Since 2020, when the pandemic took on a shape that could not be ignored, employees across sectors have been working from home. Which means, human resource managers had to start finding more ingenious ways to keep such employees guided, engaged, happy, and productive. And employee benefit is one factor that the HR department has been tweaking to suit the current scenario. To know more about it, read on.
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What are employee benefits?
Employee benefits are non-salary perks and compensations provided to employees as a part of their package. Expected benefits may include health insurance, stock options, free meals, paid learning and development programs, and complimentary shuttle services.
Employee benefits make employees feel valued and cherished and give them a boost to keep working. There are different types of benefits you can invest in, and all these benefits show the employee that you care about their overall growth and development.
The current rewards and benefits challenge
Most organizations have a set benefits plan for their employees. However, the COVID-19 pandemic changed everything. How would you offer free meals and snacks to employees working from home? How would you motivate an employee in a remote place already going through the stress of the pandemic?
How can the current benefits plans be remodeled to connect, support, and encourage remote employees?
The Mercer Marsh Benefits report on digitizing benefits in a post-pandemic world
Mercer Marsh Benefits is a global leader in the HR consultancy industry. Recently, it surveyed a total of 500 HR and Reward professionals to understand how employers are planning to approach benefits in the post-pandemic situation. They were made to answer questions on prioritizing their benefits and rewards strategies in the coming years.
We thank Mercer Marsh Benefits for this detailed survey report. Here is an excerpt for you to look through.
How is the C-Suite approaching benefits?
According to the survey, 85% of the Benefits and Rewards teams say their importance has increased during the pandemic. Employers are quickly realizing that it is not enough for them to provide jobs. They will also have to consider the social and emotional support and wellbeing of their employees, and the right rewards and benefits programs will make a difference.
When the pandemic started, it was a common opinion that employers would be able to cut back on their benefits budget as the employees were working from home. However, the benefits teams of most organizations have agreed that the opposite has happened.
Here are other statistics provided by the HR rewards and benefits experts about organizational change after the pandemic.
What’s the challenge?
Imagine having to make drastic changes to your rewards and benefits processes quickly and amidst a pandemic. The changes should matter to the employees and help them during such tough times. This was an immense challenge that the HR team faced.
52% of organizations now say that they may consolidate their benefits technology and their benefits consultancy partners to handle the requirement post-pandemic.
Having a single partner to handle these is definitely beneficial. Now that the world is slowly opening up and businesses are considering normal activities, it is going to take considerable efforts to protect the employees and handle their mental wellbeing.
Investing in the right benefits digital infrastructure and choosing the right Rewards and Recognition partner are both going to make a big difference in how quickly your employees bounce back.
Employee experience post-pandemic
The same group of HR experts was also quizzed about how vital employee experience is going to be and if there will be changes to watch out for.
Clearly, the consensus is that employee experience will matter more now than ever.
When the importance of employee experience was questioned in 2018, just 46% of organizations valued this as top priority. This has changed now. In 2021, about 87% of organizations agreed that employee experience is their top priority.
Employee Wellbeing – The need of the hour
Post-pandemic, support for financial, social, and mental wellbeing is a vital factor that is going to newly affect employee experience.
We have all been talking about employee wellbeing. However, the pandemic has shown us how important it really is.
Healthcare had suddenly become the most important of all benefits due to the risk of COVID-related hospitalizations.
Organizations that covered mental health expenses were looked upon with gratitude by the employees.
Employees who were paid well and had financial stability thanked their employers for the privilege.
Organizations that had fostered a healthy internal relationship were able to survive more successfully, and the employees stood up for one another during emergencies.
Even after the pandemic slows down, HR experts believe that the employer’s role as a wellness provider is here to stay. Employers need to start taking care of their employees’ financial, physical, and mental wellbeing as a part of the benefits package.
However, we should also stop being over-optimistic about these wellness changes, warns the experts. Below is why they consider it so.
The investment part
Yes, changing your rewards and benefits policies and including extra pandemic-appropriate benefits can cost the organization monetarily. However, this is an essential investment, according to these HR experts. Many organizations have already made such changes successfully and are reaping the benefits in terms of improved employee engagement, experience, and retainment.
So, if you have been wondering if it is worth making this investment, then do check out your competitors. Most of them may have already started making the change.
Now, what does benefits expenditure include? It definitely encompasses newer benefit policies that may be appropriate during and after the pandemic. However, it also includes investment in technology that supports the Rewards and Benefits strategies.
You could have great benefits policies. However, if they don’t reach the employees right or if it takes a lot of manual steps to avail them, employees may not be very interested in using the same.
The right technology can help prevent these problems.
This survey states that in a majority of the organizations, 50% of all the Human Resource budgets go towards HR tech.
Here are the top four areas of tech investment in the HR department in 2021.
Talent and Acquisition
Learning and Development
Digital Health and Wellbeing
Rewards and Benefits
Have you noticed how these companies have placed digital health and wellbeing as a separate category and not included it within rewards and benefits? For now, until the effects of the pandemic are entirely eliminated, you may need to spend extra in protecting the health and wellbeing of your employees apart from offering other usual rewards and benefits.
This will help them get back on their feet quicker and feel safe working for you.
About 76% of the employers agreed that their expenditure towards tech increased during the pandemic while 15% of the organizations had the same budget.
Making use of benefits usage data
Unless you understand the benefits usage data, how would you know what your employees prefer and don’t?
That’s why the experts who took this survey insist on making use of the data to tweak your current policy.
Most employees have increased their benefits spend but have no idea whether the expenditure is reaping the fitting returns on investment (ROI). Start leveraging this data to make the expenses worth it.
Digitalization of benefits – What can you do?
Digitalization is the process of bringing down manual labor and intervention and using software and digital tools and technology to improve the efficiency of processes.
So how can you digitize benefits?
While organizations have always considered digitizing their processes, the HR departments suddenly realized how important this was during the pandemic!
67% of the organizations state that they are accelerating their plans to centralize their benefits software after the pandemic.
What is centralization and why is it important?
Centralization is the process of bringing together different activities, so it is easier to manage them. Centralized HR processes help the department to function efficiently and improve results.
When it comes to centralized benefit processes, they will make it easier for employees to identify and make use of the right benefits and the employers to keep track of the processes.
According to the survey, organizations that already had a centralized system for benefits were two times quicker in responding to changes and using their solutions to bring about a change.
It also further states that during this period, organizations with a centralized benefits software system had increased employee engagement scores when compared to those that didn’t.
42% of organizations with a centralized process exceeded their employee engagement score targets.
There is no doubt that digitization of the rewards and benefits policies is the need for the day. The pandemic has only pushed organizations to consider doing this quickly. Employee wellbeing is a new factor that is going to be the focus in the coming years.
The C-suite members are focusing more on benefits and their responses, thanks to the increased budget they have been allocating here. This is a positive sign to look forward to. Being under the scrutiny of the CXOs will ensure that the processes are effective and useful and not mere mandatory offerings.
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