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Nov 23, 2020

Benefits: What do your employees really want


By Drew Welton

Founder - I help companies hire innovation executives.

Employee benefits cost a business 25% of their total people spend so it makes sense that businesses should give their benefits packages a lot of thought and attention. When it comes to employee benefits there’s a lot of contradicting information out there.


US MD & Co-Founder of Bamboo Crowd. I lead our New York office and work with high-growth businesses to build recruiting strategies, employer brands, talent pipelines and networks.


There are also many economic and generational impacts that cause consistent changes in terms of preferences, wants and desires. It can be quite hard to keep up. But over the last couple of years there have been some trends that have seen us rethink the way that we look at benefits. Some of these trends go beyond the obvious generational ones. For example, a big trend are employees’ desires to access benefits online at any time and on any device. Any why not? By 2020 there will be 6.1 billion smartphone users worldwide, according the a Mobility Report from Ericsson — effectively 70% of the world’s population, yet only 13% of companies use mobile apps to communicate about benefits.

Going back to the generational reality, that sees 5 generations all working together with different preferences and desires, there is a need to disrupt the structured and archaical list of benefits that businesses have typically employed. Rather, they should look to create pillars that connect closely to business values and culture that have evolving benefits attached to them. Companies should also allow for flexible benefits recognising that not everyone is the same, and that people will invariably be at different stages of life — flexibility affords employees to choose benefits that reflect their stage of life, and preferences. By offering this, employee engagement and satisfaction will likely increase. Beyond this, the way that these benefits are delivered needs to go through its own form of digital transformation.

Here are 3 common pillars businesses can use to further motivate, engage, and retain their staff.


Freedom comes in many forms and isn’t just about flexible working, although that is top of the list for most employees. Annual holiday is a highly valued benefit — research by Jobsite found that 48% of people were prepared to take a pay cut of 4.7% in return for more leave.

Outside of holiday and flexible working, employees want to decide on how they work. A growing trend for instance, is the emergence of Bring your Own Device to work, essentially a policy that allows employees to use their own mobile devices and laptops to access data and systems.

Beyond the how, there’s the where. Businesses that offer employees the ability to hot desk, are doing something right. Employees don’t necessarily want to work from home — the rise of co-working space has proven this. The office is definitely not dead, but there is a need to provide a space and environment that allows employees to move around in.


According to a study by Johnson & Johnson, wellness programs have saved the company $250 million on health care costs over the past decade. Healthy employees cost you less, are more productive, and stay with you longer.

Shifts in demographics also mean that many companies are facing significant challenges from an ageing workforce — a third of the workforce will be aged 50 plus by 2020, with the number aged over 65 already 1 million plus in the UK. Additionally, one of the biggest stress inducers right now is debt and it’s only rising.

Employers that take health and wellness seriously can stand out. Helping employees to make lifestyle changes, detect and treat illness early, stay fit and healthy, and manage their finances better, goes hand in hand with building a more productive workforce. With smart tech and wearables, it’s never been easier to create engaging programmes. For example, buying staff fitbits and encouraging internal competition, or investing in stand-up desks, and even providing monthly consultations with a financial planner to support around things like student loan debt and repayment, are all benefits that work well.

Mental health is also a major issue. Charity, Mind, estimates that mental health affects one in six British workers a year. Developing mindfulness programmes, providing help and guidance around mental health and stress, and promoting a work-life balance through initiatives such as finishing early on a Friday go a long way in creating a culture that employees can thrive and feel supported in.


Empowerment comes from personalisation. This isn’t necessarily a new concept when it comes to benefits as flexibility has long been an aspect for many businesses. The new and emerging trend is a data-driven approach to designing employee benefits that is fuelled by building engagement and offering more value to employees.

From employees choosing how they learn and develop, through to tailoring and choosing their own training programmes, and to DNA testing, the personalisation and customisation framework is becoming a new normal.

Businesses must look to technology and benefits portals to be able to deliver maximum value and effective employee experiences. Identifying trends, tracking data, and building a feedback loop are crucial considerations for companies as they begin to see increasing challenges of supporting and engaging a diverse workforce. In short, those who recognise and transform the experiences they offer their staff will see increased employee engagement, and externally, a stronger employee brand proposition that allows their business to remain competitive in the game to win and retain top talent.


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