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Jason Rayner

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It’s the way I tell ’em: keep up the benefit conversation


Pay and benefits… Frank Carson… bear with me, I can explain. (For those of you who are now asking yourself or a colleague "who on earth is Frank Carson?" you’ll have to doodle it on your i-berry).

It is pretty much universally accepted by employers of today that you need to offer your employees a range of benefits to attract and retain the best talent. Companies will spend not inconsiderable amounts on selecting and purchasing a varying number of benefits in the hope that their employees will fall to their knees in glorious appreciation.

So, it’s ironic that many employers forget the most important part of the project… communication:

Jim: "Umm, just a thought before I file the papers on the new super-duper pension plan… did anyone think to tell the staff?"

Joan: "We put a note on the intranet I think."

Jim: "Does anyone read that?"

Joan:"I hope so… I’m trying to sell my old bike!"
Whether you have ambitions to become ‘an employer of choice’ or you just want to keep the troops off your back; providing the right levels of pay and the right package of benefits is a delicate balancing act. There is a common theme of course: it’s gonna cost you. And it doesn’t matter whether your budget will make you market leading, market average or market stall, you are going to want see some tangible return on your investment.

So, is communication really that important, and when do you do it? I’ve spoken to employers who are terrified of asking staff what benefits they want before building a new package, for fear of being asked for the moon on a stick. The counter argument to that is: you are under no obligation to give them everything they ask for, but if your benefits package includes things that were high on their list then there is a better chance that your staff will value it. Incidentally, there is more red tape than you might imagine before you can insert a stick into the moon so even if this does come high on the list, you might be better off looking at childcare vouchers.

Then, once you have gone to the time, trouble and expense of selecting the benefits in your package, how on earth will you see any value if you don’t communicate your efforts and encourage the staff to engage and utilise everything? If my 5-year-old daughter hadn’t taken the time to explain what each of the 40 buttons on the remote control actually do, my DVD player would be nothing more than a place for my son to safely store his toast while he concentrates on the important events happening on Waybuloo. (For those who don’t know what Waybuloo is, find a colleague who has pictures of their children on their desk, they will fill you in. Unless of course you didn’t know who Frank Carson is, in which case you can once again ask your mobile phone.)

Telling your people what they have access to in addition to their pay and holiday entitlement is crucial. They need to understand what they have got. Tell them the tangible value: how much it costs you to pay for the company-funded benefits – preferably on an individual basis so they can appreciate their entire financial package. Then tell them what each benefit actually does and how their lives will be better, easier, more secure (as appropriate of course – there is no point in trying to convince someone that their life will be more fulfilling because you give them access to 263 different investment funds for their retirement savings). Also, I always think it’s worth remembering to tell your people what they have to do to start reaping the benefit. These things can be kind of obvious when it comes to something like high-street shopping discounts, but not quite as clear when it comes to something more complex like the pension scheme.
And, as the wise sage Frank Carson would often muse, "There’s more".

Many employee benefits can also be – either directly or indirectly – employer benefits. But the less people that know about them, the less people use them and the less you get out of it. You wouldn’t invest in a new IT system to increase operating efficiencies and improve client experience, only to leave it in boxes in the basement. So, why would you introduce a health-screening programme that could help with early detection of serious medical complaints and reduce the cost of long-term absence, and then not tell staff how they can use it?

When it comes to getting the most out of a benefits programme you have to get engagement. If employees appreciate the benefits you provide, then you stand to see a positive return (be that return financial or otherwise). Communication is the key to engagement; and only when your people fully engage will you all be able to reap the rewards of your benefits package.

So, don’t be afraid to talk, and don’t forget to keep talking.

(P.S. Does anyone else have a button on their DVD remote that makes the sun shine? My daughter showed me the button but it doesn’t always seem to work. Maybe I need to change the batteries…)

Jason Rayner is commercial manager at Jelf Employee Benefits


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