Business leaders know far too well that that an engaged workforce is likely to be more productive and invested in their company as a whole. In fact, according to recent research 70% of business leaders see a strong link between engagement and productivity. However, only 58% of the UK’s workforce is actually engaged, according to data from OCR International. We therefore have a big engagement and productivity gap to fill and business leaders need to make sure they are focusing on implementing a clear plan and directive to address it, if they want to bolster overall productivity in their organisations. Benefits sit at the heart of this process, but there needs to be commitment from the boardroom down, to create and foster a culture where employees feel supported, rewarded and committed to their roles.
Part of the problem is that there is a strong perception that an employee benefits programme is an added luxury, which businesses will only consider if they feel it is justified or earned. Businesses who hold this belief are clearly missing a trick and failing to recognise the advantages for company culture, productivity and profitability as a whole. The extent to which employees can access a range of benefits from health insurance and personal development allowances to salary sacrifice mobile schemes and company discounts will determine how “work happy” they are.
The size and fabric of workforces can change regularly depending on staff retention rates, so a businesses’ benefits programme should change with it. The annual ski trip may have been perfect for the team six months ago, but since then the biggest winter sports enthusiasts may have moved on and been replaced by a mixture of part-time workers with young families and cinema buffs who’d much prefer a monthly discount voucher instead. Aside from this requiring a much lower investment, it has the potential to deliver a far greater reward in terms of staff morale and retention. Benefits don’t have to be flashy to impress or deliver value, but they do need to be relevant.
If the needs and desires of employees are not met by the benefits offered, the investment they require will significantly outweigh the potential return. That return may not necessarily be financial in the short-term, but if left unresolved and productivity levels decline it could hamper profitability in the long-term. Benefits therefore need to be personalised and adapted to suit the workforce they are serving.
Evaluating what will make staff “work happy” and listening to their needs are two things, but businesses also need to make sure the way they communicate what is available to their employees is clear, seamless and fully understood. Some employees simply may not want to use the benefits, even if they value them; others may not know what they actually are entitled to; whilst the rest may be actively taking advantage of them all the time.
Technology can help facilitate understanding of engagement levels and also help improve personalisation. Businesses therefore should look at assessing their existing infrastructure and evaluate how they could enhance their internal communications through app and mobile technology. With time, that will breed more insights into how the programme can and should be adapted so it remains relevant and valuable to the entire workforce.
Ultimately the concept of employee benefits fundamentally needs to be a primary consideration for all organisations, regardless of their size. If they aren’t there is a high likelihood that employees may not feel valued in their jobs. If employees don’t feel that their organisation is investing in them as individuals and appreciating the work they do, they are likely to be less invested in the company and less willing to commit beyond their contractual obligations and that will end up hitting the bottom line.
Rebecca joined the HRreview editorial team in January 2016. After graduating from the University of Sheffield Hallam in 2013 with a BA in English Literature, Rebecca has spent five years working in print and online journalism in Manchester and London. In the past she has been part of the editorial teams at Sleeper and Dezeen and has founded her own arts collective.