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What’s your attitude towards your employee benefits strategy? Is it something that’s been hanging at the bottom of your company’s wish list, or do corporate benefits form a critical part of your Employee Value Proposition?

With UK starting salaries amongst the lowest in Europe, according to recent research from Willis Towers Watson, HR professionals have recognised the advantages that come with offering a comprehensive corporate benefits programme to prospective candidates and existing employees to stretch their disposable income and boost their EVP.

HR innovators are looking elsewhere besides an annual pay rise to try to reduce the financial burdens of their employees. Sectors of all kinds can benefit from an employee discounts scheme or salary sacrifice benefits that help increase an employee's bottom line wages, without a lot of expense to the company.

As the cost of living increases, and disposable income is lower than ever, it’s critical that employers take a role in helping employees stretch their salaries and manage their financial wellbeing.

When every pound spent and saved is accounted for, even gaining the smallest increase in salary can be enough to make an employee jump ship to a competitor.

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We’d love to be able to offer employees a great pay rise for great work, but sometimes it’s just not possible.

If increasing salaries isn’t within your budget, the next best thing is to help your employees save on expenses.

financial benefits

Stretch employees’ disposable income with financial benefits

Introducing a benefits programme that gives employees discounts with major retailers, including major grocery and department stores, as well as clothing, dining, and electronics, all which can have an enormous impact on the day-to-day lives for employees across your entire organisation.

Imagine Debbie, an employee who lives with her husband and their two school-aged children. According to the Office of Financial Statistics, average weekly household spending rose to £554.20 towards the end of 2017. Thinking back to Debbie, this makes sense.

The cost of their weekly shop and their power and phone bills keep going up. Her eldest son is about to enter senior school and needs a laptop or tablet, along with a new uniform.

A corporate discounts programme gives Debbie the opportunity to save at Tesco, Currys PC World, Marks & Spencer and O2, which means she has the opportunity to put hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds back in her pocket each year.

That’s enough to cover Christmas presents or a family trip, or something to put in the bank to save for a rainy day.

engaged employee using benefits

For Rachel, an employee who lives in the city with her husband and is paying the mortgage for an investment property. She can use her employee discount to save on clothes, gifts and dining out, among other expenses. With all the money she’s saved throughout the year, Rachel can choose an extra treat that she normally wouldn’t be able to afford. This year, she chose a return international flight to visit her family.

Something as simple as a employee benefit can translate to something as significant as more time spent with loved ones.

A lesson learned in employee benefits best practice

I always think back to one of my colleague's favourite stories. She was at a client’s warehouse site watching a benefits presentation a couple of years ago. The employees were all male and were big burly guys. The presentation covered all the benefits but, given the audience, focused on things like cars and football tickets. Following the presentation, she spoke with a gentleman in his late 40s who was decked out in his typical day-to-day uniform. When asked how he thought he might use his benefits, he responded, “Do you have access to tickets to ballet? I’m really keen to take my family to see Swan Lake!”

That experience teaches a valuable lesson in the importance of providing an extensive range of benefits that your employees have the freedom to choose from.

For this husband and father, his benefits programme gave him the opportunity to give his family a really unique, special experience. For sectors that have a spread out workforce that may have lower salaries, such as construction, manufacturing or retail, stretching disposable income is critical to improve an organisation’s EVP. There are many other unique benefits that your company can introduce that aligns with your business strategy and allows you to meet your HR objectives while reflecting your company culture. Whether you look into introducing flexible work arrangements, volunteer time, company-matched charity gifts or free food or snacks, the important thing is to select benefits that are relevant and meaningful to your workforce.

Knowing what your people want and choosing things that will have a high impact while aligning to your big picture goals is the key to introducing a benefit that resonates.

Debra Corey

Debra is the co-author of "Build It: The Rebel Playbook for Employee Engagement," which she wrote with Reward Gateway Founder, Glenn Elliott, along with "Bringing Your Values out to Play" and "Effective HR Communication." She's a Rewards guru, having over 20 years experience as a rewards leader, speaker, teacher and a frequent contributor to the Reward Gateway blog.

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