` How to provide benefits for a diverse, inclusive workforce | Reward and Employee Benefits Association (REBA)
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10 Aug 2018

How to provide benefits for a diverse, inclusive workforce

We are at a crossroads when it comes to benefits provision. The workplace is fast evolving, with the emergence of tech-enabled flexible and remote working, a rise in contract workers and outsourced resources, and a multi-generational workforce. It is imperative that a company’s benefits offering is adapted to suit the new workplace environment and changing demographic. 

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A one-size-fits-all approach will not only fail to meet the needs of many employees, but could also potentially lead to disengagement, decreased output and have a negative impact on both attracting and retaining talent.

Our Global Benefits and Attitudes Survey (GBAS) (2018) identified that employees had very different priorities, attitudes and expectations, with age, financial status and level of financial security being key influencing factors.

Providing compelling evidence linking engagement levels with benefits satisfaction, GBAS results showed that nearly half (49 per cent) of employees who were satisfied with the range of benefits offered by their employer were also highly engaged.

The research revealed that only 40 per cent of UK employees were happy with their current benefits package and that 70 per cent stated that they were not offered a wide choice of benefits options and the flexibility to meet their needs.

Employers should look to shape their benefits offering so that it is relevant, valuable and in line with the changing profile of the organisation, employee needs and expectations. 

Gain insights into employee make-up

Obtaining accurate demographic data to provide a clear picture of an employer’s people population is essential, particularly for large businesses operating from multiple geographies. A clear overview of work patterns is also vital in understanding the make-up of a business and the needs of its people.

Remote workers, part-time staff, an ageing workforce and the retention of millennials all present challenges. Armed with the correct data, HR teams can gain invaluable insights to help drive informed, evidence-based benefits strategies.

Understand employees’ diverse needs to enhance inclusiveness

Organisations with a robust understanding of their people and their individual needs are best equipped to address and deliver the benefits that work for their business – enhancing inclusiveness and wellbeing among their teams.

GBAS findings revealed that women and workers who were struggling financially for example, were least likely to feel satisfied with their employer’s benefits package.

Further diversity in employees’ needs were identified – the importance of wealth-enhancing benefits such as retirement plans, also greatly varied between generations. More than half (51 per cent) of baby boomers stated that this was a priority for them compared to 44 per cent of generation X workers and 32 per cent of millennials.

Non-traditional benefits, such as wellbeing initiatives and other insurance, proved a preference amongst generation Y employees.

Analysing benefits usage will help employers understand what is and what isn’t working for their unique employee base, so they make an informed decision about their offering, rather than taking a template approach. 

Workforce insights

But numbers will only get businesses so far. To really understand employee need, employers need to be prepared to listen.

Facilitating opportunities to feedback on the benefits that would best support workers’ individual preferences and circumstances will help employers to deliver the benefits that their workers want. This not only saves costs in the long term but also enriches the employer/employee relationship. 

However, individual’s needs are not static and change with time. Family, finances, the economy and age bring their own demands on workers as they juggle increasingly busy and demanding lives. Employers should keep the lines of communication open, to ensure the benefits offering retains its relevance. 

Offer choice

Providing a wide and varied package to include both core and other types of benefits can boost benefits satisfaction, by enabling employees to select the options that best support them. A standard benefits package will not suit the needs or fit with the preferences of the entire workforce.   

For example, the GBAS showed that 49 per cent of employees wanted more generous retirement plans and paid annual leave; 45 per cent wanted more financial protection and 42 per cent wanted further enhanced healthcare plans.

The report found that, not only do employees with greater choice and flexibility value their benefits more, but they are willing to have pay deducted from their salaries to cover the cost of both core and voluntary benefits.

Nearly two-thirds (63 per cent) of employees for example, are happy to have deductions made to pay for a guaranteed retirement benefit – an increase from 57 per cent in 2013. Although this demonstrates that more choice and a certain level of autonomy can improve the benefits experience, employers should ensure that the process of choosing tailored benefits is not too overwhelming or confusing. 

They can achieve this by adopting technology which simplifies the benefits enrolment, selection and delivery process. 

Engage, review, monitor and measure

Significant time and cost is spent on designing and delivering the right benefits package.

Regularly engaging staff to review the current offering and monitoring and measuring satisfaction levels on an annual or bi-annual basis allows employers to keep their finger on the pulse.

Understanding both the existing needs of an employers’ workforce and evaluating external changes within the marketplace can reap benefits for all in the short and longer term.

This article was provided by Willis Towers Watson.

In partnership with Willis Towers Watson

Willis Towers Watson is a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company.

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