Following on from last week's discussion, we take a look at the drivers behind implementing employee benefits, as discussed in the exclusive live webinar ‘how to evaluate your employee benefits offering’. The webinar was hosted by Owain Thomas, Editor of Workplace Savings & Benefits, who was joined by a panel of industry experts:

Gethin Nadin, Head of Strategic Alliances at Benefex

Emma Cutbill, Head of Reward & Benefits at Incisive Media, a publisher of business media 

Anish Gajree, Senior Compensation & Benefits Advisor at upstream oil and gas company, Nexen

With over 13 years’ experience in pensions and employee benefits, Gethin Nadin, Head of Strategic Alliances at Benefex works closely with clients and business partners to implement engaging employee benefit schemes. He says, “what we’ve been doing a lot of at Benefex recently is helping clients build a business case. One of the first things we’ll ask employers is why? ‘What are you hoping to achieve by putting a benefits package in place?’ And more often than not people don’t really know and they certainly haven’t tagged the reasons to the wider company or HR strategy.”

If you’re looking to implement a new scheme or improve your current offering, ask yourself the following questions; what do you hope to achieve? What does good look like for you? Where would you like to be in 5 years’ time? Commit to the reasons why you’re doing this and use them to evaluate your scheme further down the line.

It’s a tough initial approach, but having measurable goals will ensure the benefits are achieving a return on investment. Gethin backs this up with research from Barclays; “for the first time you’ve got every generation of worker represented at the same time in any one workplace. Use data to drive benefit decisions that fit into the lifestyles of those employees. The beauty of working with a benefit provider is that they do this on behalf of hundreds of clients.”

He adds “if the benefits aren’t being used then there’s a lot of time and resource being wasted on providing a benefit that employees don’t want.”

This is backed up by Anish Gajree, Senior Compensation & Benefits Advisor at upstream oil and gas company, Nexen. He says “we have a multi-generational workforce and that drives some of the things that we do, but it also drives the communication.”

Speaking from experience of implementing employee benefits at Nexen, Anish says “we understand that a number of employees may not want to be in a particular plan. From a company responsibility point of view we believe in communication and tailoring that communication to a multigenerational workforce. It’s important that employees understand how the plan works so they can make a good logical decision whether to be in that plan or not.”

As a Benefex client, Anish understands the importance of building a strong relationship with an employee benefits provider. “It’s the relationships that will drive how successful [the scheme] is” he says.

This should be the case from the offset, which is recognised by Gethin from Benefex, who says “the first thing we try to do is establish how employee engagement is going to impact your organisation positively, and define what employee engagement means for your organisation.”

According to Gallup's 142-country study on the State of the Global Workplace, only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged at work. So what are the fundamental elements of implementing an employee benefits scheme that can change this?

Emma Cutbill, Head of Reward & Benefits at Incisive Media says “it’s very important to get buy in from your senior managers and managers throughout the business. We have introduced new benefits in the past and have spoken to as many of the managers as we can.”

Although this isn’t necessarily a simple process, as Emma came to realise, “we introduced buying holiday a few years ago and a couple of our senior managers weren’t happy” she says, “but it’s up to them to manage that process.”

It’s no secret that outsourcing your employee benefits to a provider can aid the smooth running of the scheme and reduce administration. Emma reflects on harder times at Incisive Media, “when we first implemented our benefits programme we did it all in house” she explained.

“The benefits of having benefit consultants with you is that they can take away the admin burden but they also have the knowledge and the expertise of the marketplace, they’ve got sound relationships with providers and they can negotiate better rates for you and that takes away a lot of the pressure and the burden from you doing it in house” Emma says.

Like other organisations, the admin burden that comes with employee benefits is a major concern at Incisive Media. “Part of that process of selecting a new provider will always be the admin. How much time will this take us to implement? The admin side of it people tend to forget about, which can be quite time consuming.”

Anish agrees, offering his advice on the subject; “if you were ever going to look at outsourcing your benefits, one of the key measures is try and get a really good understanding if your benefit providers have worked, or do work with that [overall] benefit provider, in my experience it’s quite key when choosing an outsourced benefit provider.”