The days of employers choosing the benefits that accompany an employee’s basic salary are long gone.
Instead, the pressure is on companies to come up with bespoke plans that match an individual’s particular aspirations or life stage.
Some 82% of jobseekers surveyed for The Importance of Flexible Benefits (Adecco Group 2014) claimed they would turn down a position if it lacked an attractive benefits package. Meanwhile, 66% of employees polled for Capita’s Employee Insight Report in 2015 said they would be more inclined to stay with an employer if they provided appealing benefits.
Improved benefits are being fuelled by an increasingly multi-generational workplace, where a one-size-fits-all approach simply will not work. Businesses are now discovering that what proves a big draw for one employee rapidly converts into an equally big turn-off for another.
Achieving that perfect balance is crucial, however, for companies looking to fulfil their strategic goals – with experts increasingly pointing to benefits as a key engagement driver for retention, reduced absenteeism and enhanced productivity.
So, how can you fulfil employee expectations without putting too much strain on your bottom line?
Get to know your staff
Learning more about your individual employees is a crucial first step to understand their favoured types of benefits. New parents, for instance, are likely to be interested in childcare vouchers or enhanced maternity/paternity leave; whereas older workers may appreciate the option of eldercare. Gym membership or entertainment vouchers are typically well received by staffers in their 20s and 30s.
Suggest the right fit
While planning for retirement is a becoming a key concern for workers, pensions are unlikely to be a priority for younger members of staff. Offering appropriate options for an employee’s life stage will help build valuable trust in your desire and ability to make a difference to their pockets right now. Key examples include Salary Sacrifice, assisted saving plans for a first home, or help with student loans.
Educate employees on the benefits
Take the time to make staff aware of the rewards that could directly make a tangible difference to them. This can easily be accomplished via group meetings, one-to-ones or even in-house competitions to publicise a new reward, and will reduce the risk of emails not being read. Make sure you break costs down and explain the tax implications that a scheme such as Salary Sacrifice could have. Always invite staff to ask for further information if they feel a benefit might be applicable to them.
Whether you’re looking to make improvements, or simply want to know how people are feeling about things, put a call out for some feedback. Make use of software to identify the cases where benefits are not being utilised and follow up with employees to find out why. This will generate some good feedback – which may signal a need for more information about what’s on offer, or that it’s time to refresh your line-up.
Think outside the box
Don’t wait for employees to ask to work from home or for more flexible hours, look at how you can improve their work/life balance before they become discontented. This will enable you to offer some appealing benefits without incurring too much expense. If you’re using a cloud-based set-up or allowing employees to log in while out of the office, this will be an easy benefit to facilitate – it’s more a case of ensuring everyone has the appropriate mindset to support this.
Don’t wait to be asked
Make a point of tracking trends to see what changes might affect the benefits that your employees want. For example, concerns about the state of the NHS, or projected pension shortfalls have brought specific issues to the fore. Your knowledge and advice could go a long way to helping employees feel more secure.
Consider your own needs
Evaluate your own goals – such as reducing absenteeism or increasing productivity levels and see how you can link them to benefits. Offering secure cycle storage or free servicing with cycle to work will be a big help to employees – but will also help improve fitness levels. Likewise, gym membership has the happy side-effect of boosting morale and health.
Use software to monitor uptake
Employee feedback is crucial for effective benefits, but HR software can also deliver some excellent tracking – such as correlating the link between certain benefits and absenteeism. Promoting employee use of the benefits system (including via a mobile app) will encourage employees to take greater ownership of their chosen benefits.