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With healthy eating cookbooks flying off the shelves, and gyms operating at full capacity at the start of 2019, HR professionals can also join in the spirit of improvement by reviewing their employee benefits packages and ensuring they are fit for purpose.

January and February are typical months to look for a new job and competitors are primed and ready to snap up talent, who crave a new role where they feel more valued. So, it’s important that HR professionals have their benefits packages in ship-shape, to act as a recruitment and retention tool.

Conduct an audit
Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater; some benefits may have strong take-up rates, whereas others may not be used at all. By reviewing the current benefits package, it will be easier to see where there is room for improvement.

It’s worthwhile taking time to consider how benefits, old and new, should be communicated in order to maximise usage too. Competitors are increasingly savvy at highlighting benefits in such an elevated way, that wavering employees find the offer hard to refuse. So, it’s important that communications around the advantages of benefits are equally as impactful and alluring.

Demographic shifts
When it comes to reviewing benefits packages, many HR professionals are often shocked at the time that has lapsed from the last thorough assessment. Benefits that were initially offered a decade ago can represent the priorities of managers and teams from yesteryear. Even if long-serving employees remain, it is unlikely the original benefits packages have stayed fit for purpose. Group life assurance may not have seemed necessary to a predominantly young and single workforce back then, for example, but it could be of great value to them now if they have dependants and want to protect the financial future of a family.

A word of caution, however, is to be mindful of making assumptions based on stereotypes – be that age, gender, or life situation. It’s easy to assume that only the older generations would be interested in benefits related to physical and financial health, for example, but the young may equally be attracted to such a proposition. Looking at the demographics of a business can give useful insight but liaising with employees about what they desire from benefits packages can confirm or refute sentiments further.  

Technological advances
Go into a modern gym today and you’ll see participants linking their health-tracking watches to the machine they are working out on, which links back to a fitness app or personal fitness trainer to monitor their output. Employees are consumers too and they come with increasing expectations of how technology can better their lives and this is also applied to the workplace. Employee benefits are making leaps and bounds in the technological space. Gone are the days when a mountain of paperwork is required for a simple pension contribution change. Now, it’s done at the click of button online or tap of an app. It’s important for businesses to keep up with technological advances, and for HR professionals and employees alike to fully understand how it can be used

Return on investment
No business conversation ever concludes without finding out what the ROI of an initiative is. And the same can be said for employee benefits. If benefits aren’t being utilised, it’s a waste of time and money and the ROI will reflect this. Employers must evaluate what benefits they have, how well they are being utilised and ensure staff are aware of them.

It’s also important not to double up on benefits. For instance, employee assistance programmes can be included at no extra cost within group protection products (employer-sponsored income protection, life assurance, critical illness), they’re also available standalone. It makes good financial sense to look at what’s included in the benefits offered to make sure there’s no crossover and they’re not being paid for twice.

Ask the experts
Finally, draft in the experts to advise on the employee benefits most suitable to your business. It can be a minefield, wading through different benefit options, providers, terms and conditions, and so on. Whereas experts can advise on the most up-to-date products, information and cost structures. They can also provide guidance around communication, to encourage benefits take-up. With so many pledges to get in shape in the new year, it could be worthwhile HR doing the same with its benefits packages.

Brett Hill – Managing Director, The Health Insurance Group

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