INDUSTRY NEWS | 9th March 2022
5 Min Read
A heady cocktail of skilled worker shortages, a record high in vacancies and research showing that 70% of UK workers are likely to look for a new job in the next 12 months*, adds up to a significant shift in power towards the employee. Now, more than ever, it is important that employers are reviewing their levers for retaining and attracting staff. Salary of course is a key element to this, but employees are increasingly looking for more when considering new roles. The expectation isn’t just for comprehensive wellbeing and benefits packages, it’s also that they’re personalised, and that wellbeing support is across people’s work and personal lives. If benefits are not tailored to the individual, a double whammy of waste in spend and low perception of value could be on the cards.
It’s not just about benefits though. We’re also seeing employees question their employer’s ethics and values, asking themselves if they align with their own. Again, a failure to recognise this trend will only make retention and recruitment harder. So, against this backdrop, what strategies can employers use to generate loyalty and be competitive in the market place.
The pandemic has shown how an employer needs core foundation support across physical, financial and mental wellbeing. With Covid’s impact on the NHS and its waiting lists, private healthcare is now considered a top benefit again. However, personalised benefits such as financial advisory support in how to manage money and mental wellbeing apps are also in favour, compared with some ‘traditional’ benefits such as life assurance. That said, life assurance has clearly proven to be a pivotal financial benefit for families who have lost loved ones.
Another area of focus for employers is the need for an effective communication tool. Initial Covid lockdowns showed that few companies, particularly smaller ones, had an accessible way of hosting employee benefit information. A great way to do this is through a benefits platform. Not only does a platform make communication easier for the employer it also makes engagement with benefits easier for the employee.
Trialling hybrid working and flexible hours was an accelerating trend pre-pandemic, but now the ‘return to work’ is well under way, this is perhaps the biggest challenge facing many companies.
Striking the right work/life balance is important, particularly when 46% of employers are concerned about staff burnout in 2022.* Interestingly 51% of employers have acted and now offer a 24/7 mental health hotline, known as an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). EAPs are a low-cost benefit, but in isolation, and because of their reactive nature, we believe they are insufficient support to prevent burnout. Proactive mental wellbeing support should also be a focus for companies. This can include interactive smartphone app-based support around cognitive behavioural therapy, helping to change the way we approach scenarios which cause us stress and anxiety. Working hours policies should also be a consideration. With technology changing how and where we work, employees are looking for more freedom away from the traditional ‘9-5’, but parameters should be in place to ensure employees aren’t working late into the night. An example of this is a 7am – 7pm policy where no company email should be sent outside of these hours.
Employers can take a good step towards the ‘flexible shift’ by reviewing paternity and maternity policies. Enhancing these policies after a specific service period is an easy win for companies as there is no upfront cost to do this and it sends a positive message to staff. We’re also finding that companies, particularly those in the creative sector, have already begun to offer enhanced parental leave regardless of gender.
Another progressive step to attract and maintain employees is piloting the four-day working week, which has been hugely popular and successful in Iceland. So far, a creative studio has signed up to a UK version of this trial, together with a telecoms company and professional services firm.** An interesting side point is that all the companies employ less than 100 members of staff which shows it’s not just big corporates with 1,000s of employees trying to push the flexibility agenda. With the same hours as a 5-day working week, employers will need to have appropriate mental wellbeing support in place to prevent burnout and presenteeism.
A topic that engaged the media and employees throughout 2021 was climate change and the desire to be more environmentally conscious. In this vein, employers can make changes to key benefits such as the investment strategy behind their default company pension fund. ESG (Environmental Social Governance) qualifying funds are gaining traction and switching to an ESG fund can show employees that this topic is as important to their employer as it is to them. New benefits are also available such as electric vehicle schemes and ‘hints and tips’ to reduce your carbon footprint, which can help support an employee living a more sustainable lifestyle.
As this year unfolds it is crucial that HR and management teams keep an ear to the ground to gauge the mood amongst their own staff, but also an eye on the wider zeitgeist about how we should all be working in a post-lockdown world.
With a bespoke mix of the most desirable and relevant ingredients, companies should be looking to create their own cocktail of financial and wellbeing benefits that drives loyalty internally but proves equally enticing externally.
At Connor Broadley we support the design and implementation of a benefit offering, which best fits the demographic of your employees. This includes initial factfinding through focus groups to obtain real time feedback, recommending suitable products and launching new benefits to employees. Even if you have benefits in place, it is important to ensure they are still fit for purpose, and we regularly review this for ongoing clients.
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** Guardian Money, 30.1.22