A new report shows that most employers believe more needs to be done in order to raise understanding linked to benefits and health programmes.
According to research by Aon, a leading global professional services firm providing risk, retirement and health solutions, almost all employers (98 per cent) feel that it is important for their staff to engage more with benefits and health programmes offered at their company.
Previous research showed that there is a prevalent disconnect when it comes to employees and reward systems. Over half of employers believed that their staff do not have a full understanding of the benefits on offer to them, according to analysis conducted last year. This was mirrored in the employees’ response with over a third (35 per cent) stating that their company does not communicate benefits or they do not remember if their company does.
Within Aon’s report, key factors which prohibited employers from effectively communicating the benefits included budget constraints – with half of organisations (49 per cent) citing this as a main barrier.
Other obstacles included lack of resources (36 per cent) and uncertainty about how to create engaging communications (15 per cent).
Despite this, more organisations have expressed the desire to take action on this front. Almost two-thirds (59 per cent) said they would be willing to increase budgets or are thinking about it to improve engagement. This is a rise of almost a fifth (17 per cent), compared to figures from 2020 (when 42 per cent of companies said they would increase budgets).
When questioned about why they want to increase their employees’ understanding of Total Reward and the value of benefits, seven in 10 employers said their key goal was increasing employee engagement. Other reasons included increasing awareness and reward being a fundamental part of employee experience.
Sarah Robson, senior strategic consultant, Health Solutions, Aon, said:
It has been encouraging to see many organisations increasing communication with their employees to show support during the COVID-19 pandemic. There has been an awareness that connection is more important than ever when so many are under strain or working remotely, as well as the importance of highlighting the wellbeing and employee benefits that are available to support colleagues.
The survey showed that 86 per cent of respondents said communications with employees was a higher priority since the pandemic began and 66 per cent of respondents said regular communication is a key focus of benefits engagement in the next 12 months, too.
However, with over a quarter of employers (27 per cent) confessing they do not conduct any research or ‘listen’ to employee needs in order to highlight potential areas for improvement within their strategies, the research strongly suggested that more needed to be done.
Sarah Robson further explained:
We recommend understanding employee thoughts and feelings in order to develop a purposeful communication strategy that improves engagement and offers the best employee experience. Although firms use a variety of research tools such as questionnaires, pulse surveys and focus groups, new methods can complement traditional research to help employers understand peoples’ emotions. For example, neuroscience surveys bypass unconscious bias by measuring automatic reactions so employers can understand true opinions of their teams. Additionally, new technology channels also help improve the employee experience so they better understand the value of their benefits.
It remains essential, however, that employers put measures in place that allow them to accurately identify obstacles and help them understand exactly what budgets and resources are needed to reach targets.
*This research was taken from Aon’s ‘UK Benefits and Trend Survey 2021’ which surveyed 332 HR, employee benefit and reward specialists across a range of industry sectors.
Monica Sharma is an English Literature graduate from the University of Warwick. As Editor for HRreview, her particular interests in HR include issues concerning diversity, employment law and wellbeing in the workplace. Alongside this, she has written for student publications in both England and Canada. Monica has also presented her academic work concerning the relationship between legal systems, sexual harassment and racism at a university conference at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.