Five reasons why employee benefits programmes can fail

Many employers will be looking to promote their employee benefits programmes in January in a bid to remind staff why they’re a good employer to work for, especially at a time when employees can get itchy feet.

After months of reviewing suppliers and options, and deciding on a new benefits programme, it can be disheartening when all that effort is met with a lacklustre response by staff, and some benefits packages fail to grab the hearts and minds of employees. Towergate Health and Protection highlights five key mistakes businesses make when implementing new benefits packages:

1) Failing to consult employees in advance
When businesses are going to the effort of renewing benefit packages, some of the best results can be had by consulting with employees first about what they’d like to see. Businesses can make assumptions that they know what employees want, particularly for smaller companies where relationships may be closer, but it’s generally better to ask. That’s not to say businesses will be cajoled into offering the most expensive benefits, but they may be surprised to learn what employees really appreciate, which might well be relatively low-cost but high-value perks, such as some flexibility in working hours, discounted gym membership or cashplans.

2) Not communicating regularly
When a new benefits package is in place, the temptation can be to give employees access to all the information at once and leave them to look through it at their leisure and decide what might suit them best. However, information presented in this way can be overwhelming, with new benefits not engaged in or utilised as a result.

For businesses that have consulted employees about what they want from benefits packages, it’s important that they explain they’ve been chosen a result of feedback, and this can gain immediate interest when they’re promoted.

Then drip-feeding information throughout the year can help keep benefits alive and encourage utilisation. For instance, linking in with key calendar dates – such as highlighting gym membership in January, a cycle-to-work scheme in the spring, discounted travel insurance in the summer.

3) Making aged-based assumptions
It can be easy to assume that older workers may be interested in financial benefits, such as group life assurance; and younger employees’ perks such as fresh fruit Fridays. It can boil down to what businesses think employees will be interested in, based on their age, circumstances and stage of life. However, such assumptions – which can be wildly inaccurate – can serve to alienate employees from benefits altogether. While having a general overview of the demographics of an organisation is important, relying on age generalisations within this should be avoided. Instead, understanding what an employer’s particular demographic would like to see from a benefits programme can often be much more valuable, and help employees relate to the benefits on offer.

4) Distributing complex communications
Employees are going to struggle to engage with a benefits package that comes with a hefty user manual. It’s better to keep information about benefits, and accessing them, simple and informative. Employees are much more likely to engage with benefits that are easy to use and understand; anything else risks feeling more hassle than worth. Simple, clear, plain-English information about what the benefit is, and how to access it, is a great place to start.

5) Not being compatible with technology
There are various technologies that enhance employee benefits; businesses don’t have to have the latest gadget, but basic platforms and media to meet today’s expectations can greatly improve uptake. From employee benefit programmes that link up with smart watches so employees can earn rewards as they exercise, to having mental health apps available 24/7 to support wellbeing – staff expect technology to complement employee benefits. Technology enables employees to utilise benefits on their terms, which could be during a work commute or downtime at the weekend, giving them flexibility to engage with benefits when they want to. Making total reward statements available online as well can create a simple visual that details all benefits employees are entitled to – on top of their salary – making it an important engagement and retention tool.

Brett Hill, distribution director at Towergate Health and Protection, comments:

“Employee benefits play an important role in the recruitment and retention of staff. However, businesses can fall at the first hurdle, by making a few easy mistakes that can result in benefits programmes not being engaged with. By listening to what employees want to see from benefits packages, aligning to their needs where possible and communicating it effectively – programmes are much more likely to see better uptake rates, and so provide better overall value to the business.”