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Matt Waller

Benefex

Chief Executive

Read more about Matt Waller

The value of flexible benefits

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Recent figures have shown a considerable rise in the take-up of flexible benefits packages lately. 

In part, this situation can be attributed to factors such as the difficult economic climate and changing employee demographics. Add to these issues the HR community’s growing interest in the subject and it is likely that we will see flexible benefits continuing to rise up the agenda over the coming year.  
 
Matters such as employee engagement, motivation and morale have come very much to the fore over recent times and, while employee benefits alone may not be a silver bullet, they can certainly have a valuable role to play.  
 
Introducing a transparent benefits package that enables employees to see what the company is spending on them can help to reinforce the idea that they are valued. Although voluntary benefits or pensions contributions are useful here too, flexible benefits can offer some specific advantages.            
 
It is becoming increasingly common in the workplace to see three or even four generations of people working together side-by-side. But such diversity in age, lifestyle and personal circumstances can prove a logistical nightmare to HR professionals who are trying to source and manage benefits that satisfy a multitude of needs.
 
The process can be made easier with a flexible benefits package, however. Whether they comprise gym membership, childcare vouchers, restaurant discounts or private medical insurance, such packages can be adapted in line with an individual or group’s life style.
 
But the prospect of moving from a scenario where only a small number of benefits are on offer to one in which there are literally hundreds to choose from can be daunting for both HR professionals and employees.
 
Measuring value
 
If this is the case, it may make more sense to introduce a wider range of benefit options over a given period of time rather than in one fell swoop.  
 
Another issue that has come to increasing prominence over the last few years has been the need to clearly demonstrate the business case when getting involved in any form of new activity. Value for money is a top priority and with budget restrictions in place among many employers for yet another year, questions around return on investment are likely to remain top of the list.
 
This means that it is important to be able to measure and report on factors such as employee take-up levels, engagement rates and hard cash savings, all of which can help to articulate the business case. 
 
Monitoring such factors will also help HR professionals to decide on whether they need to undertake any additional internal communications activities. For example, if a dental plan has been introduced but resulted in lower than expected adoption levels, the decision may be taken to mailshot employees or provide them with a better greater explanation as to how the scheme works. 
 
Meanwhile, one of the biggest shake-ups to the benefits sector is expected to come this year in the shape of pensions auto-enrolment – new legislation, which is due to come into force in October and could well change the way that employers look at the provision of other benefits too.
 
For example, while there has already been a move to consolidate access to benefits such as pensions and share schemes into one online platform in order to make administration easier, this trend is only expected to continue. This is not least because such systems help to free up HR professionals’ time so that they can focus on the more strategic aspects of their role.
 
Other key trends also include enabling personnel to self-select their own benefits within clear parameters and making them more accessible via mobile technology such as smartphones.
 

Matt Waller is chief executive of employee benefits software and services supplier, Benefex.
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Matt Waller

Chief Executive

Read more from Matt Waller
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