For years, companies have been looking to the benefits they offer employees to ensure the right people join their organisation, and stay. The understanding has long been held, that individuals value more than just money and those employers wanting to attract the best, have to offer more than just a financial incentive.
But how can organisations achieve high levels of employee engagement? What benefits are staff looking for? And how has that changed in recent years?
We’re all aware that the past year has seen huge changes in working practices - not only that, the barriers between work and personal life have blurred. It is not a new thing that we recognise an employers responsibility to protect and support their employees wellbeing, however this blurring between work and home has perhaps widened the view for employers - and therefore also increased their responsibility.
One thing we’ve seen often in the past 18 months is that, even within a single workforce, personal circumstances will mean individuals have very different reactions to a situation.
Depending on the health and employment situation of their family - one individual may have taken furloughed time to focus on family and build up savings, another may be desperately trying to make ends meet.
So how do companies do their best for everyone?
How are our benefits packages changing in 2021?
Let’s Talk About Workplaces
Once upon a time, demands were being made for large open offices with colourful bean bags, basketball hoops and ping pong tables. Within head office buildings we’d expect a subsidised canteen, choice of coffee shop, a gym and more - everything onsite available throughout your working day. These spaces were designed to support your wellbeing while keeping you in your workplace with everything you need.
I’ve talked before about how our offices are likely to change as organisations embrace agile working, this has become more obvious as we’ve proved we don’t all need to be seated at desks in the same building to be productive.
Where once the focus of employers was to provide wellbeing facilities which kept us happy and supported while in their space, now - as more people will be using our own space to work in - the focus will be supporting our wellbeing wherever we choose to work.
If we stay within those shared physical workspaces we’ll expect them to be smarter - to ease crowding in restaurants and gyms, maybe booking apps and smart queuing options will become available. Where remote working has become the norm, employees may instead have discounted gym membership or cycling schemes. But more important is flexibility of working hours, so we can take the time to walk, take breaks or visit the hairdressers.
It is also likely, provision will be made for access to support from home, with more organisations embracing virtual health and wellbeing services and even incentives to promote healthy lifestyles.
Balancing Life and Work
Holiday allowances have always been an important part of the benefits package, including opportunities to buy and sell additional holiday days, or move them from one year to another.
Flexibility with our working hours is going to continue to be important; since the beginning of 2020 organisations have had to amend policies, giving increased flexibility where health concerns or the need for isolation have impacted employees. This is obviously alongside increased flexibility in working hours for those managing changes in their home/working environment to support family.
While some of these changes may not be necessary in the long term, this increase in flexibility of working hours is likely to be something individuals will wish to maintain - and therefore it will likely become a benefit which employers support. As long as employees do the job which is expected of them, the requirement to be present at a desk for fixed hours is likely to become less relevant.
Where flexible working options become more accessible, communication within teams and management of people and projects will change. Current technologies provide all sorts of opportunities for employers to maintain relationships and control, moving forward software and applications will provide increased ease of access to internal systems for those based outside traditional offices and office hours.
Wherever You Lay Your Laptop
Again, I’ve talked about agile workspaces a lot and the changes which are likely to keep more of us working remotely instead of heading back into our offices.
While flexibility in our choice where to work is likely to become a benefit new employees expect, this impacts more than the choice of a centrally-based-desk or dining-room-table. If organisations allow individuals the opportunity to be home-based, there will obviously be implications for the provision of equipment - not only an appropriate desk setup and chair, but what other equipment is necessary - laptop, monitor, phone, data connection?
And as remote workers become more acceptable to organisations, employing those outside current geographic boundaries opens up the pool of applicants allowing organisations to pick ideal candidates without concerns about travel (also potentially opening the field for those who may have previously been unable to consider a role for other mobility reasons).
While these individuals may choose not to attend the company office, however, there may be the need to retain some social aspect to their role - will it be appropriate for companies to provide access to regional offices or coworking spaces to ensure employees have the option to socially interact for their own wellbeing?
Benefit provision is a fundamental part of employee engagement and retention, and consistently changes with the times.
It’s interesting that as part of Aon’s 2021 UK Benefits and Trends Survey they’ve noted. “Our 2021 UK Benefits and Trends survey showed that only 28% of companies have a clear Employee Value Proposition (EVP). Considering the upward trend in companies reporting they believe their EVP has a positive impact on employee engagement, retention and recruitment, it’s not surprising to see that a further 43% of respondents are planning to formalise an EVP for the first time.”
The Employee Value Proposition encompasses all those things which motivate an employee within a company, it includes financial rewards as well as culture and vision, while employee benefits also play a large part.
As we all see the blending of our work and personal lives changing, companies will have a clearer picture of the needs - and also wants - of their employees. This means that providing benefits which fit the individual will support the EVP best. Flexibility in employee benefit systems will be increasingly important going forward.
Our changing working practices have created new opportunities and will continue to do so, understanding how to apply these to increase engagement among your employees can seem complex and difficult to manage.
About the Author
I'm Terry Chana. I am an innovation strategist that connects customer, employee and brand experiences. My passion lies in building ecosystems to solve business problems by combining creativity and technology.