Despite the Government last year announcing an end to the 1% pay cap on public sector wage increases that had been in place since 2013, public sector pay remains a topic of much debate. In October this year, Chancellor Philip Hammond hinted that future public sector wage increases could be based on worker performance, whilst Liz Truss, chief secretary to the Treasury, recommended that public sector pay rises should “focus on retention, performance and productivity”, comments which highlight how salary is often linked to employee motivation and engagement.
However, for local government and public sector organisations that have faced many years of austerity, wage increases following the removal of the pay cap have been minimal and many are finding that salary alone is not enough to support their efforts to attract and retain the country’s top talent. A carefully considered and well-managed employee benefit scheme can go a long way to support these efforts, often with little additional cost to the organisation.
Here are some ideas for how being smart with employee benefits can help local government and public sector organisations operating on a limited budget.
Focus on wellbeing
An effective employee benefit scheme can offer a variety of opportunities to support the physical and mental wellbeing of staff, without breaking the bank. Exercise is known to have an important role to play in tackling issues such as depression, so look for opportunities to provide staff with discounted gym membership, or apps that can help them to monitor their activity levels. Organisations can also consider introducing their own internal wellbeing initiatives, by setting up a team running club, offering lunchtime yoga sessions or organising mindfulness talks, cooking classes or workshops on healthy eating.
Help staff make ends meet
Many public sector workers are still feeling the financial squeeze following years of austerity, and this can lead to increased stress levels that will undoubtedly affect their motivation and performance at work. Providing supermarket vouchers that help with the weekly shop will enable salaries to go further and take some pressure off increasingly stretched budgets. Similarly, offering discounted tickets to otherwise unaffordable social activities such as sporting events, music concerts or the theatre can really improve staff morale. Often referred to as ‘voluntary benefits’, these seemingly small gestures can be tailored to individual employee’s needs and interests for maximum impact.
Ease of access to the benefits you offer can play a critical role in their uptake, so look to your local area when designing your employee benefit scheme. Organisations often focus on the benefits offered by large corporations and big brands, however these can sometimes be impractical, requiring staff to go out of their way in order to access them. Consider if there are any local facilities, such as leisure centres, hairdressers, or retail outlets that you could also arrange discounts with, as well as the local cafes and restaurants that staff already utilise. Enabling employees to reduce the cost of the facilities they already use will help to highlight the scheme’s value – whilst also supporting the local economy.
Help reduce travel expenses
Transport costs are on the rise, making it increasingly expensive for staff to get to work. Employee benefits schemes can help by offering discounted train or bus tickets, or offering financial support to enable staff to purchase annual season tickets that are often much better value for money than daily, weekly or monthly fares. Bike hire schemes are becoming more accessible, particularly in big cities, so look into what is available and whether discounts can be agreed for employees.
Take a flexible approach
It is also worth considering whether staff need to travel at rush hour, which is usually more expensive - or even if they need to come into the office every day. Offering opportunities for flexible working can cut the cost of travel and help employees balance their roles and personal responsibilities such as childcare.
It’s not all about the money
During challenging times, it is easy to forget that the little things can sometimes have the greatest impact. In addition to a well-designed and thoughtful employee benefits platform, simply saying thank you to staff for their efforts can go a long way to help motivate, engage and ultimately retain the talent that is so critical to your organisation. And best of all, it’s free!
Are you on a limited budget but keen to increase the value of your employee benefit scheme? Get in touch to discuss cost-effective ways motivate and engage your staff.