Consider the job perks, says Nigel Saunders, employee benefits consultant at Mattioli Woods in Aberdeen...

4 minutes

How often is it that a random overheard conversation highlights a very real universal issue that either through lack of recognition or priority can become the ‘elephant in the room’?

One such example follows. In one of those very British situations, I was standing in a queue. Two people behind me were discussing a job offer. “It is not a bad offer,” one said. “It’s £28k plus benefits.” After their companion asked what these benefits were, they replied: “Not sure – it is really more about the money!”

While an understandable (and probably not uncommon) response, it is nonetheless a hugely disappointing one for employers to hear, especially as they frequently stretch their budget to offer their staff additional benefits to assist retention and/or recruitment.

Getting benefits to the top of the list

So what causes this non-appreciation of what are actually really valuable additions to any individual’s income? I think it arises from a combination of factors, including communication and understanding. Sometimes, it can also be down to what actually attracts employees, too.

As the employee, it comes if you choose to purely focus on the salary. If you don’t look closer at the benefit package on offer to you, which will commonly include – in addition to the regulatory workplace pension – life cover, sickness/income replacement and (frequently) private medical insurance, this can lead to unnecessary cost as you may unwittingly duplicate cover not required.

Employers have their role in this too. Sure, they may have added these benefits to a) be in line with their sector, and b) to ensure their staff are properly protected. However, how well have they communicated these benefits to their staff? Commonly, there may be a page mentioning them in the staff handbook, or perhaps a there’s a passing reference to them in an induction video. Maybe there are details in the contract of employment? Regardless, use of any and all of the above frequently leads to an overall lack of interest, and to the sorts of conversation I overheard at the beginning of this article.

What to do?

While the traditional benefits are always relevant as the majority are designed to deal with serious events, many of the less traditional benefits can be very cost-effective to implement and be highly valued by staff, as they offer immediate and regular access in positive circumstances – for example, many employers are now finding real benefit in adding a retail discount site to their range, which delivers highly appreciated lifestyle services such as half-price cinema tickets, reduced dining costs in well-known outlets, cheaper petrol and supermarket shopping.

Despite this, there is more to be done – many of the employers I advise, for example, are still finding it eye-opening that, following an employee survey, their benefit budget spend would be really appreciated if it included low-cost gym membership or even a wine club!

Give it some thought

The lesson? Focus on employee benefits that really “pay”. This means that as a company you find out what your staff value, leading to more effective benefit communication and appreciation.

However, if you’re an employee whose ears are pricking at this – get an understanding of the existing benefits supplied by your company, and if you feel they could be more engaging, start that conversation with your employer.

Without feedback, how can they know?

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