Employees – What they really, really want.

According to The Spice Girls c.1996 what people really, really wanted was to “zigazig ah”. Luckily for us times have changed, and the world has moved on but working out what people actually want can still be just as tricky and lead to making up other words.

The research suggests that what an employer thinks their employees want and what the employee really values can be two very different things. The ability for an organisation to get this right can make a huge difference to how effective their recruitment and retention and, by extension, productivity and profitability are.

There is one overarching area of employee benefits that the two can agree on and that is pensions. Both employers and workers state that this is a focal point for both groups. Auto Enrolment clearly mandates that a company provide a scheme, but the quality of that scheme can have an impact on how employees and prospective new joiners view them. The average level of pension contribution in the UK is 6% though this is skewed depending on the type of pension scheme that is involved.

So, there is one tick in the box that both can agree on and it’s after this point that things start to get a little wobbly in terms of offerings and what people actually care about.

Ironically, employers can sometimes favour more expensive benefits over lower cost offerings and yet the reality is that their workers prefer the latter because they offer more tangible day to day benefits. The reason for the disconnect between this and the rest of the programme is simply that our views change as we progress through our careers and lives. The people that decide which benefits to offer tend to be older and have senior roles within the company and as such they may not represent or even understand the younger section of the workforce.

This is one of the key factors that comes out of the research. The need to understand their demographic of employee is crucial for a company to tie in their offering along with expectations. There are a huge range of products that are available that have appeal across the workforce age range because they have enough facets to make sure that they are attractive to everyone. Be that a baby boomer hurtling towards retirement or a millennial hurtling towards Friday night.

So how does an employer work out what people want? This is actually more challenging than you might think.

  • You could simply just ask them – except then you have no control over the answers and if you don’t implement what people want it was all a waste of time. Also, do they actually know what is
    available or how it works?
  • You could tell them what they are getting, hope that you get it right, but do you know what is available or how it works?
  • Engage an adviser who hopefully is clued up on this stuff but then I would say that wouldn’t I?

The other thing that companies have to be aware of is that increasingly employees view their benefits as part of an overall package that includes things like, salary, sick pay, holiday entitlement, location independent working, flexible working, social events and on and on and on. What this means is that it is important for the benefits to support a companies’ view on their wider business practices. Don’t offer a health and well being app if people are chained to their desks from 9 to 5. People see through a token gesture a mile away.

Take the time to consider what will make a real beneficial difference to people and embrace a new way of deciding on and running a benefits programme. The employment world is changing, so are the people that are going to staff it, so offerings need to change and continue to change as well. Given that 50% of 6-year olds will be doing jobs that don’t even exist yet, do you think that an offering rooted in 1996 is really going to cut it?

Zigazig ah… no, not really.

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