How to keep flexible benefits fresh and relevant for staff

Nationwide launched its first flexible benefits scheme in 1998 with four options and, over time, the portfolio has grown to the 29 benefits offered in Youchoose 2014.


If you read nothing else, read this

  • A good flex scheme is a core of foundation benefits which may include a pension, healthcare and childcare perks.
  • Benefits such as bring-your-own-device-to-work schemes can help to engage staff in a flex scheme. 
  • Employers should analyse flexible benefits take-up data to identify participation profiles and trends.

The scheme has not simply expanded, it has evolved to reflect what is available in the benefits marketplace, to meet employees’ expectations and to support our proposition as an employer of choice.

Since its inception, we have chosen to have direct relationships with our providers and to develop the offering with them. In an energetic and competitive marketplace, the right providers will be at the forefront of benefit innovation and keen to build on the success of their brand.

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Foundation benefits should be at the core of flex

At the heart of a good flex scheme is a core of foundation benefits, such as a pension, healthcare and childcare perks, all of which are popular and valued, but typically relevant at certain life stages. Choosing the right lifestyle products and services to complement these benefits depends on the profile and distribution of an employer’s workforce, its employee demographic and peer scheme benchmarking, because a great benefits portfolio not only engages and retains existing employees, it is also an effective differentiator for organisations operating in a competitive recruitment market.

While it is undoubtedly easier for employers to choose benefits ready-made for flex schemes, organisations that want their scheme to stand out from the crowd should consider approaching providers in order to seek attractive products that are not currently offered via flex. This brings a unique benefit to the portfolio and establishes a relationship between the employer and the provider that has real potential to develop ideas in the future.

Consider employees’ diverse lifestyles

A well-constructed flex portfolio recognises employees’ diverse lifestyles and puts a variety of quality options at their fingertips with ease of selection. Introducing new benefits and making changes to existing benefits keeps the offering fresh, but that is only half the story. 

Employees who take part in the scheme understand its value but may not explore all the benefits in the range so they, along with staff who do not participate at all, need to be reached through communications designed to reinvigorate interest. 

Employers can maintain awareness of the scheme throughout the year in a number of ways, including aligning the flex scheme to business initiatives. Good examples include bring-your-own-device-to work schemes and sustainability campaigns. Employers should also regularly reference and communicate their flexible benefits in the context of total reward.

Analyse benefits take-up data

When setting out their stall to external customers, employers spend a lot of time defining their marketing and communication objectives, creating their strategies and implementing their plans in the knowledge that their current customer base cannot be taken for granted and that new customers need to be attracted. Flex scheme managers should adopt the same approach, analysing take-up data to identify participation profiles and trends to inform the marketing mix and communications plan.

Generally, employees respond well to the ‘traditional’ ways of promoting flexible benefits schemes, such as through the corporate intranet site and staff magazine, email, competitions, case studies and roadshows. But the digital age gives scheme managers more options to reach staff through their preferred channels and in a way that reflects their life outside work. With a workforce that, outside work, is used to buying online and taking peer reviews into account when deciding whether to buy, flex scheme managers have the opportunity to introduce these devices to promote schemes. 

Multi-channel communications strategy

A poster will grab employees’ attention, and a quick response (QR) code in the corner of a poster will take them directly to an employer’s flex login screen to view its range of benefits. A case study on an intranet site gives a flex scheme participant’s perspective of a benefit, but going a stage further and making it easy for other staff to add their reviews and comments enables employers to create a dialogue around the offering. Twitter is ideal for such interaction.

By mirroring and adapting the outside world in terms of benefits and their promotion, employers can ensure their flexible benefits schemes remain fresh and relevant to their employees .

Rosemary Crabb is senior manager, flexible benefits at Nationwide Building Society