This week the annual research from Employee Benefits Magazine which provides detailed insight into the way employers are using reward and benefits, hit our desks.

Emerging from the graphs and collated findings is an interesting picture of the extent to which employee benefits are being used to respond to the changing priorities for organisations and their employees.

The most striking finding was how the issue of employee engagement has retained prominence in the way organisations think about benefits strategy. This is good news as one of the most important jobs benefits can do for a business is create alignment to and support for an environment where engaged employees are more likely to be valued and deliver value for organisations.

Linked to this, the second striking trend coming through in the survey was the extent to which wellbeing is becoming a mainstream target for benefits strategy. It is one of the top three motives for providing benefits for four in five organisations and almost at parity with other top objectives of recruitment and retention. The research showed a greater proportion of organisations offering wellbeing in flexible and voluntary benefits schemes as well as in the list of new benefits introduced in the last 12 months.

The last area which stood out for me was is the impact of austerity: both within and outside of organisations. The prevalence of organisations – nearly one in three – who have sought to cut the cost of benefits by reviewing suppliers is an obvious outcome from the ongoing pressure on budgets and the need to deliver better value.

In the employee benefits proposition itself, value for money is a dominant theme. Any changes to benefits offered have focused on the introduction of low-cost or cost-neutral benefits, primarily from better use of salary sacrifice.

Looking at the nature of benefits on offer, it is clear that organisations are thinking hard about how they can support employees whose own finances face an ongoing squeeze: retail savings, cash plans, cycle-to-work and childcare vouchers all dominate the list of new benefits offered in the last 12 months.

For me, the findings of the survey are encouraging. They show the extent to which employee benefits are critical in supporting the right internal environment for organisations to succeed while also providing practical help for employees caught between slow salary growth and high inflation.

And while organisations are understandably squeezing more value out of their benefits spend they also remain committed to providing them and clear about value to employees and the organisations they work for.

Yet for all this, there is still one clear area where we need to work harder in the coming year: that of measuring the return on investment. It is an issue which barely figures in the research but one which is critical for organisations to work on so they can prove the value of what they invest in and make smarter decisions in the future.

Andy Philpott is sales and marketing director at Edenred – you can readmore insights on benefits on our knowledge hub –  www. and follow us on twitter – @edenreduk or @andy_philpott