Rigid benefits schemes have left the majority of British employees unhappy and unfulfilled

The majority of UK employers are failing to appeal to their employees as only 40% of workers appreciate the benefits they provide, according to Willis Towers Watson’s Benefit Preferences report, part of its Global Benefits Attitudes Study.

The research highlights a significant disconnect between employer and employee attitudes to benefits, as almost two-thirds (61%) of employers believe their staff are happy with their benefits package.

This level of ignorance will be to the detriment of the employer as their employees will not engage with the benefits provided, which will, in turn, affect the ROI that the organisation sees. Flexibility is necessary when creating an effective benefits programme.

In fact, almost three-quarters (72%) of employees able to tailor their provision via flexible benefit schemes said their package met their needs, compared with just 23% among those offered no benefits choice.

Almost three-quarters (72%) of employees able to tailor their provision via flexible benefit schemes said their package met their needs, compared with just 23% among those offered no benefits choice.

“These findings reinforce the importance of employers actively engaging with their staff to identify the benefits they most value, aligned to their workforce demographics,” said Mark Ramsook, Director of Sales and Marketing at Willis Towers Watson Health and Benefits.

“This vital intelligence should be married with wider corporate values and business objectives when benefits strategies are reviewed.

“Furthermore, employers should ensure their benefits programmes are being effectively communicated and leveraged to maximise engagement and address associated employee requirements. This is particularly important for traditional core benefits, such as pensions and health insurance, which continue to be valued highly, according to the study, and which will invariably attract the highest levels of spend.”

The research also found that two-thirds (66%) of employees they preferred to sacrifice salary for more generous pensions benefits, while health insurance also gained steady traction with a 16% increase from 2015 to 39% preferring the benefit.

Unsurprisingly different employee demographics expect different things from their benefits. Whereas the majority of baby boomers are more likely to cite retirement planning as a preferred benefit, younger workers are more likely to choose annual unpaid leave than their older counterparts.

“Providing flexibility in benefits not only creates better appreciation from employees overall but also helps companies to engage all segments of the workforce, avoiding situations where certain employee groups do not feel their benefits are relevant or engaging,” added Ramsook.

“Employers looking to introduce flexibility around benefits choice should investigate the considerable advancements that have been made in supporting technology platforms, off-the-shelf solutions and digital communications.

“These can hold the key to the successful introduction of flex schemes, ensuring they streamline the benefits process, enabling it to be cost-effectively managed and administered.

“Employers, however, should give careful consideration to the balance of benefits they offer, how they will support and enhance the lives of employees and how flex schemes are structured to ensure they supports companies’ overall benefits strategies.”

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