Opinion

Does your employee benefit package still stand out from the crowd?

Our latest salary and recruitment survey for the Eastern region shows that benefits are playing an even greater role in competing for high calibre employees, especially within sectors facing candidate short markets.

Employees don’t choose to switch on salary alone and a recent national survey showed that benefits were still the third main attraction for job seekers, after salary and location. An organisation’s benefit package could be the deciding factor for an employee, especially if the salary offer is the same as a competitor organisation. But what employee perks are considered the most enticing to today’s job seekers?

Many of the benefits that were often seen as adding real value are becoming increasingly common place. Health care schemes and gym membership are becoming more prevalent and, within our own survey, we discovered that 85 per cent of companies in the East of England are now offering flexible working hours and 70 per cent are providing some form of study or educational support. For decades, pensions used to be a key differentiator, yet with the Workplace Pensions roll out almost complete, more employers are beginning to offer enhanced pensions to entice new employees.

People spend the majority of their waking hours at work, and low key benefits which make a big difference to day-to-day life can be just as appealing. Recent research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development included examples such as having free tea and coffee available, and being allowed to have online purchases delivered to the workplace, as some of the little perks really appreciated by workers.  

We have seen an upward trend in organisations choosing to look for more innovative ways to update benefit schemes. Many employers are looking towards the modern day challenges faced by today’s workers for inspiration. A London organisation has reported that it is now offering staff help to get on the property ladder as part of its benefit scheme. Other firms have decided to provide low cost personal loans for employees, offering better rates than those offered by banks, and making monthly repayments simple by deducting direct from payroll.

Another option is for employers to enable benefits to be tailored to individual groups of employees.  An Employee Benefits study showed that there was a marked difference between what different generations wanted from their benefits package. More than two-fifths of millennials said they would value financial advice, but only 17 per cent of those aged 30 or over would appreciate this perk. Other benefit options will be attractive to a broad section of employees, but for lots of different reasons. The opportunity to buy extra annual leave can appeal to parents as a cheaper option than paying for childcare during school holidays, and also prove attractive to employees wishing to travel more, or looking to pursue passions or hobbies outside of work

One way in which employers can monitor whether they have a competitive benefits package, which will help to attract and retain the best talent, is by asking employees for regular feedback within a staff survey. Another option is to seek advice from a recruitment consultant. A good consultant will have their finger on the pulse of the industry they specialise in, and the local market, and will be able to provide valuable insight into any shifting trends in salaries and benefit packages.