The next wave of benefits globalisation and digitisation is upon us. With disruptive technological advancements and an increasingly diverse workforce with differing needs, the employment landscape has shifted yet again. In particular, younger generations entering the workforce are more prepared to move jobs frequently, meaning employers must fight harder to attract, and crucially retain, the best people.

At Thomsons Online Benefits, we recently undertook our annual Global Employee Benefts Watch 2017/18 research into benefits best practice. The findings reveal how forward-thinking employers are standing out from the crowd by improving employee retention using their benefits programmes, and setting themselves apart from competitors by truly meeting their employees’ needs.

Employee wellbeing must be a priority

Successful employers are increasingly focusing on wellbeing initiatives that support employees both in and outside of the workplace. Employees are spending longer and longer at the office, while technology is making it increasingly difficult for them to disconnect when they do leave. Employers must keep this in mind, and actively help employees switch off. This not only improves the overall employee experience, but ensures they are more productive during working hours.

The best approaches go beyond just supporting physical health, to provide mental and financial support for employees as well. Only 40% of employers prioritise wellbeing initiatives within their overall benefits strategy, so there is a huge opportunity to get ahead of the majority and reap the rewards. Companies that offer ‘wellness pots’ for example enable employees to choose wellness benefits that work best for them, whether that be art classes to relieve stress, or hiking equipment for those who prefer to exercise outdoors. Preventative initiatives like these go a long way to help employees tackle their wellbeing before bigger problems arise.

Personalisation is key

Our research shows that for 67% of 26–35 year olds buying a home is a life goal, but only 11% of benefits plans support this. For older generations, saving for retirement is a bigger focus. When communicating benefits options to your employees, you need to make sure you are segmenting and targeting employee groups based on the benefits that will most likely be of use to them at their life stage.

Additionally, the timing at which benefits are promoted or offered should be tailored around times of year and life events for maximum impact. For example, launching fitness benefits in the New Year, financial education at the end of the tax year and promoting health leading into the winter to avoid illness and burnout. Companies who ensure their employees have the benefits information they need at the right time are most likely to see continued engagement.

Align your benefits to your company values

It is incredibly important for benefits programmes to be aligned to established people and business strategies, so that you can deliver the benefits that enhance and support your overall values. For example, introducing fitness benefits in one country and not others is unlikely to truly support employees globally, unless it’s done as part of a considered, holistic approach to employee wellbeing across the whole organisation.

How does this help retain your employees? Our research found that for 47% of employees, their benefits offering highly impacts their loyalty to their organisation. The critical factors are benefits consistency and communication. If employees know what your business stands for and feel you are living by your values through your benefits programme, they’ll feel they’re part of something bigger, which can have a positive effect on their loyalty to your organisation.

Use analytics to improve the employee experience

Technology is crucial to a market-leading benefits programme. Our research found that it takes benefits teams on average 5.3 days longer per country per month to administer benefits manually. Not only does technology enable you to cut down time previously spent on admin to spend on value-add activities, but provides a rich set of data to understand if your approach is working. Organisations measuring the impact of their benefits programme on employee engagement globally is as low as 24%.

By analysing available data, you can extend and adapt your benefits programme, offering more valuable and personalised incentives. This measurement will also give you the insight you need to justify ongoing investment in benefits. And for those yet to invest in measurement, the best approach is to start on a small scale. Every piece of insight gathered will help improve the employee experience, and the credibility of the HR function in the eyes of the board.

In summary

If organisations have a defined and aligned global benefits strategy in place, powered by technology, they are significantly more likely to have greater success in driving employee satisfaction. This is proven in our research which found that 76% of employees whose benefits needs are met are advocates of their organisations. If orgainsations plan to put benefits at the heart of employee relationships, then employers must create a more personalised employee experience, guaranteeing better support for employees’ wellbeing and a more consistent culture globally.