Employee Benefits Research 2009: responsibility for and communication of benefits

Over the past 10 years, huge advances in technology have transformed the way employers communicate benefits to staff. Back in 1998, when Employee Benefits carried out the Strategic reward research, only a quarter of employers used email to communicate benefits and just 7% had an intranet site. How things have changed. Now 70% of respondents place written details of their benefits on their organisation’s internet or intranet site, and 35% use email alerts as part of their communication strategy. Having said that, the use of email to communicate benefits has gradually declined over the past few years, falling from 42% in 2004 and 37% in 2007 to the current 35%. This may reflect employers turning to methods that cannot easily be ignored or forgotten about by staff, such as face-to-face presentations or workshops, run either by themselves or by benefits providers or advisers. It will now be interesting to see what impact newer technologies, such as DVDs and podcasts or webcasts, have on employers’ communication strategies over the next few years.

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Not too long ago, dedicated compensation and benefits or reward roles were few and far between. But the past few years have seen this develop into a more common HR specialism.

This is borne out by the rise of compensation and benefits/reward specialists up the list of primary benefits decision makers. Just two years ago, respondents said it was still more common for a board of trustees or equivalent to make benefits decisions – a situation which has now been reversed.

Further down the scale, compensation and benefits/reward officers or equivalent also appear to have a sizeable influence, which should help to boost morale and give these staff valuable career experience.

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Despite the change in the methods used to communicate benefits to staff, the percentage of organisations that take formal steps to measure the effectiveness of their communication strategy remains low. This is quite surprising, given that employers are increasingly coming under pressure to prove the value of their benefits spend.

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If used to maximum effect, a good communications strategy can significantly improve employees’ understanding and appreciation of the reward and benefits they receive. In turn, this can help to improve factors such as motivation, productivity and engagement, all of which are vital in the current economic climate.

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