Voluntary perks step out of the shadow of flexible benefits schemes

Voluntary benefits should be integrated with the total perks package, says David Wall, managing director of LogBuy

The popularity of voluntary benefits programmes has increased immensely in recent years, as highlighted by the findings of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s (CIPD) Reward management survey 2008, which concluded that voluntary benefits programmes are the second most popular flexible arrangement among employers.

Some 49% of employers with more than 5,000 staff are adopting a voluntary benefits programme and the offering is most popular among private sector employers (34%).

With 27% of respondents currently offering a voluntary benefits programme compared with only 13% offering flexible benefits, we need to ask: What has led to the increase in the popularity of voluntary benefits, and have they shaken off their traditional stereotypes? Voluntary benefits offer organisations a cost-effective solution by providing their employees with access to a wide range of discounts and deals, traditionally from national retailers.

Many organisations choose to manage their programmes in-house, but a growing number are deciding to outsource their requirements to third-party providers.

An external provider can offer an organisation a much larger number of deals to make available to employees compared to if the organisation were to source the deals itself. The provider can also offer either off-the-shelf or bespoke, company-branded IT packages to instantly communicate the deals to staff.

In addition, the third party’s offering of a reduction in an organisation’s own time and cost in implementing and managing a benefits programme is likely to prove extremely attractive during the current economic climate.

However, providers have to be continuously innovative and responsive to customer needs. We have to make sure products are always in line with the expectations and wishes of both the organisation and its employees.

A wide range of national deals and discounts is great, but offering the best discounts as well as a large selection of local retailers, including restaurants, hairdressers, dentists, and so on, creates greater value to the programme because it shows the employer listens to its staff and is providing a personalised programme.

We recently conducted research, which was carried out by our parent company in Scandinavia, among existing customers to establish how we can improve our current voluntary benefits offering. The responses revealed that our customers were looking for a modular approach to their benefits package. They either had existing perks or were looking to provide additional options, including staff events, Christmas parties, sports and social clubs, that they wanted to integrate with their existing voluntary benefits scheme.

I believe the future for voluntary benefits is not that they should be offered as a standalone benefit, but that we should offer a modular, integrated approach, which allows organisations to tailor benefits to meet both their and their employees’ needs.

This article is brought to you by LogBuy. The views and opinions in this article are those of our sponsor LogBuy, and do not necessarily reflect those of www.employeebenefits.co.uk.