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Five ways to explore what benefits your employees really want





Posted by Sarah Lardner on 18 June 2019

Five ways to explore what benefits your employees really want

Benefits audit | Benefits intelligence | Employee engagement | Engagement

As you are almost certainly already aware, the landscape of managing employee benefits has changed significantly over the past few years. Historically, most businesses adopted the paternalistic model of benefit provision, which was built around a defined benefit pension with life and death in service insurances generally built-in; perhaps an annual review of private medical insurance for certain groups of senior staff and keeping your company car provision on track.

This was a time when benefits were something that was ‘done to’ the employees with minimal consultation except for the occasional round of negotiations with the unions, and debate with the salesforce about why the top of the range Audi was not a standard offering.

With the changes to company pension models, shifting the risk from the company to the employee, and the differing needs we now understand apply across diverse workforces, ensuring that the benefits offering is appropriate is an ongoing challenge.

In order to understand what benefits you should be offering your employees, it is no longer sufficient to provide a one-size fits all package and expect it to be valued (no matter how many elements you have in your flex-ben scheme).

Your employees are modern consumers who expect both choice and real flexibility.  So, the question becomes, how do you determine what is right for them?

Employee Survey

It’s obvious, but an employee survey is a very effective way to find out what your employees want.  However, there are a few points to note before launching the survey. Many surveys follow the model of asking employees which benefits they would like to be offered, in order of preference, to establish what the plan should contain. In principle, this seems like a sensible route to follow – the benefits are for the employees, after all, so understanding what they would like should be a high priority. This style of survey often has a high response rate, but the results should be viewed with caution. When designing a survey, the focus should be on what benefits employees would actually use, rather than what they would like, as if uptake is low or non-existent, the benefit isn’t really a benefit at all.

Focus Groups

These are an ideal way of understanding what employees want provided they are a true reflection of the workforce.  They meet regularly, allowing you to test ideas before launching a new benefit or designing the most effective communication mechanism. A number of organisations will also have specific staff groups that operate to support diversity within the workforce, and these can provide additional and sometimes surprising insights on how to develop your benefits package. For example, if a particular benefit is not working for all or some staff, or needs improvement, this can be adjusted based upon feedback from the staff group. 

Ongoing Employee Feedback

Establishing a mechanism that allows employees to give ongoing feedback and suggestions for improvement is a great way to ensure your benefit offering is on track and it can also be a useful tool for engaging with employees.  The only note of caution here is that if you are going to be ask employees for regular feedback you need to be able to demonstrate that you are responding to their input.

Interviews with Joiners/Leavers

As Reward colleagues we are constantly showered with information on the latest innovations in benefit provision and delivery, and while we may get excited by some new development it’s easy to get carried away by our own enthusiasm.  A great source of information on market trends can be gleaned from a few pertinent questions to both joiners and leavers.  For both groups you can ask questions along the lines of ‘what appealed to you about your new employer's benefit package’.  With new joiners you can ask if there were any benefits their previous employer provided that we don’t. 

Work with Resourcing

One of the best sources of information on the effectiveness of any element of a Reward package comes from the Resourcing team. As they tend to take a very pro-active approach on the salary levels for recruitment, they can also give insights on how potential new hires view the benefit offering: Do they understand it? Do they value it? Do they currently have a benefit that we don’t offer?

The key theme in Reward over the last decade has been the design of a package that attracts and retains talent in your organisation.  The best way to test the attraction part of that statement is through the Resourcing team, working with Reward to develop ways to establish that link between the Reward offering and the recruitment of talent.

To discuss how reward can benefit your business, email me at or call 020 3457 0894.

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