Following the spirit of making resolutions to better ourselves as individuals for 2019, there’s also an opportunity for HR to get their house in order. And one place to start is by reviewing benefits packages. If benefits aren't being utilised, they are wasting valuable time and money, and won’t be doing what they were designed to do – to reward, engage and motivate staff. So, we’ve come up with a top five list of ways to get benefits back on track for 2019:
- Conduct an audit
As arduous as this may sound, businesses aren’t going to understand the true landscape of their current benefits packages unless they conduct an audit. By finding out what benefits are valued, and those that are not utilised, businesses can make a sound decision about what to keep and what to refresh. It may also mean that communications around benefits needs to improve, if staff simply aren’t aware what is available.
At a time of year when competitors are primed to take on staff that are ready to jump ship, not showcasing full remuneration packages can make employees feel undervalued and their decision to leave even easier. So, it’s important that staff fully understand what is on offer to them - giving them a stronger reason to stay.
- Review the demographics
Benefits that may not have initially appealed to a predominantly young and single workforce a decade ago may suddenly take on a new meaning if their personal circumstances have changed. Group life assurance for example, may now be of interest to employees that have dependants in a way that wouldn’t have been previously. So, it’s important to keep communicating benefits effectively, to ensure information reaches people at different life stages - but also assess whether the demographics have shifted so much that a complete overhaul is required.
One of the most important elements when reviewing a workforce demographic however is not to make assumptions based on factors such as age, gender and life stage. Assumptions can be inaccurate – such as the generalisation that the older people in a workforce are more interested in looking after their financial health, and a younger workforce will only be interested in discounted gym membership – which are unlikely to true across the board. Therefore, engaging with employees and finding out what they want to see from a benefits package can help circumvent this potential issue – making targeting much more effective.
Ordering an online shopping delivery, learning a new language, or brushing up on mindfulness techniques can all be done from a mobile phone during a morning commute. Technology has transformed the way we lead our lives and employees expect sound technology to back up initiatives they engage with. The same can be said for employee benefits. Rather than having to wade through a stack of paper to change pension contributions, it can now be done with the click of a button. Online benefits portals, that can be used anytime, anywhere, can greatly increase employees’ likelihood of engaging with benefits – as they can do it at their leisure.
The added advantages are that it streamlines metrics for HR too – making it instantly accessible to review take-up rates and engagement levels, to establish whether initiatives have been a success. It’s important both HR and employees alike know how to engage with the technology implemented though, or it could act as a barrier to take-up rates.
As HR professionals are always being asked to do more for less, it’s crucial that benefits are producing ROI or they risk wasting time and money.
One often overlooked solution is to ensure that benefits aren’t being doubled up. For instance, employee assistance programmes can be included at no extra cost within group protection products (employer-sponsored income protection, life assurance, critical illness), and they’re also available standalone. Therefore, it makes financial sense to look at what’s included in the benefits offered already, to ensure there’s no crossover and they’re not being paid for twice.
Another solution is to ensure that employees are fully aware of what is on offer to them. Reviewing communications, to check that emails are being opened and read for example, is one way to find out how effective outreach is. Refreshing communications could then help to reach an audience, not previously engaged in employee benefits.
Ask the experts
With so many different products on the market, with varying T&Cs attached, trying to establish a robust benefits package can be a minefield. Cash plans, private healthcare, employee assistance programmes, financial solutions can differ hugely from provider to provider. The employee benefits market doesn’t stand still either and new concepts are being developed all the time. Consider drafting in experts, who can use their extensive knowledge of the market and products to create a tailored plan suitable for each organisation. At a time when employees may be tempted to jump ship, it’s important HR ensures its benefits are on track to help engage and retain its workforce, and experts can provide advice on how to do just this.
Brett Hill is Managing Director of The Health Insurance Group, a position he has held since 2015 following two years as Commercial Director and four years as Sales and Marketing Director. Brett’s career spans 20 years, working in technical and senior management roles with leading insurance companies, including AXA PPP Healthcare, Standard Life Healthcare and Unum.
Brett has been responsible for charting the company’s increasing work in wellbeing and prevention, guiding clients in understanding the relationship between employee's health and business performance.