John Lionis: Do benefits really improve employee engagement?

I read with great interest the results of the Benefits research 2013 (May 2013).

It looks like the key driver for shaping a benefits strategy, replicating 2011’s result, is to improve employee engagement.

My question is this: to what extent can employee benefits influence your emotional attachment to the business, or how much you are willing to help your colleagues, go the ‘extra mile’ or show discretionary effort? So far, research has shown very little evidence that benefits strategies can actually help to improve engagement.

That is because engagement is mostly driven by people and relationships: being part of a winning team; being proud of your work and your employer; getting involved in decision-making or having a great leader to inspire you. Try as I might, I find it hard to see how my choice of benefits can improve that.

Benefits fulfil some needs, but not directly engagement. So unless we see engagement as a much broader concept, where relationships, people, motivation and reward are all aligned with clearer cause-and-effect relationships, employers will struggle to see a return on investing in such programmes.

John Lionis is reward manager at Selfridges