Michael Rose: Build flexible benefits slowly to tie in what employees value


It all starts with the aims of the flexible benefits plan. As an organisation, agree why flexible benefits are being introduced and what success will look like. By definition, providing choice is almost certainly one of the aims. But it does not mean that complete flexibility has to be provided from day one. As retail employees often find, offering too much choice can cause the individual to walk away; but narrow the selection down to a more limited number of choices and shoppers are more likely to buy. In flexible benefits, it may be sensible to offer a more limited range of choices in the first year. As people become engaged and familiar with the system, the choices and flexibility available can grow.

To make the plan as flexible as possible, employers should start by understanding what employees already know about the current benefits and what they may value. So ask them.

One employer recently gave its employees a list of benefits and asked which they valued and which they would like to see introduced. The results showed that a large number of people did not know what benefits they already had. But it also indicated what they would like to see.

Initially, try using flex to just remind staff what benefits they have available; then building on this foundation of benefits can prove valuable. Even if in the first year there are not many changes made, value can be added so long as employees are engaging with the system.

When the choices are expanded, the flex systems available now are so efficient that a huge number of choices can be offered with little extra effort. It then comes down to how the choices are presented; group the benefits by themes and communicate them really well.

Michael Rose is director at Rewards Consulting