Reward asked two industry experts for their views on benefits strategy, why employee feedback matters when it comes to building better engagement, and how technology is driving the future of reward

 

While 81% of respondents in Reward ’s survey said that they collect feedback on the benefits that they offer, that still leaves 1 in 5 who aren’t. What are some easy ways organisations can start to do this - and why does it matter?

DIPA MISTRY KANDOLA

Dipa Mistry Kandola, head of flexible benefits services, LCP (DMK) 

First, take a step back and look at why some employers might not be getting feedback from their employees. Many organisations have lean budgets, limited resources and are juggling increased costs, such as health benefits, flex, pensions savings and wellbeing. The effect of scaling back salary sacrificed benefits has not helped, together with recent increases to automatic enrolment pension contributions.

Experience from our clients tells us that many organisations are revisiting their reward package to understand what employees want and to better align their benefits strategy with business goals and future needs. For example, we are seeing many clients businesses change with the advancement of the digital age, meaning they are recruiting from new sectors and therefore need to realign their priorities to drive future business growth. At initial stages in such a process, there won’t be too much for employees to give feedback on, but once the strategy is in place, there should be plenty of opportunities for employees to feedback.

One of the most effective ways for companies to gather feedback on benefits is through focus groups, asking open questions to a small number of employees to stimulate collaborative discussions and get qualitative feedback. If it’s not physically possible to get groups of employees together to do this, there are also options such as Yammer (a social networking tool used for private communication within organisations) and in-house blogging tools that can be used to get people’s views. The same methods can be used to promote the total reward package. When an employee has been with a company for a while, they can forget about the breadth of what’s on offer.

Using focus groups is definitely a good way of collecting feedback. You could also run an online survey that is emailed out to employees and use some background information such as age or gender to help analyse their responses. However, there isn’t much point in creating and running a survey if you are not going to analyse the data and act on the findings. It’s important to consider the role that reward is playing, and get strategic about it, to understand what the organisation is achieving from offering certain types of benefit and how much it is costing.

Employees may not know what’s on offer, so HR teams may need to start working on raising awareness. Then, employees will be able to give you more informed feedback.

 According to our survey, two of the most popular method s of getting feedback are through informal conversations with employees, and in exit interviews. Is this enough? What are some of the pros and cons of an ad-hoc approach to feedback?

I’m surprised to see exit interviews being so widely used as a source of feedback. Once an employee is working out their notice period in a job, psychologically they’ve already checked out. Are you likely to get balanced feedback?

That said, there are some useful questions you can ask. If employees are regularly telling you that they are going to be better rewarded (for example, variable pay elements such as bonuses, or pension contributions, or a better all-round benefits package) it’s time to take action. This can be particularly important in sectors where competition for talent is fierce.

Similarly, this can be a useful opportunity to pick up benchmarking information about what other companies are offering. Frequent, ongoing opportunities to give formal and informal feedback, are essential.

Engagement is a two-way street and these opportunities should also be worthwhile to the employer, reinforcing culture, values and everything that is provided as part of the organisation’s “package”. In our own organisation, we’ve introduced LCP CARES (Clients Always Receive Exceptional Service), an articulation of our culture and promise, which serves as a framework for how we interact with each other and our clients.

We use Yammer to share insights and examples of how our people have gone above and beyond to help clients which can serve as a blueprint for exceptional client service. We also share experiences on what makes LCP a good place to work, how to make it even better and to publicly recognise and thank our people for their hard work. This also cascades through to the wider benefits offering.

Charles cotton

Charles Cotton, performance and reward adviser, Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CC)

Ad hoc feedback is better than no feedback at all. However, it won’t give you a fuller picture of how your strategy is performing. If you are asking staff at the exit interview stage, are you also asking candidates in interviews about what’s attracting them to the company and the role of benefits within that? Financial, quantifiable benefits are often discussed, but it’s also important that other aspects such as flexible working and opportunities for development and training are explored.

Feedback can then contribute to the ongoing process of benefits design and rollout, followed by impact assessment. If you’re offering something that isn’t valued, it might be worth reconsidering whether it’s right for your staff.

 Technology is an increasingly important factor in benefits design, but 45% of respondents were either neutral, or not confident that their team were familiar with the latest trends. Does this matter?

Over the last 10 or so years, technology has been one of the biggest topics of conversation in the benefits, pension and reward industry. Strategy, engagement and technology need to work together to achieve both the outcomes the organisation expects, and gain continued buy-in from employees.

Using technology effectively can result in better user journeys and more insightful analytics. Technology comes into its own when it’s used to help make benefits meaningful to individuals and their personal and financial goals, like timely nudges around pay day to encourage people to pay more into their pension pots.

The cost of technology has come down significantly in recent years. As such there’s a risk that new initiatives get introduced without in-depth thinking about how these stitch together in terms of employee experience and meeting company goals. Understanding from the outset how technology can help to achieve strategic business objectives will help ensure budgets are better spent.

A lot will also depend on business sector. It’s about finding and understanding the technology that’s most relevant to your business, workforce and culture.

There is lots consider when it comes to technology, including communicating to employees, making sure they are aware of the benefits that are being offered to them and also to help to assess the impact that benefits are having. Technology may also be able to help employees make better and quicker decisions about their benefits choices, and the consequences of those. However, you can’t always rely on technology alone to raise awareness or get messages across, it needs a blend of online and offline methods. A priority for HR teams is thinking about how best to use technology in the communications mix.

This article is featured in Reward’s Wellbeing in the Workplace 2018 research report. CLICK HERE to read the full report.

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