Do your Staff Value their Benefits?
Getting employees to understand the true value of their benefits package is an ongoing challenge for reward professionals. Research suggests that only 33 per cent of staff understand what the benefits they are receiving equate to in real terms – and of these, 67 per cent under-value their benefits by at least two-thirds.
To add insult to injury, when asked which benefits they would like to see added to their package, employees often mention things they already have. Only 21 per cent of staff, for example, believe they have access to Childcare Vouchers – when in fact 82 per cent of companies offer them. When asked, 27 per cent of employees say they have healthcare benefits, although in reality 57 per cent receive them.
Part of the problem is that benefits communication is often ‘front-loaded’. A new member of staff arrives and they are bombarded with information about everything from health and safety and where to park the car to how to claim expenses and put in a request for annual leave.
Someone from HR will usually talk them through their benefits package at this stage – or at the very least the information will be included in the staff handbook. But there’s so much for a new recruit to take in that the information often isn’t fully digested and almost certainly isn’t remembered. The company thinks it has ticked the box by telling employees what’s available – and the subject isn’t mentioned again.
Employers who fail to keep benefits communication going are, however, missing a real trick - because if staff have a full picture of the true value of their benefits package it can contribute enormously to engagement levels.
In a difficult economic climate, it helps employees appreciate that although a pay rise may not be on the cards, their employer is compensating them in other ways and helping the family budget go a bit further. If they have that ‘nice warm feeling’ about the business, they are much more likely to go the extra mile and do their best to meet whatever challenges they are presented with.
Maintaining high levels of employee engagement is also a good way to help future-proof the business. Talented employees who feel they have been treated well when times are hard are much less likely to start looking around for new opportunities when the situation improves.
Research has shown that companies who offer flexible benefits plans find it easier to get employees to truly understand the total value of their reward package. Fifty eight per cent of businesses say that going down the flex route has helped to improve employee’s appreciation of their benefits, while 39 per cent said there had been a knock-on effect with levels of employee engagement rising.
This is because companies who offer flex have the opportunity to get employees more closely involved with their benefits. The individual takes an active role in choosing which benefits to draw on – and the business has a valuable opportunity to personalise benefits communication. It can reinforce messages about what is on offer, for example, encourage take-up at key times and explain how specific benefits might be particularly useful to people at different stages of their lives and careers.
Companies who communicate flex well have recognised that the key to success is to find the right communications approach for your business. One size generally doesn’t fit all and you will need to use a mix of communications channels to get the message across.
Technology-savvy Generation Y employees, for example, will almost certainly expect to get information and updates via email, intranet and social media. But you also need to consider whether all of your employees have regular access to a computer – and think about whether some of the fine detail is better conveyed in conventional written form. Line managers also have an important role to play in talking to employees about benefits face-to-face, although they sometimes need support and encouragement to do this.
Whatever mix of channels you choose, if you want to reap the benefits in terms of engagement it’s vital to keep the momentum going. As the old communications mantra goes: “Tell them, tell them you’ve told them, then tell them again!”
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