A happy workforce is a productive one. James Biggs, consultancy and well-being director at Lorica, explains why keeping your staff well informed about company benefits makes sound business sense.
What trends are you currently seeing in employee benefits and rewards?
James Biggs: Recently, we’ve seen a distinct shift in mentality; employers are no longer offering benefits simply to meet statutory requirements or be competitive in their industry. Today, the focus is firmly on employee well-being. People have woken up to the fact that having a happy, healthy workforce makes good business sense, and so reward and benefits programmes are being shaped around this.
How can employers develop an effective employee well-being strategy?
There are three core elements to well-being: physical, mental and financial. All three are, of course, intrinsically linked – issues in one area will almost inevitably eventually affect the others. Most employers already offer benefits that tick boxes across the three: medical insurance/cash plans, gym memberships, employee assistance programmes, workplace pensions, discount schemes and so on. Well-being is about much more than ticking boxes, though.
It’s vital to make sure employees know about and understand the benefits you offer. Without effective communication, a lot of the time and money spent can ultimately be wasted. Pensions and financial issues can be particularly tricky subjects for a lot of people. On the whole, the UK population lacks financial resilience – employers can play a huge role in helping employees improve their financial knowledge and make their money go further.
Why should employers provide access to financial education?
Helping employees to better understand and manage their money can deliver significant value back to businesses. Money worries are one of the greatest causes of stress; and stress is one of the biggest causes of employee absence.
Ultimately, financial education should be taught in schools; this is something I have done voluntarily for two schools in my local area, but it needs to be part of the national curriculum. Until then, the workplace is the obvious place to start.
How is workplace financial education best delivered?
There is no single answer to this, as it varies hugely. Every employer has their own set of challenges and constraints, whether they involve budget, logistics, time, or whatever. Face-to-face workshops and ‘lunch and learn’ sessions are hugely effective as they give employees direct access to someone who can answer their specific questions.
However, many employers have large numbers of remote, mobile and/or shift workers, so face-to-face isn’t always possible. In those cases, online tools, videos, webinars and helplines can serve the same purpose.
Whatever your approach, a few golden rules always apply. Firstly, keep it simple; avoid jargon and unnecessary complexity – explain things in plain English.
You must also keep it relevant. There’s no point inviting your graduates to a pre-retirement planning session; wherever possible, segment your workforce and only provide people with information that is relevant for them. Finally, make it real – bring things to life, use examples and imagery, and provide access to interactive tools.
With budgets under pressure, how can employers achieve maximum value from their pensions and benefits spend?
Good governance is the crucial element that holds everything together, and enables employers to understand what is and isn’t working.
Again, this isn’t a box-ticking exercise. It’s about using the data available and making it meaningful. If hardly anyone is using your pension website, why not?
If you offer flex, how many people are making active choices? What is your take-up on any voluntary benefits? Are there any common themes in the questions your employees are asking? An effective governance structure can tell you where additional – or better – communications are needed, which benefits are most popular, where spend is potentially being wasted and so on.
Employers should also make sure they’re benefitting from any additional tools and services available from their providers, within the charges they already pay. Often, this ‘free’ support can be significant, but isn’t used because employers simply don’t know it’s there.