Why one size does not fit all for employee benefits


Companies tend to speak of employees in general terms and, for simplicity, consider them as one lumpen mass. Or maybe even masses.

Yet we know these groups are made up of a disparate range of individuals of different ages, cultures and even genders.

This approach may be practical for strategic purposes, but has not served businesses well when communicating benefits.

Employers provide benefits because that’s one of the key reasons people come to work – in general. As individuals, people have more or less affinity with gym memberships, cycle to work schemes or luncheon vouchers.

Traditional benefits communication has been used to target an unsuspecting population through presentations, with desk drops of documents they don’t understand and now through a variety of devices.

Yet the message isn’t getting through as one size does not fit all. Baby boomers have very different aspirations and requirements from generation Z and are increasingly seeking different reward structures.

Generational differences and demands

Much of this push for change is coming from millennials, who are facing a very different economic landscape from a generation ago.

With the median house price now almost nine times the average salary, it’s no surprise that rising house prices is one of the three top challenges from employees seeking higher base pay at 25.1% of the businesses responding to the REBA New Model Reward 2017 survey.

Most of this pressure is from the influx of generation Z employees (16.4%) because 15.8% say that student debt is one of the drivers.

Therefore, there is an increasing divergence in demand for benefits as a result of inter-generational differences.

Almost 21% (20.8%) of businesses feel this pressure for change from millennial workers, though an increasing number of older workers (14.2%) seek more and better choices around retirement.

So ask yourself, is a message to drive your younger people to retirement savings the right thing to do? Or are you doing it because of the legislation around auto-enrolment or ‘because we’ve always done it’?

Targeted communications

Despite this apparent divide across the workforce, in reality there will always be a single strategy owing to budgetary restrictions. This simply highlights the crucial role of communications, which must be targeted and meaningful to each different group.

But don’t forget, regardless of age, gender, salary or anything else, as humans we still like to talk to other humans sometimes. Especially when we come up for air from looking down at our smartphones.

It must not be imposed, set and forgotten, but regularly reviewed to ensure the spend is offering the employer – and therefore the staff – the best possible value for money.

This means tailoring rewards to satisfy different demands within the restrictions of the budget.

But remember, if you get your communications right and people are drawn to what you offer them, make sure what they get is best of breed and makes them want to keep coming back for more.

Workforce planning is key

Millennials clearly can't have all their reward as cash, unless they opt out of auto-enrolment. Allowing such a change would also be detrimental to future workforce planning.

Few employees will spend their entire career with one employer and many more will choose to work through their retirement.

Businesses need their employee population to feel confident it has saved enough to be able to retire when the time is right. Otherwise, there is a new demographic time bomb of older workers blocking jobs and preventing the business from renewing itself.

Employees’ future needs

They may not realise it now but millennials need to plan for the future too, and allow them to change their focus through their lives. Whether that be for retirement, buying a house or even going on a dream holiday to an exotic location.

They may take some persuading, but that is the business of engagement and if your current communication strategy isn’t going to be able to meet that challenge, isn’t it time you considered how it could be changed to meet the future needs of the business as well as your employees?

This article was provided by JLT Employee Benefits.


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