The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
As we prepare to enter the new year, employees want more from their jobs than ever before. We explore the benefits employers should offer their teams and what to avoid.
As competition for the best roles grows fierce, so does the fight for businesses to recruit and retain the best employees. In the months ahead, jobseekers and employees are expecting more support and encouragement than ever before from their employers – and rightfully so. That’s where employee benefits come in.
Today, employees want more meaningful employee benefits that cater to their needs, and the old, rigid benefits often fail to deliver. Here’s what we aim for as best practice at Juro, and why putting flexibility first is the key to maintaining a happy workforce.
What should employee benefits look like?
Flexible working has become a bussword in the past year. But how does it translate in terms of employee benefits?
Flexibility should be about more than just whether you get to work from home or not. We believe that flexibility should be about a few different things. It is important to build trust in your workplace and respect how employees work best. This means being flexible about:
How they work
Certain members of the team will work more efficiently by deep-working, so may choose to turn off their Slack notifications for a period of time to get certain tasks done or even to completely delete work apps from their mobile devices.
This is a decision we ought to respect, since the individual is taking ownership of their own results, and everyone works in different ways. If there isn’t a valuable reason why they should conform to other rules, then the rules are probably unnecessary.
Where they work
Some individuals work better from the comfort of their own home, away from the distractions of the office. Others prefer to work near home but not at the office. In a post-covid world, the anxieties of returning to the workplace can be high, and it’s important to empower your team to work from a place that they are comfortable, and where they can achieve their best work.
We predict that implementing budgets for co-working spaces could be a benefit more widely offered in 2022, and starting now can put you ahead of the curve.
When they work
It’s important to remember that your team has responsibilities outside of work, like childcare, for example. And even if they don’t, they might just work better at a certain point in the day. As long as your team works the core hours where the collaboration happens, it’s worth considering whether they can get the rest of their work done in different hours.
Trusting your employees to deliver results in a way that suits them with as few terms, conditions and caveats as possible will undoubtedly lead to higher productivity and satisfaction in the long-term, which is vital if you want to build a company that your team wants to stay working for.
Far too many companies claim to prioritise the physical and mental health of their employees, yet fail to turn these claims into actions and accessible support.
In fact, according to a study, 96% of CEOs believe that they are doing enough to support employees with their mental health, but a notably smaller sum of employees (69%) agree that this is the case. Clearly, there is some disconnect between the kind of support that employees want and receive.
Mental health has become a top priority in recent years, but businesses need to commit fully to prioritising it. The best way to do this is to view health holistically to include everyone’s individual health needs, rather than just having employee benefits catering for the conventional picture of ‘health’.
There are a few ways that you can do this:
Make your offerings flexible
A subsidised gym membership can be a great way to support your employees in their pursuit to keep fit. However, not everyone enjoys going to the gym, or feels comfortable doing so.
Consider broadening your health and well-being benefits to include a wider range of activities, such as subscriptions for a meditation app, a pass for online workouts, or a fitness watch to track their progress. This doesn’t have to be difficult. It can be as simple as having a set budget for all employees to spend on well-being.
Bring in the experts
It’s important to give your team access to expert support and advice, whether this is in-house or externally sourced. We recommend providing adequate training for your managers to ensure that they can recognise ill-health amongst themselves and colleagues, but also that there is specialist help available to escalate any concerns.
For example, you may want to arrange counselling for your team to access in confidence through tolls like Spill, Sanctus, Heka or Ginger.io.
Respect diverse health needs
For example, women and men have different health requirements, and these have traditionally been ignored by employers. From menstrual health to motherhood the menopause, there are numerous issues that might affect employee wellbeing, and your benefit packages should account for these.
Even the smallest details like stocking sanitary products, painkillers and a hot water bottle in the office can make a huge difference, but you should also look at the bigger rocks like including menstrual health in your sick day package.
This also extends beyond gender. Consider the inclusivity of your benefits for a range of groups including LGBT communities, different ethnicities and the various age ranges, for example. If you stick to providing rigid benefits, you might tend to optimise for one type of person and neglect everyone else.
In a competitive working world, it’s important to make sure your employees feel valued, and it’s no secret that financial incentives are an effective way to reward your employees for their hard work and contributions.
The first financial incentive most people think about when it comes to work is a salary. However, paying your people a decent salary ought to be the bare minimum, and it’s important to think outside the box when deciding how else you can support your team financially. Often it pays to get creative.
Here are a few, different ways you to deliver financial incentives that matter to your staff:
Bonuses are a great way to reward employees for their performance. However, it is important that any bonuses your company offers are actually achievable, and that there is appropriate support in place to help your employees reach any targets set out. There’s no point in offering bonuses that nobody ever receives, or finds value in.
Referral schemes are an excellent way to encourage your team to talk about your business to friends, family and those they end up networking with. It’s important for your employees to take pride in the business, and referral programmes encourage them to do just that.
Rewards from referral schemes don’t need to mean cash, either. You could always get more creative and offer gifts and experiences instead.
Tailored financial support
Let’s talk about flexibility again. The best (and most appreciated) type of financial support you can offer your team is personalised to their specific needs.
For example, employee benefits may mean new parents receiving grocery vouchers, whilst others might like a scheme that helps them get on the property ladder. Familiarising yourself with your employees’ priorities is key to making financial incentives worthwhile.
Offering stock options to your employees as part of their compensation package is a great idea, as it gives every member of the team a meaningful stake in the long-term success of a company. Sadly, some companies only offer stocks to senior employees, but we believe that offering them across the business shows every employee that they are valued.
When deciding which financial incentives to offer new and existing employees, it’s important to offer ones that not only look great on an offer letter, but also prove meaningful throughout their role.
Whilst financial incentives are hugely important to employees, it’s important that they aren’t the only benefits on offer. In fact, a UK study by Genesis Recruitment revealed that 85% of workers were motivated by monetary incentives, but only in the short-term. For lasting employee satisfaction and motivation, you should look at the intrinsic motivations people have, and how to advance these too.
Providing employees with a wealth of self-development opportunities is a great way to encourage continued learning and continuous development, and businesses can do this in three simple ways:
Fund conferences, certifications and courses
Setting up a learning and development budget is a great way to show your employees that you support their career development and continued learning.
This is something you could discuss within career development sessions, as you can determine which experiences will be most valuable based on the individual’s progress and needs.
Offer internal learning sessions
Hosting lunch-n-learn sessions, or ongoing training to help develop your employees skills and confidence in certain business areas can also be a great way to encourage employee learning. To keep momentum running with initiatives like this, you should consider designating a particular team member to organise and facilitate these sessions.
It can also be really useful to find out what each member of your team is good at or passionate about, and ask them to share their expertise and experiences.
Facilitate time spent learning
It’s all good and paying for and offering opportunities for your team to develop their skills. But what if they don’t have time for it? It’s important to set aside time for learning, or be flexible when learning opportunities present themselves.
Social, food and drink
As companies continue to navigate the world of hybrid work, employees are looking to find the perfect balance between the benefits of work from home and the value of social interaction. As a result, the office will likely become a ‘library’ for socialising and collaborating rather than the default.
If you’re keen to encourage this frequent collaboration and a more lively office, you’ll want to offer incentives that make the office an attractive place to be. Social events, food and drink can be a great way to do that.
Therefore, it makes sense to create some benefits that deliver on these needs. Having a beer fridge in the office is great, but what else can you do to make sure your employees are fuelling themselves and connecting with others on a regular basis? Here’s a couple of ideas:
Breakfast in the morning boosts your energy levels throughout the day, and eating together is good for your well-being. So why not host team breakfast events every now and then? It doesn’t have to be all about food, either. There are plenty of different activities you can do in the morning to bring your team together/
Something small like allowing employees to expense a lunchtime meal every week can go a long way, as it’s a regular reminder that the business cares for and supports its team. One of the biggest benefits of allocating a lunch budget for your team is that it’s very flexible. For example, employers can decide whether to host in-office lunches spent together or expense lunches enjoyed individually.
Inclusive social events
We all know inclusive events are hard, especially when you have a semi-remote workforce. However, it’s all about doing what you can to cater for as many people as you can. We’ve found that the best way to do this is by setting clear expectations from the offset, like that remote employees may not get the same benefits from a company-level event.
It also means being highly organised. For example, it’s important to understand the dietary needs and interests of your employees and organise events that cater to these. Similarly, you should set a transport budget for employees that have to travel a fair distance to get there.
Reading, meditation, fitness, sports or food. If there’s something multiple people in your team enjoy, it may be worth making a club for it so that employees can bond and share their interests in a safe space.
The best way to arrange social events that your employees actually want to attend is to get them involved in organising it. By creating a social committee in your organisation, you can make sure that your events are exciting, diverse and cater for absolutely everyone.
Paid time off
For a start, anything you are legally required to provide your employees with should not be promoted as a ‘perk’. For example, offering your employees the statutory minimum holiday is fine, but shouting about doing it and expecting praise in return – not so good.
Unless you are going above and beyond the legal requirements for time off, mentioning it in your job description under the ‘benefits and perks’ category can appear less than impressive to candidates, particularly where your competitors are offering a more diverse and exciting time-off package.
So, how can you turn time-off into a perk, rather than just an obligation? Consider creating different buckets for time off, and making certain categories of time-off unlimited for your team.
The best way to create employee benefits around this, is to take some time to consider what else your team might want time-off work for, that isn’t actually a conventional ‘holiday’. Alternatively, you could extend the scope of the time-off buckets you already have to make them more inclusive.
Here are a couple of good examples:
Well-being leave is designed for when your staff need a ‘duvet day’, or just a day to recharge their mind or body to improve their wellbeing.
This is similar to traditional bereavement leave, except you may want to consider extending this to cover pregnancy loss and the death of pets, too.
Childcare responsibilities can be somewhat unpredictable, and it is important to support your employees with caring responsibilities in a generous way. However, even beyond this, you should consider extending the way your company views parenthood, and perhaps including care for a new pet to fall within this category.
Make sure it’s easy for your team to embark on courses, attend conferences and take opportunities to develop their skills without it costing them their paid time-off.
Consider creating an ‘other’ bucket when it comes to requesting time-off, as it is almost impossible to predict every circumstance and event that your team may need time-off for, and this encourages your employees to come to you with their personal requests – no matter how specific!
So, what employee benefits should your business be prioritising in 2022? Sadly, there’s no clear answer to this question. The truth is that no employer can afford to offer all of these benefits combined. There will almost always be gaps in the benefits package you can offer, particularly as a start-up or small business with limited funding.
This means that a benefits package can probably be simultaneously good, bad and ugly for different people – all at the same time. However, what businesses can do is make the benefits they offer ‘choice-first’.
As we prepare to enter 2022, it’s time to start talking to your employees about the benefits that matter most to them, and to personalise the access different employees have to different perks.
About the Author
Thomas is Head of People & Talent at Juro – a contract platform on a mission to help the world agree more – where he is building a human-centric, scalable People & Talent function from the ground up.