Employee benefits are one of the key ways companies can attract and retain prospective employees while inspiring and engaging their current workforce.
Generic employee benefits alone just won’t cut it. To have the biggest impact on the workforce and see a healthy ROI, benefits need to reflect workforce diversity and company culture. That’s the view of Sarah Robson, senior strategic consultant at Aon who says employers need to also look at specific behaviours they’re trying to change to ascertain the benefits for their specific workforce.
“Employers looking at financial wellbeing benefits for example shouldn’t just look at the market, they should look at the type of financial issues their workforce is struggling with and bring in the benefits to help with those issues,” she explains. “Maybe there is a high proportion of employees struggling with debt or those needing help making their money go further.”
So how do employers go about finding out about the benefits that their employees actually want? We asked Sarah Robson for her top tips...
Ask your employees about themselves
Unless your employees are experts, they won’t know which employee benefits are available to them. Instead, ask what issues they might be struggling with in terms of their health, finances and personal and family life. Ask them what their life looks like and how they’d like it to be. Look at who your employees are, what they do and what might excite them. Do a proportion of the workforce go to a gym? Would a gym discount be valuable to them? Do some struggle with debt, would they value financial education/wellness benefit?
Use different ways to measure employee preferences
Use a mix of listening tools including surveys and focus groups. Pulse surveys in particular, which ask quick, straight-forward questions. They go out regularly and can be great at tracking performance as well as the general mood of the workforce with one or two simple questions like: “How are you feeling today? Happy, OK or Sad?”
Traditional surveys with more in-depth questions, can make better use of data to build a bigger picture of workforce needs and preferences over a long period of time.
In addition, randomly selecting employees to take part in focus groups can help get a broad range of views and really drill down into employees’ needs, expectations and preferences.
Use your data
Most employers have a rich wealth of employee data from employee demographics to health conditions to personal circumstances. This data can be easily utilised to identify which benefits would be relevant – and useful – to the most people. Supplier data can be tapped into too in terms of employee interaction, number of calls to the supplier and the type of questions which are asked.
And don’t ignore take-up data
A proportion of employees may say they want help with childcare but the take up of existing childcare benefits may actually be quite low. It might be due to a lack of benefit promotion or because employees not appreciating the benefit’s value in the first place. Employers can then ask staff directly with a use-it-or-lose-it mindset if they still want the benefit and if it’s still meaningful to them.
Give employees several benefit options
Instead of asking employees outright, give employees four or five benefit options to choose from, asking them, ‘which of the following would have the most appeal?’ Employers can then follow up with communications with a strong message behind it: “We’ve listened to you and this is what we’re now implementing”.
Benchmark your company offering
Specialist tools like the Aon Benefits Score can create a benchmarking report which pulls together a large range of data. Including company benefits, how they are communicated, spending patterns to compare it against competitor and industry data with a consultative view giving an overall score out of 100. This score is then benchmarked against the industry average and provides tips and recommendations on the areas that can be improved on.
Employers need to pre-empt what their workforce of the future might look like and what they might need. As business strategies change, so too will future skillsets and the overall employee demographic. Changes in how businesses are run will require a different type of person with different needs and expectations. So put a strategy in place now for where you see your business heading in the future. For example, if you’re a financial services company but your business strategy is to be tech-focused in the next 5-10 years, perhaps start benchmarking and forecasting in the tech space. This is where the talent pool for your future business sits.
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