 9 percentage point increase in the number of employees that were aware the organisation offered an interest free loan to purchase a season ticket (from 64 per cent to 73 per cent).
  • At organisation 2, qualitative interviews with employees concluded that the pension sessions were useful for confirming understanding of pensions in general, though the scope to build on these sessions through the facilitation of more personalised and tailored information sessions on a one-to-one basis was identified.

Points to consider

Methodological strengths and limitations:

  • There is a risk that those employees who participated in the survey are more engaged in their financial wellbeing than those who do not participate and therefore do not represent the majority of the workforce.
  • Slightly different questions were asked at the start and end of the intervention so caution must be exercised when making comparisons to the baseline.


  • This report is relevant to all stakeholders and policymakers with an interest in improving employee financial wellbeing, and particularly to employers who wish to offer similar schemes in their organisations.

Generalisability/ transferability:

  • The research is drawn from one industry sector. Therefore its findings cannot be readily generalised to the rest of the UK workforce without further research.

Full report

Institute for Employment Studies final evaluation report - full report

Key info

Client group
Measured outcomes
Programme delivered by
Institute for Employment Studies
Year of publication
England & Wales