Benefits For Every Employee & Every Budget
by Anne Lawson
Creating a benefit package that differentiates your business and motivates your employees to go that extra mile has become increasingly challenging.
The Aberdeen workforce is now comprised of the multi-generational baby boomers, generations X, Y and Z and millennials - and the conundrum for employers is based on expectation and engagement.
The way we all engage with benefits is changing, and what we look for from an employer of choice is changing too. That makes it tough to define what a good benefits package is – it is different to each individual but a "good" benefits package is one that touches you and gives you a corporate cuddle.
Someone with a young family may be looking for the traditional protection benefits that employers offer, but millennials and generation Z - the 'digitally native' employees - will love you funding Spotify or Netflix. And all employees enjoy the odd bagel or pizza treat, of course.
To deliver an engaging benefit proposition that demonstrates your organisational culture and makes you an employer of choice, you must make your benefit proposition all about the employee.
We all engage when it is all about me.
We all engage when it's all about me, if benefits are focused on:
- My financial health
- My physical health, and
- My mental wellbeing
You've got my attention, I am now at the centre of the benefits programme, and I'm in control.
What does the 'Me' benefits culture mean?
My financial health:
We all need to feel secure, and our financial health is critical to our security.
Security means different things to different people. It may be saving for the future, it could be protection on death or illness, or it could be access to affordable loans. Helping employees with travel to work assistance, even a car discount scheme, or a discount platform.
We are all different and we need access to different benefits at different stages of our lives.
Every employer must offer a workplace pension, but with local employer contributions broadly ranging from between 4-25% - and varying levels of employer communication around the value of the workplace pension - not all pension schemes are equal.
Traditional protection benefits also have their place, but do the individuals in your business know what happens to their nearest and dearest if something happens to them? They need to understand how these benefits will touch their lives to appreciate their value.
The financial wellbeing common core benefits we see locally are typically 4 X salary death benefits, 50% salary continuation and 1 X salary critical illness.
Financial education never goes amiss – whether it's understanding credit cards and mortgages or taper relief on pensions. When delivered by the employer, employees are reassured due diligence has been done, and the information can be trusted.
A discounted car scheme or a season ticket loan, and affordable loans by payroll deduction all have their place to help us save some money. However, probably the most popular we see is discounted cinema tickets - often giving a saving of 55%+.
My physical health
The traditional Private Medical Cover (PMI) - often referred to as BUPA (although other providers are available!) - is great for the big-ticket health issues. But a Health Cash Plan, covering your specs or contact lenses and some dental care and physio, can be used by almost everyone.
Keeping healthy is just as important - so a sports massage, bikes to work, or subsidised gym membership appeals across the age groups.
Preventative measures such as knowing your blood pressure, cholesterol, BMI and even your 'health age' are all great benefits - and 'my employer cares' is the message it radiates. As the adage goes, prevention is better than cure.
The norm locally is employer-funded PMI for employees, with subsidised costs for adding family. Health screening - or 'knowing your numbers' - is getting more common, and we usually see a health cash plan, bikes to work, flu jabs, and gym offered as well.
My mental wellbeing
Stress is brought on by a myriad of factors, but many of the causes can be supported and helped from within the workplace - and many organisations are beginning to differentiate themselves by focusing on this element of the "Me" benefits culture.
Whether it's your Employee Assistance Programme offering advice or some counselling or perhaps training a Mental Health First Aider - so your staff know who to speak to confidentially - there's a greater focus on supporting your employees with issues that can often lead to mental health concerns.
There are some good local market-leading initiatives in what is very much a fledgling area, but for those employers who genuinely engage, they can create the benchmark and set themselves apart.
Financial education to help with financial worries, a structured and communicated development and training programme to address career concerns, or even relaxation and meditation to help you relax - when combined with a comprehensive benefit programme, these deliver real value to individuals and employers alike.
We know from our own lives that work, relationships and money worries are all key contributors to our mental wellbeing. Employers can offer support in all of these areas.
Communication and understanding make a benefits programme work - and that takes time, planning and some innovation as the multigenerational workforce is receptive to different messages and messaging, from paper lovers to the app culture.
Communication is the glue that keeps it all together.
It is critical that every employee understands how benefits will touch their lives to appreciate their value. You can offer every benefit available, but if your staff don't understand what's on offer, don't engage nor value the benefits, you are simply spending money for no return.
The return on investment in employee benefits is discretionary effort - your staff going that extra mile, above and beyond. Driving as much discretionary effort as possible should be every employer's goal as all discretionary effort improves the bottom line through productivity, profitability and business success.
Flex Benefit Schemes
Most benefit packages are still designed by baby boomers, but the benefits need to engage with at least five generations of workers. So, to get it all to work we recommend Flex Benefit Schemes which require:
- Multi-channel delivery
Choosing from the suite of benefits discussed above - benefits that suit personal lifestyles and are accessible via a medium that is appealing, whether that's
apps, digital media, video or paper - communication delivers engagement and ownership.
Personal ownership drives engagement and discretionary effort.
Wrap all these benefits up with a Total Reward Statement that details the value of the employee's total remuneration, and the benefits start delivering a powerful message.
Finally, we shouldn't forget about having fun.
Over the past decade Aberdeen has been at the forefront of developments that addressed the work/life balance conundrum - a good example is the compressed fortnight. Every second Friday off was a genuine innovation, but what now?
Elsewhere, we are starting to see contracts with no fixed hours. You do the job when you want, where you want and when it suits your lifestyle. Studies have shown that these employees work more hours than standard contracted workers, are happier and deliver more discretionary effort. Agile working is here to stay.
Then there's always the office dog, unlimited office food, and funded Spotify allowing you to stream to your heart's content.
The world of benefits is changing fast. You need to review what you offer to stay current and drive that all-important return on investment.
It's not all about a big budget spend. A Health Cash Plan costs as little as £1 per week, and funded Spotify is £10 a month – think about the return on investment these would drive for your business.
A question for you – are you personally engaged with your benefits? If not, what do you need to change? If you're not engaged, are your staff, and if not, how does that reflect on your leadership team?
This blog post is an extract from Thorpe Molloy Recruitment's North East Salary Guide.