Employee well-being is continuously becoming a priority in the corporate setting. In a bid to attract and retain the cream of the crop, organizations are pulling out all the stops to create great benefits programs. Chris Bruce, Co-founder and Managing Director at Thomsons Online Benefits, talks about how organizations can set themselves apart by rethinking their approach to employee benefits in 2018

We have entered the next wave of benefits globalization and digitalization. There is no denying that the employment landscape has shifted, with a more diverse workforce with different needs as well as disruptive technological advancements. Younger generations are also prepared to move jobs more frequently, meaning employers have to fight harder to attract, and crucially to retain, the best people.

At Thomsons Online Benefits we recently undertook our annual Global Employee Benefits Watch survey- an extensive global study into benefits best practice. The findings reveal how forward-thinking employers are standing out from the crowd and improving employee retention by using their benefits programs to set themselves apart from competitors and meet employees needs.

Employee well-being as a priority

Employees are spending longer hours at the office, while technology is making it increasingly difficult to disconnect when they do leave for the day. Employers must keep this in mind and help them switch off in order to improve the employee experience and ensure they don’t burn out.

Successful employers are increasingly focusing on well-being initiatives that support employees both in and outside of the workplace . The best approaches go beyond just supporting physical health, like a gym membership, to providing mental and financial support for employees as well. An example would be companies that offer ‘wellness pots’, enabling employees to choose the wellness benefits that work best for them, whether that be lessons on a musical instrument to relieve stress or hiking equipment for those who prefer to exercise outdoors. Currently, only 40% of employers prioritize well-being initiatives within their overall benefits strategy. There is a huge opportunity to explore this area ahead of the majority of the market and reap the rewards. Using these preventative initiatives goes a long way to help employees handle well-being issues before bigger problems arise.

Personalization is key

At different stages of life, people have varying benefits needs. For example, a goal for the majority (67%) of 26– 35-year-olds is to buy a home, although only 11% of benefits plans support this. And of course for older generations saving for retirement is a bigger focus. When communicating benefits options to their employees, organizations need to make sure they are segmenting and targeting employee groups based on the benefits that will most likely be of use to them at their life stage.

Additionally, the timing at which benefits are promoted or offered should be tailored around times of year and life events for maximum impact. For example, launching fitness benefits in the New Year, financial education at the end of the tax year and promoting health leading into the winter to avoid illness and burnout. Companies who ensure their employees have the benefits information they need at the right time are most likely to see continued engagement.

Company values aligned with benefits

It is important for benefits programs to be aligned to established people and business strategies so that companies can deliver benefits that enhance and support its overall values . If companies have a multinational presence, this would mean having a global strategy in place that works across the board, while taking into account regional nuances.

As an example, a company that introduces fitness benefits in one country and not others is unlikely to truly support employees globally unless it is done as part of a considered, holistic approach to employee well-being across the whole organization.

How does this help with the goal of retaining valued employees? The critical factor here is consistency and communication of company messaging. If employees know what the business stands for and feels the company is living by its own values, they will then feel they are part of something bigger, which can have a positive effect on their loyalty to the organization. In fact, we found that for 47% of employees, their benefits offering highly impacts their loyalty to their organization.

Improve employee engagement with the use of data

Having a digitized benefits program is crucial. If a company’s benefits program is not digitized, not only is it time-consuming to maintain and run, but there is also a lack of data and analysis to understand if the approach is working. Our research found that it takes benefits teams on average 5.3 days longer per country per month to administer benefits manually, and organizations measuring the impact of their benefits program on employee engagement globally is as low as 24%. This can be detrimental to employee retention since HR teams will not only not have the time to invest in more value-add benefits initiatives, but they will also not have the best insight into whether employees are engaging with their programs, or if they are getting ROI on their spend. If employees are not engaging, they won’t appreciate the value of their benefits packages and may look elsewhere.

The HR department and reward teams should follow the same approach that retailers take in managing consumer loyalty programs . They should look to understand employee uptake, engagement and satisfaction by analyzing their own available data.

This data can be used to extend and adapt their benefits program, offering more valuable and personalized incentives. This measurement will also give HR and Reward teams the insights they need to justify ongoing investment in benefits. And for those yet to invest in measurement, the best approach is to start on a small scale. Every piece of insight gathered will help improve the employee experience and the credibility of the HR function in the eyes of the board.

In summary

If organizations have a defined and globally aligned benefits strategy in place, powered by technology, they are significantly more likely to have greater success in driving employee satisfaction . This is proven in our research which found that 76% of employees whose benefits needs are met are advocates of their organizations. If organizations plan to put benefits at the heart of employee relationships, then employers must create a more personalized employee experience, guaranteeing better support for employees’ well-being and a more consistent culture globally.