Spotlight on Sage – three steps towards award-winning benefits engagement

By Jack Curzon, head of scheme design, Thomsons Online Benefits

Creating an award-winning benefits engagement strategy from the ground up can seem like a daunting prospect at first. But, by breaking the challenge down into bite-sized chunks and following a successful blueprint, it is achievable.

The Rewards team at Sage were set the challenge of unifying the business globally as part of a wider “One Sage” business strategy. As a FTSE 100 technology company operating across 23 countries, Sage wanted to make sure all of its colleagues felt connected with their benefits offering. This included engaging their tech-savvy workforce, who wanted everything mobile-enabled, accessible and easily understandable.

In order to achieve this, Sage followed these three steps.

Create a compelling benefits strategy
Our research found employers are 30% more likely to meet their engagement objectives if they have a benefits strategy that is closely aligned to their people strategy. To find this alignment, Sage needed to better understand the needs and requirements of its workforce.

To gain this insight, they undertook in-depth research, including a survey, focus groups, competitor benchmarking and financial modelling. They then used the resulting data to identify areas for improvement. All of this revealed there was a lack of colleague understanding about benefits, that the range was limited, and that they were inconsistent across the company. As a result, colleagues were not engaging as expected with their benefits and found it hard to appreciate their value.

Colleagues had limited access to all their benefits and therefore no clear visibility of their total reward. From an HR perspective, this technology was not only slowing down administration and creating inefficiencies, it wasn’t giving any insight into how colleagues were interacting with their programmes. Putting up-to-date, best-of-breed technology in place improved not only engagement levels, but also reduced the admin burden on the HR team, allowing them to add value in other areas.

Launch an engaging benefits campaign
To tackle the problem Sage created their ‘Sage Rewards’ benefits brand. The key to its success was to ensure the new proposition was effectively communicated. Our own research found that more than 50% of employers said the quality of communications has the biggest impact on engagement success.

A good place to start is to set a framework for communication success, by adopting and adhering to the following principles:

Frequency95% of employees are proud to work for an employer who takes part in continuous communication. Employees want frequent communications about the benefits that mean the most to them, therefore the more timely the communications, the greater the levels of engagement.

Variety – The variety of communications is also key, so companies should consider different methods. Instead of relying solely on email, make it interactive with an app, or try desk drops with postcards from time to time. For example, Sage launched a fun festival-themed campaign that encouraged colleagues to select their benefits ‘line-up’. They communicated this through posters, emails, lanyards, flyers, intranet, social media and TV screens right through to candy-floss and bunting in the office.

Relevance – Know your audience and communicate to them in the right way. Does the communication address their needs, at the right time? Targeted communications drive engagement with benefits and with the organisation. Those employers that segment their employee base and provide appropriate benefits for each group are twice as likely to be very effective in meeting their benefits programme objectives.

Measurement – Ensure what you are doing is effective and use data to test your approach against your original objectives. This data is most effectively generated through technology, whether that be to measure login rates, or benefits take-up within a certain region or age bracket. This approach provides quantifiable results to benchmark against.

Continuously measure engagement
It is vital to measure employee engagement and benefit take-up. It provides invaluable insight into the effectiveness of particular communications to improve and refine your approach. Research by Bersin found that ‘those [employers] that are digitally measuring the impact of benefits on employee wellbeing are almost twice as likely to be very effective in meeting their benefits engagement objectives, than those who aren’t (22% vs 12%).[1]

It also creates a case for further investment and improvements, allowing you to take a proactive rather than reactive approach. Sage used DarwinTM Analytics Centre to measure colleague engagement, and were able to quantify the value of their efforts. This included an increase in engagement through logins to the platform and the overall number of benefit selections. In so doing, they not only reduced costs, but they also won an Employee Benefits award for the ‘Most Engaging Benefits Proposition’.

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By following these three steps to hone your approach, your benefits strategy will become more targeted and relevant for your people. Not only will they see more value in your offering, but you will see an increase in employee engagement and overall employee satisfaction as a result.

[1] Bersin by Deloitte – Predictions for 2017: Everything is becoming digital