A new piece of research has pointed out what most HR and reward professionals already know - communications around benefits can be flaky. Often bureaucratic and uninspiring, materials pass employees by. Benefits providers themselves tend to keep to low-cost digital collateral. In this new study, one in five HR professionals thought their benefits communications were "terrible".
There's an underlying issue here around complacency, as most benefits packages tend to be historic, a set of offerings that employees see as the standard with no incentive for reviewing what's valued and what's important for staff. As a result there's the lack of motivation around communicating the range of benefits available.
It all matters because benefits have to prove their worth - particularly in our age of low-level pay increases - in terms of recruitment and retention of the best people. If there's no engagement with staff around benefits then there's a cycle of unimportance: employees barely notice the benefits they're getting or could be getting; employers don't know if they're providing good value, or if changes would make a difference.
The significance of the issues is multiplied in health, where the advantages to both employee and their organisation are so wide-ranging and fundamental to engagement and performance. It's critical that people make good choices for health and wellbeing and for early detetion of any issues. And also that they take advantage of everything that's on offer - when it's debatable whether they do. UK research has shown that employees typically spend an average of 11 minutes each year in making choices about their flexible benefits options.
Capita, a UK leader in business process management and outsourcing solutions, is an example of an employer who wanted to ensure its people were more aware of the health and wellbeing issues and opportunities involved - of not being one of the many ‘unworried’ but also unwell. The Health & Body ‘MOT’ campaign we ran with Capita included roadshow events at key locations, giving employees the opportunity to take part in mini-checks and challenges with Bluecrest directly; this was backed up by regular email communications, campaign web site, competitions and more traditional paper-based collateral in offices.
As a result of health promotion and roadshow events Health & Body ‘MOT’ initiative, 882 Capita employees actively signed themselves up for ongoing communications and reminders around health and wellbeing, an increase in engagement among employees of more than 200%. Numbers of staff selecting a health screening benefit has risen by 17% - and in some offices, where there had previously been low levels of engagement, rises of 30-50%. Having access to a cost-effective service has meant Capita being able to offer private healthcare to all staff - leading to higher levels of employee satisfaction.
No employer can afford to take the impact of benefits for granted. They need selling in, interpreting and explaining to employees, and that means getting them engaged, not relying on digital comms.
Peter Blencowe is Managing Director of Bluecrest Wellness, providing health and wellbeing screenings and expertise to more than 180 UK employers and 400,000 employees at firms including BT, Capita, Danone, e-on and Penguin Random House.