Matt Duffy: Are voluntary benefits just a conduit for selling products?

This is not a subject where you will find us sitting on the fence. Good voluntary benefits programmes should not be a route to flog products or provide suppliers with commission. Equally, they should not be seen as a wonder product to cure the ills of an organisation that has had to make difficult staff decisions.

An effective voluntary benefits scheme gives employers a low-cost way to offer decent, usable, everyday savings to staff, helping their net pay go further. If employees are counting their pennies but are given a way to save hundreds of pounds a year on grocery shopping, big-ticket items or family treats, then they are going to appreciate it.

Employers that launch voluntary benefits correctly are not only gaining loyal employees, but also find staff revisit their main reward online site all year round, which means they are reminded regularly of what they receive from benefits investment.

Don’t be fooled, though – voluntary benefits can have a bad name because take-up rates can be low. Our partner, LogBuy, estimates that only about 27% of companies get the launch right. It is therefore vital to choose a programme with broad appeal for employee demographics, to make sure a sizeable discount is offered by suppliers, and to get communications spot-on. Also, make sure that the deals are easy to access, whether online, by telephone, vouchers or at point of sale.

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Organisations that get voluntary benefits right can achieve 80% employee engagement at launch. How could anyone argue with that?

Matt Duffy, partnerships manager at Lorica