If the lockdown period has taught us anything it’s that a return to a pre-Covid workplace and ‘business as usual’ is highly unlikely, and in most cases unrealistic. This could actually be a good thing depending on how you approach your client’s return to the workplace considerations.
The path UK businesses take to transition from lockdown will set the agenda for the employee perception of your client’s leadership capability, and the reality of how the organisation is regarded internally and externally.
Benefits are by no means a silver bullet towards achieving a happy and more engaged workforce, but they do have significant value as a strategic lever for talent retention and calibrating an EVP to meet new and evolving employee aspirations. And a shift in the weighting of financial versus personal wellbeing related benefits may also be required.
The benefits strategies historically presented to employers pre-Covid 19 won’t necessarily fit the brief for what’s required today. It’s important to seize the opportunity to own the post-Covid recovery and rediscover what motivates winning cultures, creates a safe workplace, and then how this connects to a broader reward offering.
Employee wellbeing is not a tick-box exercise and requires an effective balance between culture, engagement and performance. Viewing benefits purely as a negative cost to the business is a short-sighted strategy. The cost of benefits must be reframed as an investment in the future.
Despite the best intentions, most employers have not refreshed their flexible and voluntary benefits offering.
Do your client’s people know what’s available to them and how to access the benefits on offer when they need them? If their benefits platform is buried on the intranet or only referenced in new joiner packs, then its value is likely to be diminished and their original good intentions are lost.
We’re living in a world looking for “micro experiences.” Essentially, tapping into the vein of opportunities that motivate talented employees to reach beyond their day-to-day roles. Redefining benefits is one way to engage employees coming back into the workplace.
The push for increased digitisation will no doubt shape and shift this further. Digitisation of benefits platforms, when implemented with the end employee (effectively consumers of employers) firmly in mind, provide ease of access and flexibility people are looking for. That said, digital strategies will not replace the intrinsic value of human interaction.
The question to ask is whether your client’s benefits strategy is actually working, giving their employees not just what they need, but what they want.
Also take a look outside the corporate tower. Get a feel for what is working well, particularly in other industries and sectors which may bring fresh views and imaginative thinking.
If I had one concern right now, it would be the risk of under-investing in internal communications. Inclusion is important, it nurtures connection and safety. Brands are highly visible in the current market and excluding sections of the workplace from benefits may dent your client’s reputation and create trust issues. Open and transparent conversation is needed to take people on the recovery journey with different options to re-connect and re-engage.
Our people are watching us and they’re searching for a genuine, shared purpose. Conversations must be real and accountable, and benefits packages focused on getting to heart of what people need to feel focused, motivated and safe.
Re-imagining benefits offerings to meet the evolving needs of people has never been more relevant than now. If your clients have previously provided different benefits for different stakeholder groups, this should be looked at again in the context of current market expectations.
Employee flexibility will be central to recovery – adapting to meeting evolving expectations and powering meaningful change, whilst striking an effective balance between productivity and life choices outside the workplace. Despite the immediate anxieties on job security, talented employees will continue to vote with their feet which presents both cost and risk to your client’s balance sheet.
The action we all take now could signal new feet walking through our doors, and talented feet remaining firmly under our desks – whether those desks are in our offices or at home.