Benefits are an integral part of workplace culture. What they are and how they're handled speaks volumes to employees about the value placed on them and their work. The challenge is, how do we adapt that culture as our demographics change?
Last month I looked at how different generations in the workplace pose a challenge for employers when it comes to providing benefits that really fit the workforce. This month we're looking at how you can practically futureproof your benefits strategy to fit the needs of those different generations.
The starting point for any benefits strategy is always to look at what the benefits should achieve, and to ensure they cater to the actual people they're designed for. This may seem obvious, I know, but every business is different.
For this purpose, broad analysis of generations trends is not going to be sufficient. Not everyone born into an era will necessarily exhibit the 'typical' behaviours of their generation. You need a good handle on what the people who work for you need and want. Here are some thoughts around finding that out.
Whether focus groups, team discussions, feedback in 121s or an online survey, hearing the views of the people you're providing benefits for is vital. Do they know what benefits they have? Are they using them? What do they value, and what don't they value? How are they accessing the benefits? Are they accessing them at all? Some of these questions may be a bit scary to ask, but we all have to start somewhere!
At this point you need to overlay the results from your workshops and conversations against your generational analysis. Is what should be happening or what you thought was happening with your benefits actually borne out in the data?
You may be expecting poor levels of engagement with the company pension plan, yet your research shows that takeup amongst Gen Y is above average while Gen X, who should really be on top of this, are either paying minimum levels or, even worse, opting out! You won't know until you work through the data, and it's from there that you can take an informed view.
Once you've done your research, and even gone back to recheck or dive deeper into the info you've gathered, you'll be in a better position to spend your time and money more wisely. We often encourage clients to develop a reward calendar for the next 12-18 months so that you have a joined up plan and there is something for everyone.
Workplace demographics do matter, but not always in the way we expect. The age span of generational groups is a moveable feast, and while they give some indication of likely life stages, there are a lot of other factors at play.
Pitching your benefits as lifestyle-related may be more successful than aiming them at certain age groups. Where your benefits are onllne this is much easier to do, as your employees have greater control over what info they access, when they access it, and the choices available to them. You can tie in your promotional campaigns for the benefits with your wider approach say to wellbeing or financial education, making the lifestyle value of the benefit more obvious.
Part of your research should always consider how employees want to receive information about benefits. Do they want to see this at work or would they prefer to consider it while at home? Or is the ideal scenario ongoing access regardless of location?
It's so easy to concentrate on the benefits or products, yet the communication and education around these is arguably the most important part. Amongst our clients we are seeing more and more investment in communication within working areas, the spots where people come together either at lunchtime or just to grab a quick coffee. Perhaps this is a result of technology overload - dare I say it, the best way to promote benefits is to just get out there and have a good old-fashioned conversation!
Generational differences don't have to be viewed as a problem to solve, but an opportunity for difference experience, skills and knowledge to be put into the pot. Good employers know that each person brings value, and that keeping employees on board and engaged is vital for business success. This is where benefits strategy has an important role to play, and it starts with taking a good look at what will truly engage your employees. After all, that's who the benefits are for.
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Please note: This blog provides generic information and is the opinion of the author. It is not intended to be specific to the individual and/or firm and should not be constituted as advice.