Keeping staff happy and productive is the same everywhere, but different working cultures mean different approaches to reward. Sonia Rach looks at how the UK is faring
Staff benefits are an integral part of a job, according to research in the annual Capita Employee Benefits Insight Report. Around two thirds (69%) of employees say they are more likely to stay with an organisation that offers a good benefits package. Similarly, 68% are more likely to take a job if a potential employer offers a good package.
So it comes as no surprise that good reward strategies are embraced all over the world. Looking at what the UK can learn, David Harris, managing director at Tor Financial Consulting Ltd, says: “We should be implementing flexible rewards programmes. The problem in the UK is that it’s not thought about in a holistic way, and rewards are regarded as a cost. The government should be encouraging wellness – the integration of financial and human wellness is important and that’s what reward comes down to.”
Wellness has become a key focus in the UK in recent months. Organisations are beginning to look at how physical, mental and financial wellbeing all contribute to the overall wellbeing of an employee.
Blake Allison, chief executive and president, FELA (Financial Education and Literary Advisers), agrees with this trend. Comparing the UK and US, he says: “The focus on wellness is definitely one of the faster growing rewards in the US.
“It’s interesting that the UK is looking at things in the same way. In some respects, for example in the use of technology, the US may be ahead. But on the other hand, the UK does a much better job at aggregating someone’s financial information.
“The UK has different long-term savings programmes – such as the proposed Lifetime ISA – which bring in a somewhat different viewpoint.”
However, there’s always room for improvement. Carl Redondo, global benefits leader, Aon says: “We’re probably the biggest flexible benefits market in the world, and one of the defining features is that it’s hinged on tax treatments. For example, we provide cycle-to-work because the government says if you buy a cycle through your company flex scheme, you don’t need to pay tax. Employers have to look beyond that to see what suits employees and the overall wellness benefit.”
The next question is how best to keep employees in the loop. Technology seems to be making the world smaller. Communicating with staff, especially in an international workforce, seems to be best in a tech-savvy format that is accessible to everyone. With agile working and more diverse workforces, it is essential to still have consistent benefits globally.
Allison adds: “A lot of programmes say ‘We’ll come in and do workshops over the lunch hour or seminars’, but not everyone can access them, for example, companies with staff across multiple locations.”
He continues: “Information has never been the problem with employee benefits, but being given irrelevant information – that is a huge problem.”
Benefits are becoming a more extensive part of the reward programme but strategically, the way to remain consistent is to ensure an all-encompassing global strategy and mission statement.
This needs to be communicated effectively by the leaders to ensure they all receive the same message.
Redondo explains this further. “There’s no point saying everybody must have access to a private medical scheme. Instead, it should say everybody should have appropriate health care coverage and not worry too much about how it gets delivered. It’s important to have that global message communicated to the countries and regions and then let them implement that in the best way they see fit.”
However, in the UK organisations are failing to implement a good reward strategy because they often measure success by participation rates.
However, according to Allison, this is a risky metric. He says: “Not everyone requires the same input, i.e. someone might be using the savings for a house whereas another person will be maxing out for retirement. You need to understand the situation and circumstances of each individual. The measure of success should be looking at how it’s helping employees, the impact on their life – you have to acknowledge these areas in reward to see how it’s helping staff individually.”
Looking at benefits globally, it seems as though the UK is following a similar structure to other countries but is failing to communicate effectively. As the economy recovers, it’s important to look at how to retain and recruit staff in the best way – especially in a post-Brexit world.
Employers need to put value on what employees want as a benefit and adopt the idea that for a reward strategy to be valued, it needs to be personalised.