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Knowing what works

The sheer variety of benefits available means it is increasingly important to understand what works when it comes to employee benefits.

Benefits need to be relevant to the demographic of your workforce and that is why tailored packages work well. If you predominately have young staff then they may appreciate vouchers for high street clothing stores or days out at theme parks above discounts at grocery stores, for example. They might also be more willing to take part in health and wellbeing initiatives such as tax efficient Cycle to Work schemes. It can be extremely helpful to hold focus groups to hear what staff would like to see in their package.

Ease of access to benefits is also key to their success. If it is difficult to log-on, or you have to wait a long time for vouchers to arrive, it could be detrimental to your programme. There is a good opportunity to mix it up too, have some great short term one-off offers to pull in interest and combine that with competitive long term offers. Employee benefits are definitely not a “one size fits all” product. To get the most out of a package, it is a case of knowing and understanding your employees and what will work for them.

Salary sacrifice is a great way for employees to maximise their earnings because they will save on the product or service they are purchasing and then save again on tax and National Insurance contributions. One issue is that some employees can see salary sacrifice as ‘losing out’ on earnings. Getting around this mindset is a prime example of the need to educate employees so they understand what they are buying into. Just as important as understanding what drives your team, it is vital to ensure you are using benefits to the right end. People need to be in a receptive frame of mind and willing to take on board what is on offer. Trying to use employee benefits to pacify an antagonised work force that has just experienced a round of redundancies probably won’t work! In such cases, you will need to communicate the wider purpose of introducing the scheme and be prepared to deal with any criticism.

If your employees give you feedback that the benefits on offer are not relevant, you need to listen and adapt your offering. As employee benefits change and develop, you can tailor them to meet your employee’s needs. If there is a very specific local need, for example a gym close to the workplace, you can often negotiate your own benefit especially for your employees. This can be a great morale boost and staff will know they are being listened to. To ensure your employee benefits programme is a success it is vital to do your homework before you set it up. Hold a focus group and gather information on both the benefits and channels of communication. Once the programme has launched and is up and running, ask for feedback to see if you are meeting the remit from the focus group. An employee survey can give you a lot of insight at this point.

Communicate regularly using a number of relevant channels to ensure you are reaching all staff, and keep everyone updated on changes to your benefits programme. If there is feedback, take it on board and if it is something that you can influence and will work, don’t be afraid to make changes. If employees can see their feedback making a difference it will increase engagement further. Ultimately, having only just seen off a double dip recession, saving money is a huge issue in the workforce but companies are broadly not in a position to increase wages. If you can show your employees how to effectively increase their effective salary using their benefits package, it should not be a difficult sell.

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