Barring calamity or disaster, most of us will look back on 2014 as the year the gloom gave way to optimism as the economy returned to something resembling normality. When we get to that point, I wonder how many of us will wish we had done more to prepare our organisations for the fresh set of challenges this will bring.

It would be disingenuous to say that in the last five years the battle for talented people went away entirely. But as the jobs market becomes more buoyant the fight to attract and retain the best people will intensify and organisations will have to plan carefully to win that battle.

Looking at the recent research from Employee Benefits magazine, it is clear that reward and benefits are a key area where employers are seeking to get an edge. So what should you be doing to keep pace with the competition. Here are five action areas coming from the survey.

–          Make sure your benefits strategy is fit for purpose – If you are using reward and benefits to get the best people to join and stay in your business then you need to make sure what your proposition is competitive enough to do that job. Despite this barely one in five employers plans to revisit their benefits strategy. With so few employers taking time to address any potential shortcomings, those who do have a big opportunity to get ahead of the competition and maximise benefits as a way of retaining and recruiting employees.

–          Get your employees to tell you want they want – and give it to them – Improving employee engagement is the top outcome employers want from the investment in benefits this year. Asking your employees about what they need should be a cornerstone in the planning and delivery of any benefits programme which wants to increase levels of employee engagement.

–          Put employee wellbeing at the heart of what you offer – Allied to employee engagement, the second priority for employers in the year ahead is looking after the wellbeing of their people. With nine out of the top ten new benefits offered to employees focusing on supporting employee wellbeing from a health or financial perspective, this is an area which every employer needs to plan for in the year ahead. Look after your employees and they will be in a better place to perform.

–          Choice matters more than ever – as employers deal with a wider demographic in their workforce, providing choice to employees about the benefits they can receive is more important than ever. This doesn’t mean investing more money in core benefits but investing in voluntary or flexible benefits schemes which give employees access to benefits which suit their stage in life and specific needs.

–          Remind your employees about the great things you offer – Judging by the two thirds of organisations who plan to build greater awareness of the benefits they offer, many employers are still failing to maximise return on investment from benefits spend because employees simply don’t know what’s on offer. Make a plan to ensure your employees understand what you offer and how to make the most of it and take steps to measure and improve awareness in the year ahead.

If there is one theme which runs through each of these five action areas it is the need to listen, communicate effectively and show that you as employer understand and area ready to help employees with the challenges they face in balancing work and life in general.

Andy Philpott is sales and marketing director at Edenred. You can find more blogs and insight at or follow him on twitter @andy_philipott