Written by Melanie Hearse, this article first appeared in HRD Asia in 2022.
Aon has released its 2022 APAC Employee Benefit Trends Report, where it revealed employers’ top challenges and priorities in regard to benefits. It found that rising costs, insufficient data and the need for more flexibility were among key concerns for employers – but according to Aon’s study, too few respondents had a benefits strategy to address these concerns.
HRD Asia sat down with Rice Loh, Aon’s Head of Total Benefits Advisory & Management, Asia to talk about why it’s crucial for organisations to ensure employee benefits packages are flexible – and how to remain competitive in a tight labour market.
While benefits packages used to be a one-size-fits-all scenario, the work and lifestyle changes brought about by the pandemic have significantly changed what employees value. Aon’s 2022 Employee Benefit Trends Report shows that employees’ new set of wellbeing requirements focus on flexibility.
“The pandemic forced people to adopt a more flexible approach to work. Employees are now wanting the same rules to apply – and this extends to benefits,” says Rice Loh.
Aon’s data shows the traditional or static benefit offerings no longer suffice, and employers need to be nimble, flexible, and personalise the benefits plan that they provide for employees. Such an approach can also help employers ensure their offering is inclusive and relevant to all members of staff – not just the majority.
Loh says there are several steps to ensuring you get it right for your workforce.
1. Employ the right delivery mode
“People do everything online – particularly from their phones. Employees value, if not expect, to be able to access, manage and monitor their benefits package this way too,” Loh says.
Employees favour mobile apps that are easily installed, require no training to use, and make it simple to see their benefits at a glance and manage their package on the go.
Not only can a smart solution improve benefit awareness and uptake by providing a clear and engaging interface, it can also support employees’ ability to self-serve when presented with flexible benefit plans.
2. Data can help you get it right
As every workforce and employee is different, step one is to assess if you have the right policies, attitudes, and actions in place to support people’s wellbeing and foster their resilience. Every organisation holds valuable data about employees – their age, address, salary, leave entitlements (such as parental or sick leave), and the insurance or wellbeing benefits they have access to as part of their employment contract. This data alone can help employers understand and better address employees’ needs. However, combined with other data sources, such as anonymised employee satisfaction survey results, health insurance claims data and industry benchmarks, this data can be aggregated and analysed to reveal, for example, which benefits are valued and used by which kinds of employees, gaps in insurance cover, areas of unnecessary spend, or usage trends that would otherwise take years to notice.
With better visibility into employee preferences and behaviour, and how benefits, health and business outcomes may be inter-related, employers can make informed decisions about which benefits to offer and where to focus their attention. “As the world’s second largest insurance broker and a leading consultant to CEOs and HR professionals, Aon has a wealth of health, remuneration, wellbeing and other data that can be broken into subsets to gain a clear picture of what your workforce would likely value,” Loh says.
Employee benefit portals and digital applications should also be able to provide a solid means of obtaining a centralised view of employee health data.
“The right solution can also benefit employers, feeding information back to them as detailed insights into which benefits are being utilised, and what is missing the mark. This makes it easy to keep refining your offering over time – to keep engagement high, and costs low,” she says.
3. Keep an eye on the current workplace environment and wider events
Loh says subsidised day care and gym memberships went from hugely popular ‘must haves’ to largely unutilised during lockdowns when work from home policies were in place. This is a great example of how current events can swiftly change what employees get value from, highlighting the need for a benefits package that is nimble and flexible.
Different ages and life stages can also trigger a change in what an employee values from a benefits package on a more individual scale, again making flexible – and self-manageable packages, ever more important.
COVID has created some lasting changes to how we work, and what employees value. Ensuring your benefits offering is flexible, personalised and easy to self-manage is key to remaining competitive.