Damian Stancombe, Partner, Barnett Waddingham shares insightful tips on implementing an effective and engaging flexible benefits platform
Let’s face it, flex is popular with more and more companies offering a large range of choices to their workforce. A well designed scheme will pay dividends in many ways, but could cause problems in the future if not thought through properly at the outset.
Here are some tips to ensure flex is a success:
Analyse – Before designing the scheme, spend some time analysing data to aid your strategy. One of the easiest ways to do this is by instigating an employee survey. Not only does this give you a flavour of current engagement levels, but it also involves the workforce early on. Gone are the days of HR deciding which benefits are right for employees and then being disappointed when benefits are not chosen! All that hard work and effort is wasted. If you don’t ask your employees (in a controlled way!) then how will you know if you are offering the right benefits? You may not need to run a specific survey for this as just a few tweaks to an existing survey will suffice.
Return On Investment – You need to make sure you are implementing flex for the right reasons and ensure it’s not just a tick in the box exercise because you feel it’s the ‘right thing to do’. Are you a company making acquisitions so flex will enable you to harmonise? Are you struggling with admin-heavy processes for your benefits? Do your employees have an understanding or appreciation of the benefits offered? Do you find it hard to attract and retain employees when compared to your competitors? Hopefully you don’t have a problem with any of these but if any apply then flex will help and provide you with a tangible return on investment.
Timing – Picking a sweet spot of when to launch a flex platform is important. There are several factors to consider. Does flex run in line with the annual leave year, calendar year, financial year or pay review year? Also think about other projects that could impact the launch of a platform, for example, implementing a new HR platform at the same time is not for the faint hearted!
Data – You can have the most advanced flex scheme with amazing benefits but if the data is poor, it will all end in tears. Too many flex schemes have suffered due to poor data and it is crucial that time is spent on cleansing data ahead of it going anywhere near a platform. Data is the key to an efficiently ran platform as it is what makes it tick. If anything is incorrect and god forbid spotted by employees, then it’s the kiss of death. Even something as simple as an incorrect date of birth can have an impact where insurance premiums are calculated. Bad data in, equal’s bad data out!
User journey – A flex platform can be a big project to launch which requires a lot of time and effort, therefore it is important that employees can easily understand its purpose and what they need to do, which is why the user journey has to be right. Do not make it too over-complicated and try to give employees too much to take on board otherwise they will not engage. Keep it simple. Ease of access is also important, single sign on should be a given and the platform also needs to be compatible with smart phones and tablets.
Reporting – Everyone loves a good spreadsheet (don’t they?!) and it is important the platform can give you the data you need. Whether it’s feedback to the HR platform, payroll system or absence platform, make sure you spend some time on requirements so that once live, the data is provided on a regular basis.
Take it slow and steady – Do not throw everything into year one, simplicity is key and let the platform/scheme settle in properly. By rolling out too many benefits straight away, you will struggle to keep it fresh in subsequent years.
Identity – Give your scheme an identity that will connect and engage with your audience, reinforcing your company values.
Admin – Flex platforms should take away all of your existing admin burden. It is invaluable that time is spent as part of the design phase to review all current processes and how the platform can take these on board. Once up and running, it really should be simple as you are only having to provide the platform with one HR file each month. The platform should be sophisticated enough to then identify joiners, leavers, changes, automatically trigger processes, send targeted communications and then generate accurate reports. I would also question any platform that doesn’t do this in 2017!
Anytime benefits – Flex has always been a bit of a contradiction. Companies encourage their employees to ‘take control of your benefits…but only once a year or if you get married or have a baby’. Anytime benefits need to be available to employees, so flex actually lives up to its name!
Communications – A robust well-thought communication strategy is as important, if not more important that the platform itself. Rather than hitting employees with lots of information in one go, drip feed content over the preceding weeks ahead of launch to warm up the audience. Don’t bog down employees with lots of jargon - keep the messaging simple and if your platform allows it, segment communications to the different cohorts of employees (typically age) for a really effective strategy.
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