The scope for employee benefits has exploded over the last few years. Employers are more dedicated than ever to implementing rounded employee reward strategies that motivate staff and keep them engaged with the business. To this end, companies are set to continue to adapt their benefits to suit the demands of employees and their aspirations in life and career. With workforce wellbeing high on the agenda this year, employee benefits are receiving renewed focus and increased involvement from senior members of the business.
Making wellbeing a priority
The rise of wellbeing initiatives has become commonplace within businesses, making the topic broad and all-encompassing whenever it is discussed. While physical and mental wellbeing will continue to be a priority, companies will also be looking to address wellness in an equally important sector of their employees’ lives: their financial wellbeing.
In our Global Wellbeing Survey of 2016, we found that 33% of companies surveyed felt they achieved a culture of wellbeing. By 2018, this had risen to 40%. Importantly, of the remainder, 81% confirmed they still aspire to achieve a wellbeing culture, with the highest motivator for doing so, covering 83% of respondents, being financial distress.
Financial wellbeing is an aspect of an employee’s life which can often go ignored. All too often, any action in this area is limited to salary adjustments and pension contributions, both of which require little engagement from the employee. However, companies feeling a duty of care for their workforce, are now beginning to look at more innovative ways of making financial wellness a priority.
The truth is that employees’ lives change significantly over time. Whether it is getting married, having a child, getting on the property ladder or simply commuting, staff are finding it harder to move into these different stages of their lives. As such, financial wellbeing initiatives should focus on helping employees to achieve these life goals without having their finances as a barrier.
This approach can take many forms. It may be that the company subsidises travel, provides healthcare support or even brings on an adviser to allow staff a better understanding of their finances. Regardless of the strategy, financial wellbeing should be a key priority for all businesses and form a vital part of their overall employment proposition.
Getting in front of technology
It’s not surprising that technology is becoming a huge enabler of workforce wellbeing, helping employees to access, interact and redeem the benefits that best fit their needs. The use of technology in employee benefits is not a new thing – platforms and portals have been a key part of process automation for years. However, the way in which staff engage with these tools is set to change dramatically.
As the modern office continues to break any ‘silos’ that have historically existed, the technology that underpins the company will similarly be consolidated. Platforms will therefore be far more integrated and universal, covering all areas of the employee experience and personalise benefits from the perspective of an individual’s wellbeing.
This will have a huge advantage to both employers and their staff. With all benefits processes under a single platform, data can be better analysed, providing more valuable insight into common workforce behaviours and wellbeing. Rather than rolling out a wide range of generic benefits – some of which staff may not use – companies can review the engagement on their platform to help inform their ongoing strategy. The result is a competitive benefits package, which is value for money to the business, and which staff can actively inform simply by using the services they prefer.
Additionally, by using a single system, the company will be able to improve the user experience, turning bland and often confusing applications into engaging platforms that gamify the benefits process.
Getting the top brass involved
In order to take advantage of this opportunity, HR will need the involvement and buy-in from senior management. If they get involved with the different innovations in the benefits space and advocate a culture of wellbeing, the workforce will become more engaged and motivated to take up the benefits on offer as well. Leading from the top on new initiatives such as financial wellbeing will also highlight the importance of long-term planning for employees, giving them the encouragement to pay greater attention to vital areas such as their pension and post-work life.
Senior involvement will also become necessary with wider public interest in the widening disparity between executive and regular employee rewards. Indeed, legislation on this comes into effect in 2019. The FRC’s Corporate Governance Code will require increased transparency on remuneration and fairness across every employee. As such, by having an improved benefits platform that demonstrably improves overall wellbeing, the C-suite will not only boost employee engagement, but also foster increased visibility and make compliance far easier to achieve.
This year will continue to see further advancements in all of these areas. By using the right technology, combined with an increased focus on different aspects of employee wellbeing, businesses will be able to boost employee engagement, improve productivity, and ensure that senior-level employees are complying with increased regulatory demands for greater transparency and fairness.
By John Deacon, Head of Employee Benefits at Buck