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What do employees want?

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Implementing a new employee benefit strategy? First, you must establish what your workforce actually needs from their perks.

Following research we conducted last year, we look at how your business can make the most of their workplace benefits budget by knowing exactly what their employees want.

Are you thinking about setting up an employee benefits package for the first time? Or maybe you’re thinking of updating the one you currently have in place? It’s important that you know what your employees want, before you spend money on benefits that could go unused.

Protecting basic needs

In our recent research we found that employees value health and financial benefits the most. When asked to choose the top three most valued employee benefits, overall:

  • 48% voted private medical insurance
  • 36% said life insurance
  • 31% chose critical illness

In comparison with lifestyle benefits, only 13% voted for childcare vouchers in their top three most valued benefits and only 7.5% chose cycle to work schemes.

It can be difficult for employers to know for sure exactly what their employees want, and it’s easy to assume that they will prefer useful, every day and fun benefits over the serious stuff. However, these results show that there is a clear hierarchy of needs when it comes to employee benefits, meaning group risk and healthcare benefits are a high priority for employees.

It’s therefore possible to argue that employees are thinking seriously about protecting their basic needs, safety and security, before they consider lifestyle benefits.

You don’t need to be taking a stab in the dark when thinking about their employee benefits offering. While this research provides a guide to employee preferences, it’s no substitute for asking your own employees what they want.  

Collaboration between HR and employees at an early stage in purchasing employee benefits can help employers to ensure they are providing benefits that will be valued by employees, making the investment worthwhile. 

Just ask

Each business will have slightly different employee demographics, resulting in different needs and benefit preferences.  The size of the business and sector will also have an impact too, so it’s important that businesses are asking their people what they want.

So how can you involve your people in the process?

  • Survey your employees. Ask your people what they would like from a broad range of options.
  • Set up a focus group. Gather a group of employees who represent a broad cross section of your workforce and ask them what employee benefits they would value. If you already have a benefits package in place, this is a perfect opportunity to get their thoughts on what you already provide.
  • If you have one, maximise your internal communications platform (e.g. Yammer, Workplace or Slack among others). Many tools have voting facilities that you can use to ask your employees what they would like. Furthermore, it’s a great tool to remind people about their benefits and educate them on how to make the most out of what is available to them.

Try to involve everyone in the business. Involving employees in the early stages of developing or reviewing an employee benefits package will make them feel valued and is likely to encourage greater engagement in the benefits once they have launched.

In order to manage expectations, you should make sure the benefits they put to a popular vote are obtainable and affordable. It’s worth doing some homework with a financial adviser beforehand to create a shortlist. 

In a nutshell

Whether reviewing or implementing an employee benefits package for the first time, it’s easy for HR professionals to assume people will naturally prefer lifestyle benefits. However our research shows that employees are prioritising healthcare and financial benefits.

In order for businesses to fully understand what their people want, all they need to do is ask, ensuring as many people from the business are involved in the process, as early as possible. This will ensure employees feel valued and engaged in benefits, while maximising return on investment for the business.

Chris Morgan

By Chris Morgan

Chris is manager of Distributor Partnerships at Ellipse.

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