The future workforce: align your employee benefits to workers’ shifting attitudes
Don't let your employee benefits offering lose touch with what your people actually want.
The workplace is ever-evolving – and at a far greater pace today than we’ve ever seen before, as are the motivations and priorities of the UK workforce.
As we speed towards the end of one decade and into the next, UK workers are increasingly challenged to balance, and integrate, working roles, family commitments and personal lives.
This blurring of the personal and professional means the definition of ‘employee benefits’ is far broader and more individual. A ‘one size fits all’ approach to reward and retention is becoming obsolete, if it isn’t already.
So here are five key ways to future-proof your employee benefits plan for shifting worker expectations, according to Unum’s Future Workforce research.
1. Empower employees to work flexibly
Consider trialling new technologies to enable different ways of working. A desire for flexibility in the workplace is one of the most prevalent trends among UK workers. Over three-quarters (77%) of employees surveyed in Unum’s Future Workforce report consider workplace flexibility to be ‘very important’.
Social changes are having a significant impact on this shift. As we live longer, there are growing numbers of people in the ‘sandwich generation’ who are balancing raising their children with caring for ageing parents. These workers are particularly likely to value flexibility as a way to manage work commitments with obligations in their personal lives.
Lots of UK businesses are implementing increasingly flexible working thanks to technology that enables the anywhere office, but more can be done to attract and retain the best talent in the wake of these new worker expectations.
True flexibility goes beyond providing the infrastructure for employees to work remotely – it must be baked into the culture of an organisation, and espoused by management.
Ensure that managers and decision makers are aware of the benefits of flexible working, for employees and employers – and that all personal commitments are treated equally.
2. Offer benefits that can provide financial support for workers and their families
Many employees, especially those of the sandwich generation, are carrying more financial burdens than previous generations. They regard financial security as a priority due to work and life pressures and need employee benefits that offer support in unforeseen circumstances.
Income protection can provide a financial benefit and rehabilitation support if an employee is unable to work because of long-term illness or injury, which may be even more crucial with more family members depending on their incomes.
Critical illness cover pays a tax-free lump sum directly to an employee should they suffer a qualified critical illness, like cancer, and life insurance is cover put in place to help families cope financially should an employee die.
These additional financial benefits can provide your employees additional financial support and peace of mind for those relying on them financially.
3. Among all the artificial intelligence, don’t lose sight of the people
Technology is a double-edged sword, making our day-to-day tasks quicker and simpler, while ensuring our leisure time is being eroded by business connectivity.
Importantly, when Unum evaluated what people want most at work, there was only one component that sat between financial reward (number one), and flexibility (number three) - a good relationship with their manager.
The importance workers place on their manager highlights that some of the biggest benefits of the workplace valued by the employee aren’t just the tangible ones.
This is a timely reminder that whatever advances AI and technology bring, they will also ultimately increase the value of the skills that are uniquely human. As more operations and tasks are taken care of by automation, people become the biggest competitive advantage and differentiation.
4. Support training and reskilling initiatives
Particularly those that allow employees to tailor their work to match the demands created by different life stages and events.
Almost three-quarters of UK workers say they want to continue learning new things in their older years, and two-thirds expect to keep working because they want to.
These are ‘self-fulfilled workers’ – a group of people who thrive on change and prioritise building diverse skills and lifelong learning, rather than a more traditional career path.
With this in mind, employers should enable workers to pursue this by offering lifelong learning benefits. These include opportunities to retrain or reskill, grants for training outside of work, reverse mentoring to nurture innovation and programmes that allow workers to try different roles within the organisation.
You’ll be more likely to increase retention by supporting your lifelong learners.
5. Plan for workers to leave your company to pursue personal ambitions or fulfil life commitments – but leave the door open for a return.
Stay in touch with ex-workers or alumni, and invite them to apply for roles that play to their skillsets and subsequent personal or professional development.
By leaving the door open for a return at different life stages, you’ll benefit from the fruits of a base of workers knowledgeable about your business, but whose motivations might have shifted.
Rethinking your benefits offering is business critical
Updating your benefits plan now is essential to staying relevant in the war for talent. The business prepared to implement the necessary changes will be rewarded with greater worker loyalty and productivity, and will be seen as the employer of choice for the future workforce.
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Liz Walker is the HR Director of Unum, a leading employee benefits provider offering Income Protection, Life insurance and Critical Illness, and corporate dental cover through the workplace, which help protect millions of working people and their families in the event of an illness or injury.