Are your benefits fit for the future?

Covid-19 News | Employment & Skills | Reports
Andrew Morgan
Andrew Morgan

Andrew Morgan Jones, an Associate Director in Grant Thornton’s Reward and Employee Benefits Consultancy team, looks at how to make employee benefit packages suitable for a post-Covid-19 world.

Talent retention is always an issue and careers are more fluid than ever before. After a tough year of restricted freedoms and enforced video conference marathons, the grass may well look greener for key members of any team. So, what are employers doing to help employees get over lockdown burn out?

Some businesses, Grant Thornton amongst them, have opted to offer their people extra wellbeing days. LinkedIn for example gave the entire company an additional week of annual leave to recover from the extra grind experienced during the pandemic.

Whilst more annual leave is always welcome, and is really needed in these extraordinary times not just for relaxing but also for caring responsibilities and personal mental and physical health, it’s important to also look at the big picture. Extra holiday on its own won’t make a lasting impact if overarching issues such as demotivation, low retention levels and inadequate wellbeing support are not addressed.

In my experience, an effective benefits package should not just improve immediate welfare levels, it really needs to drive behavioural change. The end game is to actively encourage your people to operate as stakeholders in the company.

A more holistic approach requires being open to some real-world challenges. If there is a benefits package, is it really fit for purpose in a competitive marketplace? At Grant Thornton we start this process for our clients by evaluating the existing scheme and exploring how it aligns with the needs of employees. We help focus on wider factors such as identifying better ways of supporting general wellbeing and mental health. This could include making sure there are activities outside of the 9-5 that employees will appreciate, and which will grow their connection to the organisation, such as walking challenges, sports teams or sponsorship events.

Benefits can be developed into value-added propositions that incentivise people to manage their own wellbeing. This could take the form of an app that records when colleagues meditate or go on walks, rewarding them for looking after their health and providing the HR department with valuable management information. With home working certain to be much more common moving forward, implementing digitally managed platforms can really help people stay connected despite working remotely.

Adding equity into the benefits package is a highly effective way to keep staff members motivated, as it fosters a feeling of ownership that leads to a beneficial cycle of growth once people start to see the value created by their work.

The success of this approach is illustrated by the increasing popularity of employee-owned businesses, which grew by 28% in 2019 alone. This style of organisation is clearly a good motivator, with a study by the White Rose Centre for Employee Ownership finding that annual productivity levels in employee-owned businesses were up by an average of 6.9% in 2020 compared to the UK as a whole, which went down by 1%.

In addition, a share plan can be very cost efficient, as it maximises the employee’s net return while reducing employer costs. Combining a share plan with a market review of the benefits package can generate significant savings, money that can then be reinvested to foster even greater levels of employee wellbeing.

Creating a successful benefits package requires continual effort and attention to make sure that it is always right for the business and its workforce. Maintaining an up-to-date, fully optimised scheme will not only reduce the risk of burnout and stress but can create a more productive and engaged workforce, ensure higher staff retention rates and make it easier to attract talent.

When all of this comes together, organisations will have built a resilient and supportive culture that addresses the needs of both the employees and the business, ensuring that it can cope with even the most challenging scenarios.

This article was co-authored with Paul Greatrex, Associate Director, and Kevin Hartland, Consultant, of Grant Thornton’s Reward and Employee Benefits Consultancy team.

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