It’s about 8.15 a.m. on a Tuesday morning and I’m enjoying the short walk to work across the bridge into the city. The sky is perfect blue, it’s pleasantly warm, I’m jacket-free and I have an iced latte in hand. I reach into my bag to pull out my sunglasses and as I do I notice the guy to my left hurrying to work wrapped up in an overcoat… And the girl to my right, in a beautiful winter coat with a fur collar… What is going on?
You see this is not a Summer's day in England, this is the middle of winter in Australia.
I’m here for a short while to work from our Sydney office and the one thing I really can’t get over is this idea that it is Winter here. From the scarves and hats in shop windows to the jolly, snow-covered posters advertising “Cool Yule” parties and ice-skating rinks it all just feels a bit off.
This has made me think a lot about perspective and how we view what's right and wrong. If I put myself into the shoes of my Australian colleagues, who frequently enjoy Summer temperatures in December up to 40°C / 100°F, then I suppose these balmy temperatures that I’m currently enjoying probably do feel a bit nippy.
This same approach can often also apply to your employees. Why they do what they do, what gets them excited, what drives them forward - it’s all relevant to their individual perspectives.
Over the years I have come across various employee benefits conundrums; but one recurring theme that often emerges is low-take up. At first look it can often be baffling as to why employees aren’t racing to sign up to the various employee benefits programmes your HR team put in place; all intended to be a genuine enhancement to the employee’s position. But if you take a step back, put yourself in the position of the employee, you can usually get a better insight
Take a look at these examples:
Long-term employee benefits
It’s a universally accepted fact that we all need to plan for the future. “Need”, not “want”. This is the key here. We all know that we should invest in retirement plans, insurance policies, even basic savings - we should be prepared for the rainy days - but who really wants to think about the future?
Many companies out there will have a large proportion of young or low paid workers for whom the here and now will seem much more pressing and urgent. If you’re looking at your long term employee benefits plan and wondering why you have a low uptake, consider how you can present these in a more engaging or more relatable manner. Or perhaps you should consider what barriers are in place to prevent your staff from investing time in these employee benefits initiatives. Is it that they simply cannot afford to plan for the future? How can you change this?
These things are great. Employee benefits that your employees can access now - and there are a huge number of choices out there of things you can provide. From basic discounts schemes to reward programmes, mobile health & wellbeing apps or even “buy a sexy iPad today and pay pennies from your salary each month so it barely costs you anything” types of employee benefits. Personally I can’t get enough of them - give me more, I’m fully on board!
However not all workforces are like this and figuring out why not is really important. Are your employee benefits easily accessible? As my colleague Will previously argued, far too many companies bunch these employee benefit initiatives together with other employee benefits programs that make the information hard to find or, even worse, hard to understand.
Another big point to consider is whether your employee benefit plan is giving your employees what they need? While I get hugely excited about a new perk which allows me to get a discount at West End theatre shows, it may not be altogether relevant if your workforce is based in Gibraltar… Think about who your people are and what makes them tick. This should help you understand what employee benefits they want to access day-to-day that can make a difference in their lives.
This one is obvious. There is absolutely no point in having the best reward and benefits strategy in the market unless your employees know about it and understand how to use it. A good friend of mine frequently asks me to purchase shopping vouchers for him from our RG discounts portal, which I am more than happy to help with, however given that he works for a well known multi-national I was surprised that they didn’t have an equivalent employee benefits hub available where he works. Turns out they do - they’ve just never invested resources in telling their staff about it.
In this modern world, workforces are increasingly varied in many different aspects. You may find that within your overall employee group the workforce is split into many different sub-groups, each with their own unique demographic. Don’t overlook this as too much of a challenge - use it. If you can look at each group, put yourself in their shoes and identify the key motivators from their perspective, you’ll soon find yourself having a much better understanding of what you need to give your employees.
Give them the right tools and you will see your engagement soar.
Hopefully that’s given you a bit of food for thought. As for me - I’m off to swap my sunnies for a pair of ice skates!