To retain talent, employers should make more of employee benefits

Why are employee benefits increasingly important?

Employee benefits are now relatively widely established among big business employers as part of the employment remuneration package and are becoming ever more important in employment strategies. Due to the benefits packages that many organisations already offer, owners of other businesses can no longer expect their employees to be happy with a pay-cheque alone.

Employees want at least the same benefits from their employers, regardless of the size of the organisation, and expect, as standard, benefits packages that help them maintain a certain lifestyle. They want to be able to strike a better work/life balance and expect their bosses to help them achieve this. That is where the new breed of employee benefits schemes are invaluable to businesses owners – and their staff.

Not only do these employee benefits help employees gain greater satisfaction from their work, they also offer invaluable opportunities to save money – for both employees and employers. The workforce can reap the rewards, while at the same time business owners can make huge savings on National Insurance. More benefits mean a more attractive workplace for employees and make it easier to retain the most talented staff. Moreover, the more employee benefits a business puts in place, the more they benefit the bottom line.

Employee benefits are seriously underestimated
Many business owners seem either to underestimate or not be fully aware of the influence of employee benefits. Traditionally benefits schemes have been seen as the reserve of big business, far too expensive to implement in small companies, too complicated and just not relevant for staff. Smaller businesses tend not to have HR teams and the owners often do not have the time to deal with all the different workings of benefits packages, especially if they do not have many members of staff.

It is essential for all business owners who have not yet done so to look into the advantages of benefits. Those who do are usually pleasantly surprised by the range and variety – and the cost; they are often cost neutral for employers. So both the business and staff simply win!

Benefits are not only cost effective, they are also highly emotive. Providing staff with the ability to enjoy activities that are important to them, or help them save money in their personal lives is far preferable to a small taxed cash bonus that is expensive for the business and underwhelming for the employee. It is also likely to get lost in household bills and therefore go un-noticed. Benefits leave a much more long lasting and positive impression. Rather than being given a paltry cash bonus that will be reduced by tax, benefits can make a real contribution to lifestyle choices or leisure activities – creating that all important ‘feel-good’ factor which inspires loyalty.

So what is actually on offer?
There is a huge range of employee benefits available, suitable for businesses of every size, some of which in fact are particularly tailored to businesses with fewer staff – those that would ordinarily overlook benefits as a viable remuneration option. Many of these are low cost ‘off-the-shelf’ packages that take all the pressure off trying to manage the component benefits for business owners.

Off-the-shelf reward and benefit solutions mean that benefits schemes are now, more than ever, accessible. Flexibility in schemes such as the Essentials range mean that different levels can be accessed and there is the added advantage of monthly payment plans and no long-term contracts or set-up fees.

For example, some of the benefits on offer through the Essentials range include money off at retailers, on holidays and cinema tickets, as well as gym membership; and salary sacrifice schemes such as childcare vouchers, cycles to work, mobile phones and extra annual leave.

Why is this important now?
Now, more than ever, is the time for businesses to start introducing employee benefits if they have not done so already. There are signs of progression in the economy and that means that very soon there will be much greater movement in the job market and the battle to keep or attract the best staff will heat up.

The up-turn in the job market means that the employer/employee dynamic is changing. Over the past few years employers have had their pick of the best talent, with more and more people leaving university with great skills and training unable to find jobs. Now that the doors of employment are opening again it is the turn of employees to pick and choose where they want to work.

Only the businesses that offer the most impressive packages to employees will be able to attract the top talent. It is therefore crucial for all ambitious businesses to offer the best working environment, with the best benefits.

The perils of not bringing benefits systems up to scratch
In recent years, some employers may have become complacent about retaining staff, but many employees are simply waiting for the employment market to improve before they start looking around and will be out of the door as soon as possible, unless business owners, particularly the less affluent, make serious changes. If changes to employee benefit packages are not put in place soon as part of a retention programme, managers will lose much their best talent all at once and jeopardise the fluent operation of their companies.

With employee benefits offering a powerful solution that is highly attractive to and valuable to staff and cost neutral to the employer, it is simply a matter of introducing them – and this is easier now than it has ever been before.