Bridging the benefits divide: Aligning with the evolving needs of today’s workforce

Rethinking employee recognition in the modern corporate landscape

Bridging the benefits divide

In a landscape of rapid change and emerging workforce trends, HR professionals and business leaders across the UK face a pivotal challenge: evolving benefit, reward and recognition strategies to meet the nuanced needs of today’s employees. Meeting these demands can be complex, which is why we recently commissioned an in-depth piece of research, to shed light on the attitudes and experiences that shape the effectiveness of our collective efforts in this area.

The insights from our study, which encompass the perspectives of 502 HR professionals and 505 C-suite executives, along with feedback from a diverse group of 2,003 employees, are more than just data points—they are the voices of those at the forefront of the evolving workplace. As we navigate the aftermath of the pandemic and the phenomenon known as the Great Resignation, it’s become clear that employees across the board are seeking greater recognition; recognition that resonates with their personal and professional lives. Here, we dissect the critical statistics underlying this divide, while proposing actionable insights for harmonising benefit programmes with the aspirations of today’s employees.

With 38% of employees considering benefits crucial in accepting a job, yet 65% demanding improvements, there’s a clear generosity gap. Furthermore, a striking 47% of employees feel their leaders are out of touch with what they seek from reward programmes. The result is a pressing need for benefit strategies that extend beyond the boardroom, embedding into the everyday reality of the workforce.

Delving into the numbers, 20% of C-suite respondents believe HR isn’t invested enough in reward programmes, while 18% cite a skills deficiency within HR teams. Conversely, 18% of HR professionals see the lack of C-suite support as a major hurdle. This mutual discontent suggests a desperate need for a unified front in managing rewards, yet only 50% of HR departments and a nearly equal 45% of leadership teams are seen as responsible for deciding on rewards. The lack of a clear decision-making hierarchy exacerbates this issue.

The disconnect extends to the C-suite’s engagement level, with 42% of HR professionals acknowledging its positive impact on aligning benefit strategies with organisational goals. However, 16% lament minimal C-suite involvement, which contrasts sharply with the vital need for senior executive buy-in to drive meaningful change.

This imbalance is magnified by generational expectations amongst the workforce. Younger employees, particularly those aged 16 to 24, are more likely to be enticed by benefits, signalling a shift in workforce dynamics where personalisation and flexibility are non-negotiable. This generational divergence underscores the critical evolution from a one-size-fits-all benefit structure to a more nuanced, individualised approach.

Yet, businesses are stumbling in translating this insight into action. Despite an overwhelming majority of C-suite leaders recognising the necessity for evolution, with 87% of HR leaders planning strategic changes, the reality shows a disappointing 40% utilisation rate of benefits offered. This speaks volumes about the inefficacy of current strategies in addressing the personal and professional needs of employees.

What employees crave is a reflection of their multifaceted lives in the benefits they receive. They seek acknowledgment beyond financial incentives, yearning for tangible support in the form of flexible hours, additional days off, and wellness initiatives that transcend the workplace.

Addressing this gap requires business leaders to reassess and reinvigorate their approach to employee benefits. It’s not enough to offer a plethora of benefits; leaders must ensure these are relevant, accessible, and align with employees’ values. It’s time for a cultural shift that places employee satisfaction at the core of corporate strategy. This entails adopting a holistic view of employee well-being, fostering open communication channels, and nurturing a culture of recognition that values each individual’s unique contributions.

The statistics paint a clear picture: employees want benefits that mirror their complex lives, and business leaders must tune in to this frequency. The successful organisations will be those that listen intently, adapt swiftly, and implement strategies that speak to the hearts and realities of their people, crafting an employee experience that is as rewarding as it is productive. Now is the time to to reflect, recalibrate, and reinvigorate the strategies and programmes that will define your success in recognising and valuing your most important asset: your people.

Taking action: Bridge the benefits gap by aligning incentives with evolving expectations

The research highlights the need for businesses to realign their benefits schemes to meet the evolving demands of their workforce. The data underscores a significant gap between what employees are attracted to when they join a company and their actual experiences with benefits, reward and recognition programmes. Here are three approaches to adopt:

Broad but relevant offerings

Given that 38% of employees were attracted to their roles by the benefits on offer, and 65% are calling for improvements, offering a wide array of benefits is crucial. These benefits must also be closely aligned with the varied needs and expectations of the workforce. Tailor the benefits package to include not only financial incentives but also practical perks like additional days off and flexible working hours, reflecting the desire for a better work-life balance and improved overall wellbeing.

Accessibility and personalization

There is a disconnect in how benefits are accessed and perceived, especially among remote workers and those desiring benefits that extend to their families. It’s important to make benefits schemes accessible to all employees, including those not in office settings. Personalising the offer to cater for diverse lifestyles also matters. This approach will ensure employees can easily engage with benefits that suit them, thereby increasing perceived value and satisfaction.

Continuous engagement and communication

With more than half of employees feeling their efforts have gone unrewarded in the past year, it is vital that HR regularly communicates the benefits of their scheme. Engage employees by promoting the benefits on offer, using a variety of communication channels to reach all individuals. Regular updates, success stories and feedback options can boost awareness and appreciation of the full range of benefits available.


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