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How to build a benefits strategy that supports long-term flexible working and equality

Pre COVID-19, flexible working was less spoken about and less taken advantage of for whole teams, as the status quo was being in the workplace 9AM-5PM. Flexible working is not about reducing the hours of an employee; but rather it’s about changing the way they work. Flexible working is very much on everyone’s agendas since COVID-19, as many are working different and not strictly in the office, there’s a mix of hybrid working, childcare has changed, school routines are at the mercy of Corona restrictions.

There are various kinds of flexible working that can be requested, including reducing your hours to work part-time, changing your start and finish times, having flexibility with your start and finish time (‘flexitime’), doing your hours over fewer days (‘compressed hours’), working from home or elsewhere (‘remote working’) or sharing the job with someone else (‘job share’). According to ACAS, the cost of hiring and training new talent can cost a company about £30,000. Flexible working can not only save your company on hiring expenses but makes employees happier (and happy employees are loyal employees!). 76% of employers saw retention rates improve when they offered flexible arrangements.

In addition, equality is also at the forefront of both the employer and employee’s agenda. Diversity in the workplace benefits all companies, in all sectors. Simply put, equality means equal job opportunities and fairness for employees and prospect employees. When thinking of diversity, factors such as age, race, gender, and cultural background most often spring to mind. But diversity and inclusion doesn’t just involve how we think about ourselves demographically, it includes our interactions with others. Therefore, for teams to work successfully together, effective diversity management needs to be implemented into the company’s strategy. To do this, organisations should ensure equality is part of the corporate DNA. Valuing equality can have a big influence on everything from retaining employees, to upholding your brand’s reputation and opening a host of new growth opportunities across the board.

Some employers will follow the same benefits strategy year after year without really considering what value it is adding to employees, as well as taking into consideration how society and business have evolved. Having a clear vision of what you want to achieve is crucial in ensuring that the various elements of your strategy are working together to achieve the same goal and that resources are being allocated appropriately. Linking the objectives of a benefits strategy directly back to business goals is also crucial in getting buy-in from leadership.

There may be several different objectives and therefore asking the below can be helpful:
- What are the goals of our organisation?
- What are the goals of our benefits strategy?
- Why do we have the benefits that we have?
- Does our strategy take into account all our employees equally?
- How can this strategy support flexible working, or hybrid working?
- What are we spending on benefits and what is the value proposition?

Offering benefits is a cost-effective way for employers to save employees money, whatever their interests and lifestyles. Yet these kinds of programmes need to be well designed and implemented to encourage engagement. What is important to some, may not appeal to others, therefore taking into account diversity and equality amongst all employees is crucial. What’s on offer needs to benefit everyone, and one of the most common benefits from employees are after in today’s day, is flexible working due to their demanding lives.

Here are our top tips for building a successful benefits strategy:

Have a clear plan in place 
It probably goes without saying, but before getting started it’s crucial to have a plan in place. Think about the infrastructure and which platform you plan to use to compliment your strategy. Your choice of platform is a crucial one, as this will dictate the benefits and offers you have access to, as well as things like technology and customer support which will have a direct impact on your team’s user experience and ongoing engagement.

Understand your employees and think about what they want
Different benefits will appeal to different demographics and it’s important to understand what your employees want and what will make a difference to their lives. For many it might be as simple as help with the weekly shop, whereas for others it may be about flexi-time and working convenient hours, rather than the usual opening hours.

Shout about it to your team
It’s pointless having these great benefits available to your staff if no one is aware of them, so make sure you have a communications strategy in place. The best communication strategies utilise a range of different messages, channels, and incentives, often tailored towards different target audiences. These can include posters, presentations, emails, internal intranet platforms, social media platforms, SMS messages, staff handbooks and more.

Monitor engagement 
It’s important to keep an eye on take-up and usage figures to understand which elements of the scheme are resonating well or not with your team. It’s important for the benefits strategy to be flexible to a degree, so if certain benefits need updating, removing, or adding, then they can in order to best engage your employees.

Work-life balance is often highlighted by employees when asked about their job satisfaction and, unfortunately, it is more likely to be mentioned if they consider it to be bad. A long hours culture - where staff are treated more like commodities than individuals with personal lives and relationships that also need their attention - is sure to get you noticed, but for all the wrong reasons. One way to address this is to introduce more flexible working opportunities for all employees (not just top achievers, mums, X years’ service) to enable people to manage their work around other commitments and responsibilities.

Of course, flexible working is not suitable for every business, but it doesn’t have to mean everyone suddenly working from home or changing their hours dramatically. Small changes can make a big difference.

Xexec is a leading Employee Benefits and Engagement provider offering thousands of employee benefits which are brilliant for engagement and work wonders as an employee benefits strategy. Why not get in touch today and speak to our Engagement Consultants to see how we can best help your business?

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