Research from Blackhawk Network Extras today finds that small and medium enterprises (SMEs) must pay attention to employee benefits; in today’s economic climate, workplace benefits are no longer just a perk, they are a necessity.

Employers should be helping employees’ salaries stretch further during the cost-of-living crisis, not only because it will help keep their staff happy, but because it is the right thing to do.   

The survey of 500 HR decision-makers (HRDMs) and 2,000 employees up and down the UK sought to understand attitudes towards workplace benefits and how they can be optimised to maximise the help they give employees. With clear disparities between what employees want vs. what they are currently receiving, businesses should review their benefits package ahead of the new tax year.   

Fail to support, fail to retain  

The key finding from Blackhawk Network Extras’ research is that employees want more support, and failing to provide this could result in staff walking out the door. Already, 72 percent of businesses have suffered staff resignations over the last six months, including 33 percent of all employers surveyed who have noticed an increase in the number of staff leaving.   

However, the cost-of-living crisis cuts both ways. Many organisations are also feeling the pinch and might be unable to swing an inflation-busting pay rise or monetary bonus that might help them hold onto staff. So, what are they supposed to do?   

Do not assume: learn what your employees want and need   

Blackhawk Network Extras uncovered a large discrepancy between the benefits employers offer and the benefits that employees want. Over three-quarters of employees (76%)are looking for more ways to save money on what they buy. So whilst businesses did list gym memberships, bikes, and childcare as the top three things employees can currently save money on via their benefits, more than half of employees (51%) reported that financial assistance with groceries was the top benefit their employers should be offering, followed by travel to work by car, and technology.   

HR decision-makers need to listen to what their staff are telling them and adjust their benefits packages accordingly. However, currently, fewer than two in five (37%) are planning on reviewing the benefits they offer at least quarterly. And more worryingly, while a quarter (24%) have considered expanding their benefits package in response to rising inflation, a further quarter (25%) have no plans to change or expand their package this year.  

You do not need to jump through hoops to provide the right support  

Despite this, the vast majority of HRDMs (86%) do understand the important role workplace benefits will have in supporting their employees during the cost-of-living crisis. In fact, many HRDMs anticipate that cost-related benefits are only likely to grow in importance over the next 12 months.   

And it would seem that many employees agree. Almost half are concerned about what their financial situation will be like in 12 months’ time (48%), and over a third expect inflation to impact their financial situation significantly.   

However, while 67 percent of businesses without cost-savings benefits are interested in offering them, the most common barrier they say they’re currently facing is the cost. But with the right solution, cost need not be a concern. Blackhawk Network’s Extras platform is free to sign up to and offers a range of benefits that include the UK’s leading Cycle to Work scheme and discounted technology and white goods. And it can even help with everyday essentials with the bYond card, which gives employees up to 15 percent cashback at over 85 retailers, from groceries and DIY to leisure and eating out.    

Chris Ronald, VP EMEA B2B – Incentives, Rewards & Benefits, Blackhawk Network said:

“We are currently experiencing one of the most difficult economic periods in decades. And while many businesses would love to offer their employers cash, or a salary increase to match inflation, to help see them through, it’s just not always possible. What they can do, however, is re-evaluate their benefits packages to truly help employees’ salaries stretch further– a key part of which must be listening to what it is their employees want and providing choice. With a new tax year about to begin, now is the time to find out what your employees genuinely want and offer flexible options so that employees can choose what makes the most impact to them.” 





Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at the University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.