Employee Wellbeing

The ever changing expectations of employees, and what that means for you

How employees feel at work depends on a variety of factors, and is influenced by how they act and react, as well as the input of their employer and the actions of their colleagues who surround them day-to-day.

Employee experience and fulfilment has become increasingly important over recent years, and employers are doing more than ever to make sure they offer the best environment possible to encourage a better quality of work and discourage absenteeism or presenteeism. “But how do they do this?” You might ask.

Craig Williams, our Director of Employee Benefits, answers some of the frequently asked questions surrounding the employee experience in the workplace, and the evolution of their desires and expectations throughout recent years.

How can employers ensure reward and benefits enhance the employee experience?

This will vary from employer to employer.

The starting point must be to make sure that the benefits strategy is relevant. Employees will only engage when a benefits package and the method of its delivery resonates with them. This means looking at demographic breakdowns, previous benefit selections, feedback from surveys and assessments that might have taken place, behavioural analysis, and direct feedback. Rewards and benefits should be shaped around what you know people care about.

How have employees’ expectations changed in recent years?

The presence of millennials and Generation Z has brought an expectation that needs should be accommodated 24/7 with flexibility and ease of access to benefits being key. This is what this generation are used to and expect. These generations typically have unique work/life balance aspirations with a reduced expectation of being able to work for 40 years and then enjoy a comfortable retirement. Often the most valued benefits an employer can provide relate to work flexibilities such as compressed working weeks, flexible working and the availability of holiday purchase and sabbaticals.

At the same time, the number of people in employment aged over 70 has over doubled over the past decade. Whilst the experience of these individuals will be valuable to employers, this new demographic provides a challenge to employers as benefit requirements for this generation may never previously have been considered. To support this, some product innovation has already taken place in terms of proactive health and wellbeing education and providers are increasingly looking for new and innovative ways to engage with older workers.

The introduction of hybrid models of working has created another additional consideration for employers that reinforces the fact that each of their employees is unique and that benefit strategies promoting flexibility for every individual is essential.

What reward and benefits programmes will help attract, retain, and engage employees in the future?

Employees will first and foremost want reward and benefit strategies that reflect their own unique circumstances. Where this is evidenced at outset, they will then want those strategies to develop as their own personal circumstances change. We’re now seeing artificial intelligence play a greater role in improving individual employee outcomes. Ever increasingly personalised employee experiences the overall shape of an employer’s wellbeing programme can evolve in a way that allows employers to focus on the areas that they know employees value.

In terms of wider trends, we’re seeing an inclination towards employee benefits being provided in a more ‘Amazon-like’ way with expectations that if a benefit is selected that it be delivered and in place within hours rather than weeks.

Within the most engaging strategies there is also an awareness that purely promoting traditional core benefits alongside limited ‘voluntary options’ excludes important non-cash benefits that an employer provides such as flexible working, sabbaticals and professional learning. Employees tend to engage better when a rewards and benefits strategy is co-ordinated to include the full range of benefits an employer provides.

What will set apart the employee experience with one employer from another?

Communication will be absolutely key and this might involve communicating different messages in a different way to different groups of employees so it’s unlikely that a one-size-fits all standard messaging approach will work.

The most successful communication campaigns will include a wide range of targeted content such as traditional paper-based messaging alongside video content, social media, online communications and, of course, face to face contact that still remains a popular means of message delivery, especially where face to face delivery is being supported by experts.

When delivering communications, you should also be aware that timing can be critical. Not everyone will be able to receive a specific communication at the exact time it’s being delivered.

Ultimately, benefits communication can also be fun and sometimes prompting employees to engage fully should recognise this. Gamification of messaging or employer-provided incentives in some instances prompt engagement that wouldn’t be possible any other way.

Some thought should also be given to automating follow up based on the success of the initial communication provided.

As Craig has alluded to; keeping everyone happy within one workplace is not an easy task, and data and statistics surrounding the demographic of a workforce are key to give employers the best possible chance of offering a breadth of employee benefits that works as well for a long-serving employee, as it does for recruiting talent from Generation Z.

This is why Broadstone has a “consultancy first” approach, which involves the careful consideration of what it is that employers need to put in place, what the desirables are for their specific employees, and reviewing and evolving a benefits strategy to keep it fresh and appealing as times continue to change.

The world is changing, and the best thing to do is keep up with it.

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