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Shaping your employee deal with benefits built for the future

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Posted by Justine Woolf on 21 July 2020

Shaping your employee deal with benefits built for the future

Benefits audit | Benefits intelligence | Employee engagement | Culture | Flexible Benefits | Employee Experience

Many of the current employee benefits trends, whilst present in the marketplace before the pandemic, have recently risen to the fore as a result and for the most part, even if life does return to some level of pre-COVID normality, will likely remain core components of the employee deal. The impact of Covid-19 and a move to home working has created many opportunities for organisations to reshape their employee deal into one that embraces technology, facilitates increased levels of personalisation, has a ‘social purpose’, extends to the contingent workforce and is more holistic, covering financial, mental, physical and social elements of wellbeing. If you are looking to enhance your employee deal by elevating your benefits, here are a few factors that make a benefits package stand out from the crowd.

Embraces technology
Although comprehensive, many benefits programmes are underutilised as they are not communicated or managed effectively. Often left to languish on intranet sites or communicated annually as part of a benefits window, there is a missed opportunity to use technology via mobile apps to encourage increased take up, use push notifications and monitor usage to ensure best ROI. Enabling single sign on also helps employees avoid signing into multiple different platforms if benefits are procured via different suppliers. There is a real opportunity to use technology to provide a connected & curated deal that also delivers a broader employee value proposition by including not just benefits but recognition and communication in one place, driving up all round employee engagement. 

Facilitates increased levels of personalisation
The one size fits all approach of benefits whilst simpler to operate and administer, suggests that all employees value the same things. With 5 generations of employee in the workforce, the need to diversify and offer a range of options that appeal to each stage in the lifecycle not only sures better employee take up but also better ROI, ensuring you are not paying for benefits employees don’t want or value. This doesn’t necessarily mean implementing a full flexible benefits programme – there are options that enable employees to procure benefits themselves that are meaningful e.g. providing a budget to use with a wellbeing supplier means that employees can choose classes and options that suit them. Likewise, providing a budget that can be used for personal development or a subscription of choice means that whether gaming, music or reading is your thing, employees can choose a benefit that is highly relevant and meaningful to them. 

Has a social purpose
Whilst many organisations offer employees access to ‘give as you earn’ or other charity related support such as matched contributions or volunteering days, they are often thought of as a separate item. The treatment of key workers during the pandemic and campaigns such as Black Lives Matter and Extinction Rebellion have brought the social conscience to the fore and many organisations are now considering what they can do to do more good and be more purposeful. Although impacting all generations, this is being driven by younger employees who will expect more of their employers. ESG statements illustrate how employers can be more purposeful but there will be increased pressure to demonstrate the good you are doing for society and enabling employees to contribute will be vital. Research shows employees who feel aligned to an organisations value set and purpose are far more likely to stay for longer. Equalisation of the deal and demonstrating green credentials e.g. facilitating options around green modes of transport, implementing green reward programmes such as Jump that provide rewards for contributing to green objectives like volunteering or fitness goals, or removing status driven benefits endorses the ‘we are all in it together’ messaging. 

Extends to contingent workforce
Many organisations rely on contractors or volunteers to supplement their workforce and provide flexibility to deliver. Traditionally however, many are given basic entitlement in terms of benefits. This creates a two tier system in treatment of employees, and with the social conscience higher on peoples agenda, especially recognising the value that many key workers brought during the pandemic, many organisations are now considering how they can better align their values to support these contingent employees through benefits. These may not necessarily be employer funded, simply extending access to things like insurances / cash plans or access to preferential corporate deals or employee discounts can help to not only provide employees with access to protection but also enhance their connectivity to the organisation. With many investors increasingly focusing on how contingent workforces are treated, there are opportunities for quick wins that can be implemented at minimal cost but deliver high levels of impact. 

Offers a holistic approach to benefits
The traditional focus of benefits packages has been financial or health related, but not necessarily focused on wellbeing in the here and now. By incorporating benefits that focus on financial, mental, physical, and social wellbeing, you can ensure your benefits package is well-rounded and tailored to the wide-ranging needs of your workers. 

Financial wellbeing
Whilst traditional financial support in form of life assurance or pension provision are still relevant, there is a recognition that there are many people in work struggling to manage their finances on a day to day basis, impacting their overall wellbeing and productivity. Supporting employees with access to support such as Employer backed loans, access to salary earned relief funds (e.g. a capped amount of salary paid early to cover emergencies), financial education, access to insurances or support with savings have become more prevalent and relevant for support overall financial wellbeing and resilience. Bearing in mind cost of living and access to housing in cities such as London, supporting employees to save for a mortgage via the government LISA scheme, rental deposit schemes, support student loan repayments or providing mortgage advice can be highly valued benefits. Other opportunities that leverage salary sacrifice arrangements such as cars or technology mean that employees can gain from the NI savings and spread payments to access high cost items that they might otherwise be unable to afford. 

Mental wellbeing
Mental wellbeing has traditionally been ‘covered’ by EAP schemes, and these have become even more relevant and valued due to the mental health challenges the pandemic has thrown up. However, employers are also looking to extend support beyond this one route to include specific grief counselling, paid for subscriptions to mindfulness apps or access to virtual 1:1 coaching. There are also gender specific targeted applications, particularly to get males to talk such as Andy’s Man club, or menopause related support for women.
  
Physical wellbeing
Physical wellbeing is moving beyond ‘going to the gym’, with lockdown accelerating cycle to work scheme take up as well as explosion in access to online support such as virtual GP’s. Many workplaces have moved inhouse classes online, such as weekly Yoga or Pilates, whilst others are providing health and nutrition workshops to promote healthy living, particularly as Diabetes and obesity remain to be not only increased factors for COVID-19 complications, but impacting longer term health of employees. 

Social wellbeing 
Social wellbeing considers the ‘whole’ employee, including the fact that their wider social and family life forms a critical part of their overall wellness. Benefits that provide support for childcare, eldercare and each stage of family life are becoming more prevalent in use, whether they are leave based or provide a specific type of support (e.g. emergency nanny / helper cover). The ability to work flexibility has clearly shifted beyond recognition due to the lockdown with many employers and end employees now expecting a fundamental shift in working patterns. Whilst some organisations are looking to save costs by closing offices, others are reconciling the need to balance increased working from home with the need to reduce isolation and increase social interaction measures to ensure team cohesion. For some this might mean requirements to meet regularly or changing the layout of office space to encourage collaboration / less formal desk-based working. Some are considering home working allowances to cover costs such as utilities / furniture or move to a more flexible office entirely, using coworking spaces instead of physical offices. Offering IT and security support not just to employees but also extending to families can ensure that best practice in safe internet use is embedded beyond the employee. 

If you would like to discuss your employee benefits offering in more detail, please get in touch with us today. You can call us on +44 (0)20 3457 0894 or email justine.woolf@innecto.com

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