The battleground for benefits, incentives and entitlements

by | Dec 1, 2022

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By Tim Baker, Director at ZEDRA

As if four-day weeks and work from anywhere were not enough, the array of benefits, incentives and entitlements on offer to employees around the world continues to expand. LinkedIn’s 2022 Global Talent Trends report found 60% of job seekers prioritise compensation and benefits when choosing a new role, with the rise of millennials in the workforce escalating things like mental health services to the forefront of employee benefits.

In a tight global job market, employers have had to get creative in order to inspire talent to engage and ramping up benefits, incentives and entitlements has proved a key battleground. LinkedIn’s own LiftUp initiative – a resource hub and a series of engaging events – has focused on improving the employee experience with the gift of time. Perks include global wellbeing days off, monthly ‘no meeting’ days, up to US$2,000 a year for home exercise equipment, half-day Fridays in July and August and a company shutdown week in April 2021.

Make it personal

 

Research by Willis Towers Watson in 2021 found 72% of businesses are planning to personalise their benefits to employee needs within the next two years. Such an approach mirrors the success of platforms like Juno, the UK based service provider that raised £10 million this year and allows workers to spend their benefits allowances however suits them best, with options ranging from cleaning to childcare and wellness packages to cultural experiences.

Companies that take a total rewards approach with personalisation at the heart will have a clear recruiting and retention advantage. Data analytics and workforce insights can play a key role in helping employers dig deep into benefits usage, helping to highlight gaps and refine packages to be relevant and cost-effective.

Reap the rewards

 

A Forbes article recently highlighted four out-of the-box incentives gathering steam with employers fighting for talent: reimbursement for work-from home expenses like internet supplies and electronic devices, financial wellness support programmes, student loan relief for workers and sick time and personal leave for remote workers.

Entitlements around the world

Companies that operate across borders must address the added complexity of global differences in workforce benefits. While the average full-time working week varies across Europe from 42.3 hours in Greece to 26.4 hours in Germany, paid annual leave is also an increasingly divisive subject between countries.

 

When Richard Branson scrapped Virgin’s annual leave policy in 2014 in favour of allowing head office employees to take as much holiday as they liked, he started an unlimited leave trend that has since been taken up by corporate behemoths including Netflix and LinkedIn. Most full-time workers in the United Kingdom benefit from 37 days off a year when combining statutory minimum paid leave and public holidays, according to statistics from the OECD. In France the statutory minimum entitlement excluding public holidays is 30 days, in Spain 22 days and the average vacation days in the US are 10.

In recent years, government interventions to address work-life balance have become more common, with France introducing a law giving workers the right to disconnect, meaning that anyone working for a company with over 50 employees does not have to check, send or reply to emails out of hours. Several other countries, including Italy, Spain and Ireland, have followed suit.

UK considerations

 

The employee benefits landscape in the UK, for example, is very different to that offered in other jurisdictions, with key considerations for those establishing a presence including (i) the need to take out employers’ liability insurance on day one; (ii) workplace pension plan auto-enrolment; (iii) the system of statutory sick leave; and (iv) the legal requirement to allow full-time employees to take at least 28 days’ leave. Other employee benefits typical in the UK include life assurance, disability insurance, private medical insurance, stock options, critical illness cover, dental and vision, travel insurance, gym membership and commuter loans.

What next for benefits

With employees increasingly clear that it is not just about money and many more of them on the lookout for new roles, less standard benefits like childcare, mental health services and learning hubs will come to the fore in 2023 and beyond. Workers now more focused on remote working and flexibility are putting more of an onus on better leave policies, wellness programmes and tailored benefits packages that meet their personal circumstances. Nothing is straightforward or one-size-fits-all anymore, so employers looking to recruit internationally will continue to develop bespoke personalised benefits and incentives in order to recruit the best talent for their businesses.

 

They will need to demonstrate commitment to diversity and inclusion if they are to be employers of choice, while employees will continue to seek greater flexibility and engagement while looking to retain benefits, employment rights and career progression.

According to LinkedIn data, employees are becoming choosier, viewing nearly twice as many job posts before applying in 2021 compared to 2019. With the focus shifting squarely to culture, companies will do well to embrace their messaging on flexibility and inclusive benefits if they want to stand out.

Conclusion

 

At a time of rapid evolution and transformation, some common themes emerge for global employers looking to engage and inspire employees around the world:

Find your own way:

The working environment of tomorrow is still under construction, with hybrid arrangements evolving to suit the needs of employers and employees alike. Everyone is looking for answers, but the solution will look different for every business.

Engage and inspire:

Employees are looking to work with values-driven organisations that share their ethics and walk the walk on ESG. Businesses need their own highly developed social conscience, led from the top, as workers look for employers to connect with and take pride in.

Reward with authenticity:

Pay cheques matter less than wellbeing, work-life balance and empathy. Companies should focus on building employee benefits schemes that are tailored to the needs of every individual and make

every team member feel supported and valued.

Flex, flex, flex:

Flexible working means different things to different people and works differently from team to team and country to country. Enlightened employers are creating multiple options, letting individuals design their own working models, putting trust in their people, measuring outputs and not inputs and, above all, constantly flexing when, where, why and how they work.

Agility requires accountability:

Remember that with agility must come accountability and corporate compliance must step up to make this work. Embedding fairness, systems and controls into decision-making will be fundamental to monitoring and mitigating risks associated with new ways of working.

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