In an exclusive live webinar discussing ‘how to evaluate your employee benefits offering’, Owain Thomas, Editor of Workplace Savings & Benefits, 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

Speaking from experience, Gethin Nadin from Benefex kicks off the webinar by discussing why employers choose to introduce benefit schemes in the first place. “We see employee benefits as a solution to a problem or an issue that an organisation is having. Employers come to us because they want to be more competitive, to better compensate their employees and make pay go further.”

Agreeing with Gethin, Anish Gajree from Nexen says “it’s about the total reward package. Whilst compensation’s important, it’s the promotion and offering competitive benefits that will help retain or attract employees”.

As a Benefex client, Anish reflects on the role of a reward and benefit provider. “Providers are best placed to know the marketplace and some of the key benefits that peers or other competitors have introduced or are about to introduce.”

He explains how employee benefits have been implemented at Nexen, “we administrated our benefits in-house and we saw how much time that took so made the decision to outsource it and it has reduced administration. But it’s not an overnight fix. You’ve got to work very hard and maintain that relationship with the provider to get the benefit administration where you want it to be.” He adds, “it’s the relationships that will drive how successful [the scheme] is.”

Emma Cutbill, who has been Head of Reward & Benefits at Incisive Media for over 8 years, also understands the important role benefits play. “It’s not just about salary anymore. The benefits are playing a vital role. We’re constantly being asked [about our benefits] by potential candidates.”

Employees agree that flexible benefits are important

The importance of employee benefits is backed up by research across the industry, including that conducted by the Chartered Institute of Payroll Professionals, which showed that 85% of workers rated flexible benefits as important or very important to their employment.

“An interesting question we get asked a lot,” says Gethin, “is ‘shouldn’t we just give people the money and let them decide what they want to do with it?’ The realities and practicalities of that sometimes just aren’t there. Companies just don’t have the resources to give the pay rises that people might want.”

He continues, “I think what we need to do more of is the education around why healthcare benefits are important to the individuals. In staff surveys, in my experience, employees will ask for the fun stuff.”

Both Emma and Anish use staff surveys at Incisive Media and Nexen. Emma says, “we have such a wide range of employees, it’s important that we offer a range of benefits to appeal to everybody’s lifestyles. We did a survey because it’s very important that we offer the benefits that people want and that they will take up. It’s a lot to do with work life balance and we’ve grouped our benefits into different categories; finance and security, health and wellbeing and lifestyle.”

Use data to drive decisions, with caution

There’s a lot to consider when it comes to getting a benefits package right for your employees, and data is a powerful tool when used accurately. Having worked with clients to analyse employee data, Gethin understands the powerful results it can bring. He says, “with data becoming such a popular term in our industry we would always advise caution. In order for data to be accurate and to be able to make realistic assumptions you need to be cautious with how you interoperate data.”

Anish explains the importance of data analysis at Nexen. “We use data to drive the decisions we make. We have a dashboard of data that will consist of take-up rates and that drives what we do going forward. That data and analytics is key to some of the decisions that we make.”

He adds, “we’ve also got an employee forum, it’s this information that drives whether we need to introduce new benefits or perhaps do more with respect to communication on the existing benefits that we have in place.”

Anish goes on to discuss how Nexen used the feedback from the employee forum to improve employee engagement. “As a result of rebranding,” he says, “we saw a massive take-up in a number of benefits. Not just the branding but feedback on processes and getting things automated. In terms of engagement, I guess if you’re implementing changes as a result of employee queries then it goes some way in terms of listening to your employees. It’s played a pretty big role in engagement, particularly last year for us.”

Speaking from his experience at Benefex, Gethin agrees, “thinking out of the box for communications makes a huge difference to benefit take-up. We always recommend creating a reward brand and look at what will resonate with your audience.”

But it’s not always a straightforward process, especially at upstream oil and gas company Nexen. “We have an offshore population who don’t have access to a computer” says Anish. “Being creative and innovative about how you can reach out to them, whether it’s taking time to do a video conference at 8 or 9 o’clock at night when they’ve finished their shift, things like postcards to their home address. Anything that can catch their attention because we recognise that they don’t have some of the tools that our onshore staff have.”

With a media savvy employee base, Emma agrees with the importance of communications, saying “communication is key for the whole of the benefits scheme.”

Listen to the full webinar recording