The question of how to motivate and satisfy employees is more weighted than ever. With the changing context of work, employers need to understand what employees want and need from their benefits.
In a largely remote and mentally strenuous context brought about by the pandemic, employers are faced with the challenge of updating their compensation and benefits models to a completely changed workforce. Over recent years, the go-to motivators of pension plans and gold watches have shifted to bonus plans and flexible hours. But how can employers play catch-up with the dramatic impact of the last 12 months that has accelerated the shift in the world of work?
In May 2020, Deloitte released its Global Human Capital Trends Report. It said “rapid changes in the nature of work” are “adding new demands and pressures on compensation strategies and programs. As a consequence, many organizations are stuck in a seemingly endless cycle of compensation reviews, reforms, and rollouts.”
One of the biggest shifts in demand for change in compensation and benefits programs has stemmed from the awareness and subsequent expectations that employees have. Unsurprisingly, the shift from how we once worked to our current realities has also altered the wants and needs of employees.
In early 2021, Benify, together with YouGov, conducted a survey of more than 58,000 employees throughout Europe. Participants were asked to answer a series of questions about their employee benefits, the current situation, their working conditions, what they want most from their employer, and what they consider most important when choosing an employer.
So, what do employees really want?
The most important benefits to employees
When we’ve previously reported on the shift in the Compensation and Benefits environment, it’s largely been about the latest ‘fad’ and ‘perks‘ that employers can onboard within their organizations.
However, UNLEASH Editor, Yessi Bello Perez, recently commented: “Beautiful offices filled with freebies or gyms may have been enough to entice prospective employees pre-pandemic but with 12 months of turmoil behind them, people are now looking to feel part of something bigger, and employers certainly have an obligation to ensure employees are safe and well looked after.”
Benify’s recent “The Benefits and Engagement Report” surveyed a huge number of employees and their results certainly reflected this opinion. One of the questions asked participants to rate the benefits categories they have access to today in order of importance.
Leave and working hours ranked in the top three for every country in the survey.
Also ranking highly were benefits such as Pensions; Work-Life Balance; Health and Wellness; Insurance; Healthcare Benefits; Skills Development Benefits.
It’s interesting that the benefits we would normally tout as being ‘run-of-the-mill’ or unattractive and unenticing, have come out on top in this survey. But just because they aren’t exciting, clearly doesn’t mean they aren’t important. “With office closures and our homes now also our workspace, many of the employee benefits that were once in demand and considered attractive no longer have the same appeal, like lunch subsidies and discounted annual public transport cards,” Benify noted. Instead, we can see that our new working contexts have put a great deal of emphasis on benefits related to financial wellness and work-life balance.
Financial wellness & work-life benefits
Forbes wrote, “If you had a choice, what’s better: Free snacks and massages, or a financial wellness program that can address the No.1 concern of your employees – financial stress?”. The study by Benify infers the latter. Employees are clearly wanting support financially as well as mentally and emotionally from their employers.
A 2019 PwC study found that 59 percent of employees are more stressed out about their financial situation than any other single issue. 35 percent of employees say financial stress impacts their ability to do their job. Reflecting on the last year, and the economic environment we are in now, it’s no surprise there is even more emphasis on employers to support the financial wellness of their employees as financial instability for millions has worsened globally.
From Benify’s “The Benefits and Engagement Report”, participants overwhelmingly showed they would like to be offered financial benefits such as bonuses, profit-sharing, and company shares when they were asked what benefits they would like their employer to offer that isn’t currently offered to them today.
The point about financial wellness is it’s not just about what’s good for employees either. Without employer support, poor employee financial wellness can take a toll on an individual’s attendance levels, engagement and performance and ultimately impact the organization’s ROI negatively.
Benefit strategies that are looking to overcome financial stress need to understand that it’s not a quick-fix though. It takes education, access to expert resources, and effective financial support for most people to achieve real financial wellness, said Benify in its Financial Wellness E-Book.
We’ve determined that money matters, but how can employers stand out from the crowd? “With employees working from home and remote working seemingly the new norm, increasing your offering by including more benefits that can be used digitally is a smart move,” says Benify.
Their recent survey asked respondents, “On a scale of 1-10, how important do you consider the company-unique benefits you are offered today.” 43 percent of participants from Sweden said it was very important, versus 19 percent from both the UK and Denmark. Furthermore, not many employees said it wasn’t important at all – results varied from 3-17 percent.
Not only is the uniqueness of benefits something current employees care about, it’s also important for prospective employees too. Offering unique benefits can be a creative way to differentiate from competitors and a way to support your EVP, company culture and create Brand Ambassadors from current employees by improving satisfaction and loyalty ratings.
In choosing what strategic benefits to include in your offering, Benify have come up with a “Benefits Pyramid” that shows three different levels of benefits – those that are “important benefits” such as the pensions and leave allowance on the lowest tier; “appreciated benefits” in the middle tier, such as lunch subsidies or massages at work, which are arguably more of the nice-to-haves or ‘perks’; and then the top tier is the “something unique” that reflects your company and your employer brand.
Speculating the future of benefits
In Benify’s recent study, they considered how the pandemic has impacted work, including employee benefits, but also used this as an opportunity to look into expectations and predictions for the future. They asked participants “What benefits will be the most needed in the future?”. Although responses varied by country, it is clear that the participants believe a focus on work-life balance and employee health and well-being will be most important.
Additionally, it is worth noting that 51 percent of respondents in Sweden and Denmark, 46 percent in the Netherlands, and 43 percent in Germany predict that benefits adapted for working at home will be the most needed benefit in the future.
The study highlights the expectations of employees for the future of work. With an emphasis on benefits providing flexible working arrangements; tech tool provision and organizational digitalization; as well as wellbeing support; and provisions for sustainable mobility.
Clearly, financial benefits still have a role to play. As evidenced from the importance ratings from the Benify survey, as well as its “Benefits Pyramid” model, money matters. But the upper-rungs of the pyramid – the appreciated and unique benefits – are where organizations can adapt to their unique environments even more and provide for the changing needs of the workforce. These are also where the opportunities lie for employers to embed their values and culture even further and create competitive EVPs to retain current employees, but also attract new talent too.
Employees are beginning to pay heed to how their organization’s benefits weigh into their own culture and values, as well as what they mean for them individually as they look to the future.
Find out more about Benify here.
Senior Content Partnerships Manager
Abigail has worked at the face of telling the stories of change, disruption, and successes of senior business leaders for around five years. She is proud to provide a voice and platform to the great stories within the HR technology community and is excited to be part of the tapestry of challenges and wins that come out of innovation and collaboration, whilst being able to add her own insights and expertise to the fray.