Last year, the UK employment rate reached 75.8% - up from 75.3% the previous year and the highest rate since comparable estimates began in 1971. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures showed that the number of people in employment increased by 141,000 to a record high of 32.54 million in the three months to November 2018.
Whilst it is good news that our job market is seemingly thriving, the figures also showed a record number of job vacancies – an estimated 853,000 vacancies for October to December 2018; 39,000 more than for a year earlier, and the joint-highest estimate since comparable records began in 2001.
These statistics are perhaps indicative of a 'Brexit brain-drain' with many EU workers choosing to leave the UK following the referendum decision in 2016; and the booming jobs market and record job vacancies have left companies facing tough competition for talent.
So how can you stand out from the crowd in your efforts to attract and retain the skilled people on whom your business so relies? A competitive employee benefits scheme can be far more influential than you may expect in providing a differentiating factor that can help you compete with other businesses for talent. However, for it to be truly effective it needs to be relevant: to your workforce and to the current economic and social climate.
Here are some things to consider.
Cater to the new workforce
Employee benefits can be particularly influential for the younger generation of workers who, it is estimated, will account for 20% of our workforce by 2020. Generation Z, or ‘millennials’, are less motivated by salary alone, instead looking for roles that afford them flexibility, opportunities for self-development and support with physical and emotional wellbeing. These digital natives are a tech savvy audience and so not only should you be mindful of what is on offer, think about how you are offering it. An employee benefits platform that can be accessed and managed via an app is likely to be valued and utilised more readily than a system that is less user-friendly or accessible.
Consider the current climate
When thinking about the design of your employee benefits scheme, consider what will be most valued by your employees in today’s economic climate. If the scheme was designed before the recent period of austerity, at a time when people had greater disposable incomes, it is likely that it is not offering your employees things that will actually make a difference to their lives today. Do they really want discounted gym membership or theatre tickets when they are struggling to make their salaries stretch from one month to the next? Helping people with basic everyday household bills by offering discounts for supermarkets, with energy suppliers or reducing travel costs may be more relevant and appreciated by much of your workforce.
Emphasise self-development opportunities
If it is to really put you ahead of your competitors, your benefits scheme should offer something that a prospective or existing employee would not be able to easily get elsewhere. Opportunities for personal and professional development and the chance to learn new skills can be a really attractive offer for someone torn between your company and another. Think about including a wide variety of training opportunities for staff, whether it is specific to their roles or something less directly related. Be creative – what about offering drama lessons to help with presentation skills, or creative writing courses to support the preparation of annual reports? Making it fun and ensuring that the skills on offer are transferable will broaden its appeal to employees and make you stand out from the crowd.
Engage staff when designing the scheme
Whilst you may think you have a good measure of what would be attractive to your employees, it can be difficult to cater to an increasingly diverse and discerning workforce, particularly for larger businesses. Engaging people in the decision-making process may seem like a time-consuming process, but it can really pay dividends in the subsequent uptake and value you gain from the scheme in the long-run. Ask people what would appeal beyond what is already on offer – you may be surprised! Communication plays a big role in engagement, so it is also important to consider how you promote the benefits on offer – particularly during the recruitment process. Are benefits listed alongside salary in job descriptions? Make sure that any recruitment agencies you use are also fully briefed on the detail of your scheme and ask them for feedback from candidates to help you refine it.
Go the extra mile
Increasing numbers of businesses are choosing to offer concierge services as part of their comprehensive benefits package. Concierge has traditionally been seen as the domain of more senior members of staff but by making it more widely available, you have the opportunity to show your workforce that they are all important and highly valued by the business. Employers can offer a dedicated team, on-site or contactable by phone, to provide staff with a host of lifestyle-focused services – help with travel plans, for example, or tickets to social activities such as theatre or sporting events, or even personal admin including gift-sourcing or helping to organise domestic help.
Showing your staff how much you value and prize them can go a long way in fostering engagement and job satisfaction, and ultimately reducing the risk of them being tempted away by a competitor.
Get in touch to discuss how your employee benefits scheme can help you stay one step ahead of your competitors in the fight for top talent.