Julia Hanna: Are employees becoming more influential in driving benefits strategy?

Julia Hanna 430

Employees are driving benefits strategy in a number of ways: as talent; as employees without borders; as interest groups; as collaborators; and as consumers.

Employees are more mobile, educated, technologically enabled and focused on the short term than ever. They want recognition of their needs, involvement, participation and transparency.

The world of work is changing. With volatility and ambiguity comes uncertainty for employees and employers. Organisational structures are flattening, contingency workers are increasing, and the psychological contract is changing.

Employees view work differently; changing jobs frequently and developing portfolio careers. Traditional corporate offerings no longer fit. Benefits need to be shorter term and fluid, providing support for today and development for tomorrow.

As growth in the global workforce slows, employers will look wider for talent. Technology enables employees to work across borders with location no longer defining geographic scope. Employees are also moving more frequently for jobs. Benefits strategies will have to adapt.

Many organisations have increasingly gender-, age- and ethnically diverse populations, and each group has particular needs. While not mutually exclusive, the importance of particular benefits differs. Barclays’ Talking about my generation: exploring the benefits engagement challenge report, published in September 2013, found that health provision is valued by all but viewed differently; older workers want traditional insurance, whereas younger employees value gyms and wellbeing.

Employees are connected and they collaborate; they expect transparency. Glassdoor and social media sites mean that benefits strategy is public. This will inevitably influence how organisations design, package and communicate benefits and the total employee offering.

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Finally, employees are consumers of their employer’s brands, culture, pay and benefits and development plans. According to Willis Towers Watson’s Global workforce study 2014, published in August 2014, 70% expect their employer to know them as well as it does its customers. Many organisations are turning to consumer marketing and big-data analysis to gain insights into the needs and wants of employees. The outcomes are driving benefits choices and strategy.

Julia Hanna is director at Verditer Consulting