A major year for employee benefits

Employee benefits packages look set to be overhauled by many companies in 2015 as the war for talent hots up.

With the UK's economy improving steadily over the past 18 months, competition for the best workers is going to be fierce, forcing employers to consider more than just pay scales to keep their best staff.

Indeed, a comprehensive benefits package is expected to play a significant role in trying to attract and retain talent this year, a study by Edenred has found, with one in two organisations determined to find the perfect mix.

HR departments will have a massive say in this process, as they are ideally placed to speak to both management and rank and file employees in order to find out exactly how competitive a package can be offered.

Getting creative with communication

Nearly four in ten (39 per cent) organisations are looking to introduce more creative communication channels to facilitate earnest conversations around benefits. More specifically, senior management are looking to work closely with line managers to communicate the reward and benefits proposition.

Organisations have rightly identified benefits as a key way to engage staff and potential employees about the value of working for a company. But the vast majority of firms are not taking advantage of this fact, with only 15 per cent labelling their benefits proposition as innovative.

Even more worrying, however, is that less than a sixth (13 per cent) of respondents are developing tailored benefits to meet the needs of employee demographics. There's no one-size-fits-all solution, so organisations have to consider what benefits complement their staff.

Andy Philpott, marketing director at Edenred UK, believes there is a "clear opportunity" for HR and benefits practitioners to "be bolder" in how they develop and deliver their benefits packages.

"As personalisation, technology and online communication reshape consumer behaviour, it is vital that organisations understand these trends and put them at the heart of their benefits proposition," he stated.

The war for talent

All good HR directors appreciate the importance of keeping their most valued staff, and this is why employee benefits will become such an important battleground in the war for talent. Putting a plan in place is not good enough, as it also has to be executed properly to make sure it motivates and attracts employees of all ages.

Flexible working is one consideration, as research by Regus has found that nine in ten employees think this measure boosts morale and helps people to achieve a better work-life balance. Furthermore, 81 per cent believe it boosts productivity.

Writing in HR Magazine, Mr Philpott underlined just how important innovation is if employee benefits are to be used as a recruiting tool. "This isn't just about the individual benefits products but how they are communicated, packaged and aligned to HR policy," he stated.

Failing to take the matter seriously will create two problems. Firstly, existing employees will consider their positions if they feel competitors are offering better working conditions. Secondly, prospective employees are more likely to turn their backs on companies with unattractive packages.

If companies overlook this area, they really are harming their chances of building a satisfied and high-performing workforce in the long term.