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18 May 2022
by Debi O'Donovan

REBA Inside Track: Personalisation is the future as employers move to keep up with change 

There is huge change on the employee benefits design horizon

Main looking out at a city


REBA’s Benefits Design Research 2022 demonstrates just how much changes to working practices, shifts in economic pressures and attitudes in broader society are resulting in benefits designs lagging behind changes in business priorities and corporate cultures. 

With new skills in high demand and a labour market slightly smaller than it was in 2019, the pressure to recruit and retain is leading employers to focus on employee demands as well as worker wellbeing, according to our research, which was published in association with Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing. Increasingly, employers are having to up their game on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) both from an employer brand point of view, but also to broaden their talent pool to bring in diverse ways of thinking and broaden creativity. 

Alongside those moves, corporates are being pushed by society, their employees, as well as investors to become more sustainable and to meet environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals. This is leading to a rethink of everything from the environmental impact of products, services and the supply chain, to social justice issues such as how people are paid, through to slavery and bribery at work. 

All this is occurring against a backdrop of change in use of technology and data in every aspect of our lives. 

With so many shifts occurring at once, it is not surprising that most benefits designs haven’t kept up and many employers are not quite sure which move to make next. Nine in 10 (90%) tell us they will be making changes to their benefits design over the next two years, with most (91%) making small changes, such as introducing new benefits. 

However, the truly striking figure is that almost two out of three (61%) will be conducting a large-scale review of their benefits before 2024, while nearly half (44%) are already planning to make large-scale changes in the coming two years (presumably some of these have already conducted their reviews). 

The guiding principles behind benefits design are also set to shift, linked to the bigger changes already mentioned. We look set to experience a huge shift towards personalisation. By 2024, almost nine in 10 (85%) employers will be focused on personalisation, up from a quarter (25%) today. The one-size-fits all package is not fit for purpose in a world where DEI and fairness for all is becoming increasingly important. 

The emphasis on fairness as a guiding principle is also set to increase. Just under half (46%) of employers say they currently focus on fairness in benefits offerings across pay grades, but by 2024 nearly nine out of 10 (87%) employers will be doing this. The concept of hierarchies and benefits linked to pay grades is likely to wane, hopefully removing gender, ethnicity and other discriminatory gaps in benefits provision within a workforce. 

Change will not be neat and uniform across all employers, it will happen in different ways and in different timescales. But this research shows there is huge change to benefits design waiting in the wings, and perhaps not completely evident yet. Although it is surely coming. 

Download the REBA / Howden Benefits Design Research 2022