New Year’s resolutions aren’t just for employees, now is the time for SMEs to review employee benefits packages, ensuring they are fit for purpose, and using them to recruit and retain staff.
This is particularly important when staff return from a Christmas break with itchy feet. The Health Insurance Group lays out key steps employers should take to make sure their employee benefits work for them.
Conduct an audit
Employee benefits may have been added to a company’s benefits package throughout the years, depending on what had been important previously – often to suit preceding managers and employees. It’s a good idea to see what’s relevant today. Look at what benefits are engaging staff, how much take-up they have, how much they’re utilised.
And ask employees what they want. Some employee benefits may be the deciding factor on an employee looking to join or stay with a company, or deciding to go to a competitor. Savvy SMEs promote their whole remuneration package, not just the salary, and those that have relevant benefits are more attractive.
Look at demographics of staff
Demographics of staff can change dramatically as the years go by. Ages, personal circumstances, life stages may all have moved on since the last time employee benefits were reviewed. The group life assurance that didn’t seem relevant to a predominantly young and single workforce can suddenly have some appeal when people have dependants and want to protect the financial future of a family.
It’s crucial to ensure benefits are appropriate to a workforce. It’s equally important not to make assumptions based on stereotypes: a younger workforce can be as engaged in looking after their health as an older workforce; while the cause of stress may be different for all, any age group is susceptible to anxiety; all age groups can struggle financially. It’s important to look carefully at what will be most relevant to a particular company’s workforce.
Technological advances are changing the way that employee benefits are accessed as well as how they’re communicated. The great stack of paper that employees had to wade through to change their pension contributions, complete an expression-of-wish form or apply for private healthcare has been replaced by an online process or an app.
This can be a much more efficient way for employees to access benefits, and it also enables employers to measure engagement – as they can monitor utilisation. It’s important for companies to keep up with what’s available and also ensure staff know how to access it and use it.
Return on investment
It’s important to get return on investment of benefit spend. If benefits aren’t being used it either means they’re not needed or employees don’t know about them. Either way they’re not adding value to staff, and the company isn’t getting any value from them either.
SMEs need to look at what they’ve got, make sure they’re fit for purpose, and make sure employees know about 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.
Get value from experts
Developments to employee benefits are being made all the time, and not all benefit providers offer the same. Cash plans, private healthcare, employee assistance programmes, financial solutions can all differ hugely from provider to provider.
The important thing is to get what’s right for the company. Experts can advise on this, and they can also negotiate rates, service and products on the company’s behalf. It may seem savvy to go direct, but specialist advisers will have a wealth of knowledge that can save time and money.
Brett Hill, managing director for The Health Insurance Group comments: ‘We’re encouraging SMEs to review their benefits now and get them right for the year ahead, the wrong benefits are the biggest waste of money. The world of employee benefits doesn’t stand still, so it’s important that companies conduct a regular audit of their benefits to make sure they know what’s available on the market and to offer the most relevant benefits to their staff. The litmus test of value and engagement is utilisation – if benefits aren’t being used, they’re not benefitting anyone. The companies that get the most from the benefits are the ones that communicate them well.”