'Dog-friendly workplace' won't cut it - It's time to audit your benefits package

Employee preferences for benefits packages consistently change, either with the latest reward trend or due to deeper societal shifts. Keeping your offering up to date is key to engagement, retention, and winning the war for talent...
HR Grapevine
HR Grapevine | Executive Grapevine International Ltd
'Dog-friendly workplace' won't cut it - It's time to audit your benefits package
Employees want more benefits than just dog-friendly offices

When was the last time you audited your benefits package?

If it’s been a while, you’re not alone. A 2023 Benefex study found just 13% of UK employees feel that their benefits package closely aligns with their needs, signalling many employees are simply not keeping their provision up to date.

The same study found that 96% of HR professionals have seen a significant shift in employee attitudes and behaviours towards benefits over the previous 12 months. To keep pace with these shifts, companies should keep a consistent dialogue with employees to understand expectations and run regular (and frequent) audits on their benefits package.

“The traditional benefits package of medical, disability, pension, and life insurance does not necessarily meet everyone’s preferences,” says Tim Goodchild, Director of Global Benefits and Mobility, Anaplan. “Ensuring we meet employee needs will be paramount in the war for talent.”

Employees want to know their employer cares about them enough to support them beyond basic pay and ‘trendy’ surface-level benefits.

What benefits are popular in 2024?

Packages that peak at ‘dog-friendly’ policies and breakroom table football are simply not cutting the mustard. Even historically popular benefits such as on-site childcare, gym memberships, and social events are failing to capture the hearts of employees.

Instead of fluffy provisions that paper over the cracks, employees now expect employers to offer good quality, fundamental benefits.

Across most reports on employee priorities, the top picks are fairly consistent. 2023 Studies from BHN Extras, Globacare, and SHRM all emphasise the importance of compelling health benefits and developing a healthy flexible working strategy. Earlier in 2023, CIPD research found an estimated two million employees quit their jobs in the previous 12 months to pursue a role with more flexibility.

For healthcare, although NHS waiting lists have fallen in recent months, they remain high, making private healthcare an attractive offering.

Fertility benefits, offered by companies like ClearScore, and menopause plans, offered by companies like Monzo and Royal Mail, represent growing popularity and significant progress in the quality of support for employee health and wellbeing.

Ensuring we meet employee needs will be paramount in the war for talent

Tim Goodchild | Director of Global Benefits and Mobility, Anaplan

Employees are also pushing for improvements in the quality of leave benefits. SHRM’s study found 89% of employees rated leave benefits as “very important” or “extremely important.”

Alongside generous allowances for holidays, employers should also push to update their policies for parental or family leave and compassionate leave, and according to Goodchild, should strong consider their financial wellbeing packages.

“It is becoming increasingly common for middle-aged employees to not only be caring for their children but also for their parents and a shift for elder care as a benefit is very likely,” he says. “Greater education is needed for retirement and investment savings but new ways to save are needed for younger employees too.”

Each company will also have its nuances and should tailor its package to meet employee expectations. Anaplan, for example, has launched a novel car salary sacrifice benefit that has been very well received. “We have a number of high-income earning employees that like make use of tax-efficient benefits and leasing a low emission and/or electric vehicle has appealed,” explains Goodchild. “This also works as a great retention benefit as a standard lease is upwards of 4 years.”

Anaplan is also furthering its benefits with the launch of a wellbeing platform. “It has a great deal of excitement as it allows for a customised wellbeing package unique to each employee,” he adds.

Creating a positive company culture is just as important as any improvements to benefits provisions.

What use is a flexible working model if employees are victims of proximity bias? Why establish an unlimited PTO plan if most workers only feel comfortable taking a few days off? How is a menopause policy effective if male managers don’t understand the need for it?

Benefits such as flexible working are key to engaging employees

How to run an audit on your benefits offering

Health benefits, flexible working, and leave are just three of the top picks for employers in 2024. These should be standard picks at most organisations.

But to put together a comprehensive package that meets the nuances and preferences of the workforce, HR and Rewards leaders should consistently audit their offerings in line with the latest data from their employees.

As HR becomes evermore data-driven, and employee listening techniques grow in sophistication beyond one-off Likert questionnaires, employers can keep a better pulse on what their people would like to see improved.

At Anaplan, Goodchild argues engaging employees with improved benefits is key. “We have an annual benefits survey that asks key questions and allows us to measure the awareness of certain benefits and any features of those benefits we deem of particular value,” he says, outlining Anaplan’s approach to employee listening on this topic.

Being able to allow for flexibility and variability in a benefits package is now key for attraction and retention

Tim Goodchild | Director of Global Benefits and Mobility, Anaplan

But this also requires consistent communication. “We schedule regular updates and information on our internal messaging system and through our benefits portal,” Goodchild adds.

This also represents a chance to trim the fat. As well as highlighting policies that are missing and require investment, it can also indicate the policies that offer poor return on investment (ROI). Cutting these policies from the budget frees up funds for re-investment or even scoring some brownie points with finance.

Review your package policy-by-policy, evaluating its ROI, and considering whether it still aligns with the goals of the company and employee demands. Then compare your package against both external benchmarks, which provide industry-best practices, and the data you continuously gather from your employees on their needs and wants.

The benefits of benefits

Firstly, no prizes for guessing that building a closer alignment between your package and employee expectations can improve the usual measures of engagement, satisfaction, and productivity for employees across the board.

“Every employee is at a different life stage and being able to allow for flexibility and variability in a benefits package is now key for attraction and retention,” reflects Goodchild.

Secondly, if properly executed, creating an agile strategy around implementing benefits can help drive your organisation toward business-level goals.

A shift to flexible working policies, for example, may improve the ability of the company to acquire highly skilled employees from competitors enforcing return-to-office mandates. Or, generous leave policies may increase trust between employees and employers. High-trust organisations have higher levels of innovation than those where trust is low.

Thirdly, continuously auditing and updating benefits packages can prevent wasted budget on policies that collect dust and no longer engage employees. Though do note, cutting benefits that employees do value can prove to be a costly mistake.

What benefits are you adding to your package in 2024? And remember, if all you have is table football in the breakroom and snacks in the office, it's time to go back to the drawing board.

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