Employee benefits are the secret to delivering lasting business impact23.09.21
Head of Proposition
With pressure mounting to help employees navigate through the pandemic, HR and reward leaders have looked to benefits provision as a critical lever to enhance wellbeing provision.
To explore this further, Benefex undertook research in the form of The New Reward Director – speaking to HR and reward leaders around the globe to understand how the last 18 months has impacted their world of work and predict where we’re going. The research indicates that employees are paying more attention to benefits as they look for ways to manage and improve their own wellbeing during the pandemic. With 73% of HR and reward leaders reporting employees are demanding more choice in benefits, and 70% stating that candidates are negotiating more around benefits when joining the company.
Perhaps most significantly for HR departments, the pandemic has led to people taking a greater interest in benefits. After years of trying (often unsuccessfully) to encourage their workforces to engage with benefits, 81% of HR and reward leaders now report that employees seem more engaged with benefits. Employers are reporting greater uptake of benefits and more regular changes in benefits selections.
It may have taken a pandemic to be the trigger but suddenly UK workforces have started to engage with benefits in a meaningful way. The onus is now on businesses and HR departments to maintain this level of interest, post-pandemic.
Much of this increased engagement is driven by employees paying more attention to their own wellbeing. 84% of HR and reward leaders point to employees choosing more wellbeing-based benefits over the past 12 months.
In line with this, employee wellbeing is now seen as the number one area where benefits provision can deliver a positive impact to the business. 61% of HR and reward leaders state that their current benefits provision is enhancing employee wellbeing. Benefits are also viewed as important in enabling businesses to attract and retain high quality talent, and to support diversity, equality and inclusion objectives.
Interestingly, more than a third (36%) of HR and reward leaders point to benefits provision delivering improved financial performance and profitability within their organisation.
The global perspective
HR and reward leaders with international workforces report even higher demands and expectations among their employees during the pandemic. As many as 78% state that their employees are now demanding more choice in benefits, and 79% say new employees are negotiating more around benefits when they join the company.
In line with this, the research shows that employees in global companies have become far more engaged with benefits during the pandemic and are increasingly prioritising benefits that protect and enhance their personal wellbeing. One notable difference in the study was the fact that employees within global companies have significantly higher expectations when it comes to the technology platforms their employers use for benefits provision.
It’s not surprising to see businesses citing wellbeing as the most positive outcome of employee benefits. We expect this to continue, driven by the changing needs of employees, with a greater focus from employers and better communications.
It’s fair to say that pretty much everyone’s lives have changed since the beginning of 2020 - be that our household finances, a greater awareness of our physical and emotional health, or a reassessment of our work-life priorities. As a result, employers are offering more to support wellbeing and we’ve seen more new benefits introduced than ever before. In the last 18 months, we’ve also seen a reversal of the trends around benefit communications. Previously, as benefit schemes had matured and budgets had been repurposed, communications had taken a hit. But that’s changed. Now with a resurgence in effective communications, employees are much more aware of what’s available and how it can support them, which has led to an increase in engagement and uptake.
Diversity and inclusion is one of the top areas of focus for businesses and HR over the next year, so it’s encouraging to see so many respondents feel that benefits positively impact this area of business. We expect this to increase as organisations use feedback from employees through DE&I networks to drive changes to the benefits offering.
Overall, these results show that benefits can, and do, make a real difference to business performance. Now, as we move to hybrid models of working, we’re likely to see another shift in employee expectations and needs. The benefits offering, and how benefits are communicated, need to continue evolving if we’re to build on this progress.
Get the full picture
The New Reward Director is a deep-dive into the reward director's changing priorities and to-do list.
With more than 20 years experience in the UK employee benefits market, Charlotte joined Benefex in 2019 as Head of Proposition. Charlotte believes that the changing landscape of the workforce driven by both technology and social developments means now is the time for organisations to review how they can better connect with their employees to maximise engagement and productivity in an increasingly competitive market.