Nowadays, employees expect more from their employer than ever before. Meeting these expectations will involve more personalisation of the health and benefits offering.

The world has had its fair share of upheavals, but when Covid became part of our daily conversations, irrespective of where one lived, we were all looking for the magic light at the end of the tunnel! It took a long time to come, never have we had to live with so much uncertainty, and this new state of uncertainty will become part of life, certainly for the foreseeable future.
 
Employers reacted quickly when another lockdown was announced. Working from home became the norm, and a new way of living was forced upon us. I remember when the first lockdown was announced; I thought it would soon be over, but days turned into weeks, then months. Schools closed, infrastructure suffered, travel became a distant memory, as did freely going on holiday.
 
The financial impact on the global economy was severe, and the true extent of the impact on people’s mental wellbeing is still largely unknown.
 
Then the unthinkable happened: a war in Europe! Further significant disruptions aggravated the already fragile and near-breaking healthcare and financial systems across the globe. Energy supplies, production lines, supply chains, distribution channels, and more, were equally hard hit. Many believe these disruptions have permanently altered the world order. While we all feel the direct and indirect impact of the war, managers and business owners have made it their top priority to protect the health and safety of their employees. 

A new world order …

History tells us that Woodrow Wilson and Winston Churchill introduced a term “new world order” to global politics, describing a new era of history marked by a profound shift in world political philosophy and the worldwide balance of power. Over the years, it became a factor in domestic and international relations and in legislation. It also sent out a clear message that change to the status quo was on the cards. As a result of the global consequences to the war in Europe, “a new political world order” has come about, again.
 
Rapid change and shifting trends have also found their way into companies. In response to the economic crisis – caused by the world bouncing back from Covid, changing weather systems, spending patterns and the conflict in Europe – employers are taking steps to support their staff, arguably much more than we have seen in recent memory, but this can only go so far as it is not just individuals who are affected. Employers also need to address their short, medium, and long-term strategies simply to remain in business.
 
The cost of living has risen significantly. Levels of inflation across the globe have spiked. Talks of recession and warnings of energy price-increases have become reality. The war in Europe, which many thought would be over quickly, still rages on, with terrible human loss. Unstable Governments resulting in profound market and economic shifts resulting in significant changes to financial ratings.
 
The news presents a gloomy outlook – yet, still, employers continue to uphold both health and benefits in their companies, whilst at the same time employers are facing increasing insurance premiums and crippling energy bills. Why? Their employees are important, as are the families. With this, we are seeing a shift in how employers are looking at their future benefit programmes – a steady wise in employers ripping up the “benefits blueprint” and looking at how to restructure their benefits to be more sustainable; more fit for purpose to assess how the wider package could better support their employees.
 
Whilst some level of financial support is welcomed by all, this is only one part of the solution. Employers with voluntary-style benefits, discount schemes etc can also signpost employees to these as they can offer real-time savings for every-day-expenditure.  In view of the current economic backdrop where pressure on salaries has started to impact, we are seeing more employers incorporating this into the wider offering, and anecdotal evidence shows this has been well-received by employees.
 
We learnt valuable lessons through lockdowns when innovative digital solutions were introduced because we could not access face-to-face services. Solutions such as online yoga and personal trainer lessons, telemedicine and virtual appointments to access General Practitioners, wearable technology being used to track fitness levels, our sleep, diet, etc. have been widely adopted.  Many of us have become used to doing things via handheld devices.
 

We need to better listen to our people

People typically don’t like to admit it they are struggling or ask for help! The same applies to financial difficulties, where many people struggle silently when faced with the next household bill, rising energy bills, dental costs, etc. Hence, employer attractiveness has long since ceased to be defined by just the daily fruit basket or a water cooler. Corporate culture and wider wellbeing must therefore be place permanently on the leadership agenda to enable employers to better support employees and promote financial, mental, physical and social Wellbeing.
 
Everyone knows and understands the arguments as to why Wellbeing needs to be taken seriously. When it comes to Wellbeing, it is a complex dynamic between the culture of the company, the work environment, external factors, and the physical, social, psychological & mental health of employees – it also perfectly dovetails into the wider ESG conversation and the key sustainable development goals!
 
As the Human Sustainability Index, a new way to track Wellbeing and performance, gains momentum, we’re seeing more and more organisations wake up to how they can decrease burnout and build performance and Wellbeing at the same time.
 
Employers also need to focus more on the individual; however, they first need to listen to what their employees are saying, and not simply push forward an employee “benefit” just because it may be a good idea for the company. Over the years, I have seen many employee “benefits” introduced (sometimes at significant cost to the company) only to hear the end recipients, the employees, say that it isn’t something which is needed or wanted.
 
Nowadays, employees expect more from their employer than ever before. Meeting these expectations will involve more personalisation of the benefits offering: employers reviewing what benefits are offered, restructuring leave, and working policies, bringing forward salary reviews to help those who need it most, and perhaps even shaping a position to suit the skills, experience, and ambitions of the individual they want to recruit. Ultimately, employees are expecting employers to work hard(er) to attract and retain them. Those that do can expect to gain the very best talent. Those that don’t will face an uphill struggle in getting the right people, achieving employee loyalty, and of course engaging their people!

Adam Riley, Cert PFS 

Group Practice Leader Health & Benefits

T +44 (0) 7507 788 144

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