Amanda Wilkinson, editor of Employee Benefits: Optimise benefits to make what you have even more effective

When times are tough you have to make the most of what you have. For compensation and benefits professionals this means ensuring that benefits programmes work together to optimum effect. If they do not, there is scope for difficult questions to be raised by senior management and finance, the most obvious being: Are we getting value for money? Irrespective of the recession, benefits optimisation should be on the list of things to do. It is an ongoing task that should not be ignored and should be applied to the benefits strategy as a whole, as well as individual benefits schemes.

Ultimately, benefits optimisation means ensuring that the benefits budget or an individual benefit is achieving what it is expected to do in respect of business goals. These goals may, of course, change over time and therefore budgets must be redistributed and benefits schemes altered in order to continue to achieve optimum effect.

Whatever the goals, a scheme or benefit can always be made more effective. If engaging staff is a priority, then ensuring that a scheme’s best assets are highlighted is crucial. But before embarking on a communications exercise it pays to check that the perks on offer do actually appeal to employees. As the interests of staff differ, messages about what is on offer should be targeted, so that perks which are relevant to individuals are highlighted.

It is also worth looking at the frequency of communication. Letting staff know about all their perks in one go could be overwhelming – little and often may be more effective.

Forward-thinking practitioners should also consider using the latest technology to help staff manage their benefits alongside one another. This not only enables employees to manage their finances in a more co-ordinated approach to achieve maximum tax efficiencies, it also helps employers to better communicate the total reward package.

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In these cash-strapped times, employers should also review their supplier contracts to ensure the deals that they have are the best they can achieve from both a cost and content perspective.

As the recession becomes more deeply embedded, optimisation will be one way of protecting the benefits that are already in place.