A smattering of EBC tips to keeping staff happy at a time when many might be looking elsewhere
January - a time when some employees get itchy feet - is a chance that employers often take to promote their employee benefits programmes to remind staff why they are so lucky to work for their company.
However, it can be disheartening when new benefits programmes get a lacklustre response from staff.
Brett Hill, distribution director at Towergate Health and Protection, said: "Employee benefits play an important role in the recruitment and retention of staff. However, businesses can fall at the first hurdle, by making a few easy mistakes that can result in benefits programmes not being engaged with. By listening to what employees want to see from benefits packages, aligning to their needs where possible and communicating it effectively - programmes are much more likely to see better uptake rates, and so provide better overall value to the business."
Towergate Health and Protection has highlighted five key mistakes that businesses make when implementing new benefits packages.
1. Failing to consult employees in advance
The employee benefits consultancy (EBC) suggested that it is important to consult with employees before the renewal of employee benefits packages. "Businesses can make assumptions that they know what employees want, particularly for smaller companies where relationships may be closer, but it's generally better to ask," it said. "That's not to say businesses will be cajoled into offering the most expensive benefits, but they may be surprised to learn what employees really appreciate, which might well be relatively low-cost but high-value perks, such as some flexibility in working hours, discounted gym membership or cashplans."
2. Not communicating regularly
Towergate Health and Protection said it can be tempting to give employees access to all the information about benefits and leave them to it, however this can be "overwhelming" and can lead to a lack of engagement.
"For businesses that have consulted employees about what they want from benefits packages, it's important that they explain they've been chosen a result of feedback, and this can gain immediate interest when they're promoted"
It said "drip-feeding" information throughout the year can help encourage utilisation. "For instance, linking in with key calendar dates - such as highlighting gym membership in January, a cycle-to-work scheme in the spring, discounted travel insurance in the summer."
3. Making aged-based assumptions
Assuming that older workers are interested in financial benefits, such as group life assurance, while younger employee perks such as fresh fruit Fridays, can be "wildly inaccurate" and can "alienate" employees, Towergate Health & Protection argued. "While having a general overview of the demographics of an organisation is important, relying on age generalisations within this should be avoided. Instead, understanding what an employer's particular demographic would like to see from a benefits programme can often be much more valuable, and help employees relate to the benefits on offer."
4. Distributing complex communications
"Employees are going to struggle to engage with a benefits package that comes with a hefty user manual," it said. The employee benefits distributor added it is better to keep information about benefits "simple and informative".
"Employees are much more likely to engage with benefits that are easy to use and understand; anything else risks feeling more hassle than worth. Simple, clear, plain-English information about what the benefit is, and how to access it, is a great place to start."
5. Not being compatible with technology
Basic platforms and media to meet the expectations of staff today can greatly improve uptake, Towergate Health & Protection pointed out.
"From employee benefit programmes that link up with smart watches so employees can earn rewards as they exercise, to having mental health apps available 24/7 to support wellbeing - staff expect technology to complement employee benefits."
With employees able to utilise benefits ‘on the go' - during a work commute or downtime at the weekend - technology can offer flexibility, while easy access to total reward statements online are often a useful engagement enhancement and retention tool.
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