Flexible Benefits – What They Are and How to Use Them 

Flexible Benefits – What They Are and How to Use Them 

Over the past few decades, lifestyles have become more flexible and people are able to differentiate in their choices about practically everything. This isn’t just a consumer trend: businesses have also become wise to the fact that their employees all have different needs that need to be catered for.  

This has resulted in organisations taking a more individualistic approach to benefit provision.  

In this blog, we explore what flexible benefits are, why they’re a popular choice and how your business can implement and get the most from them. 

What Are Flexible Benefits? 

 All organisations provide employee benefits which are usually determined by grade. In most instances, the more senior the role, the more valuable the benefits package. Depending on seniority, core employee benefit packages, where the benefits are paid for by the employer, typically include items like: 

  • company car 
  • holidays 
  • private medical insurance 
  • critical illness cover 
  • long-term health cover 
  • health checks 

In addition, employers also often voluntary benefits like think discounted gym memberships, dental insurance and household or holiday insurance. Employees can choose to take up these products voluntarily, paying for the benefits themselves, usually out of their pay. 

This approach is fine if the core benefits on offer meet every employee’s needs. But what if your employer provides a company car but you don’t drive? Or you’re already covered on your partner’s private medical insurance so you don’t gain any advantage from this benefit? Or you don’t have any dependents but your employer insists on providing life cover any way? 

When benefits aren’t suitable for employees, companies are paying for benefits that aren’t used or they’re providing an unappetising benefit offering to their staff that fails to engage.   

Flexible benefit programmes provide a solution to this problem. Instead of offering standard benefit packages in the usual way, flexible benefit packages enable employees to vary their pay and benefits to meet their personal requirements.  

In most schemes, staff can retain their existing salary while selecting the right mix of benefits for them. Or they can adjust their salary up or down by taking fewer or more benefits.  

Let’s look at some examples to explore how this works: 

  • A single employee rejects the family private medical insurance cover they’re entitled to due to their grade and opts for single cover only – they receive the cost difference in cash 
  • Someone who doesn’t take all their holidays each year chooses to sell five days holiday and uses the saving to take up family private medical cover with the rest taken as cash 
  • An individual who doesn’t drive forgoes the company car benefit and takes the cash instead – they use it to buy more holiday and take up dental insurance and gym membership  

These are just a few examples of the sorts of flexibility flexible benefit schemes can offer. However, not all programmes will be this flexible; some employers decide that their staff must take a certain level of benefits (usually items like life cover or other insurances) as a minimum. And there are other considerations, like minimum pension auto-enrolment contributions, that need to be worked into the scheme. 

How Many Companies Use Flexible Schemes? 

According to Aon, just 12% of employers operate flexible benefit schemes. Which is surprising given research from Willis Towers Watson which shows that: 

  • 66% of employees who are offered choice in their benefits report their benefits meet their needs 
  • 30% of employees who are not offered choice in their benefits report their benefits meet their needs

However, the answer could lie in the perceived challenges associated with setting up and running a flexible benefit scheme.  

What to Consider When Setting Up a Flexible Benefits Programme 

There’s a lot to think about if you want to set up a flexible benefits scheme in your organisation: 

  • Online or paper – this might work for smaller businesses or those where staff don’t have access to computers. Otherwise online options, although more expensive, tend to offer ease of use and greater flexibility. 
  • Choosing benefit options – it’s easiest to transition your existing benefits to a flex scheme before expanding the options available. You’ll need to decide which benefits must be selected or whether you want to allow a more flexible approach. 
  • Keeping schemes up to date – every change in your benefits, tax and legislation must be reflected in your scheme which involves additional work in terms of configuring scheme rules, calculations and systems (if online). 

Although each of these sounds fairly straight forward, flexible benefit schemes can quickly become complex and require technical decision making which requires HR specialist knowledge.  

However, the pay off could well be worth the effort as flexible benefits help organisations stand out in the recruitment marketplace. And they can also be a powerful tool for retention as your benefit package will meet the needs of every segment of your workforce, regardless of life stage.  

There’s a lot to think about if you want to set up a successful flexible benefits scheme, so consider working with a seasoned HR consultant to ensure you deliver legally and secure a great return on your investment. 

For flexible support with all your HR projects, get in touch with Crosse HR on 0330 555 1139 or at hello@crossehr.co.uk. 

 

Employing older workers – the benefits

Employing older workers – the benefits

With more people living longer, the workforce contains a higher proportion of older workers than ever before. And this demographic trend is only going to continue with one in five of the UK population expected to be 65 or older by 2030.  

With pension pots failing to provide people with the retirement they want, more people are working longer. However, many people over the age of 50 are at risk of leaving the workforce early. And not always because they want to.  

With many businesses struggling to recruit due to high employment rates, it’s time to consider hiring older workers and all the benefits they can bring.  

The Challenges Faced by Older Workers 

Older workers are generally considered to be people over the age of 50. However, in some industries served by younger people – think fashion retail or hospitality – older workers could be thought of as anyone over the age of 35.   

According to the Centre for Ageing Better, staff over 50 face age discrimination when applying for jobs or trying to progress their careers. They are also: 

  • more likely to be stuck in low paid jobs 
  • feel most insecure about losing their jobs 
  • less likely to be offered opportunities for development 

In fact, only 25% of employees aged 50-59 and 22% of those aged 60-69 felt their employer encouraged them to take up learning and development opportunities. This is a significant drop compared to 44% of 18-39 year-olds and 32% of 40-49 year-olds.[Text Wrapping Break] 

With older workers forming an increasing part of the workforce, it’s time for employers to change their perspectives and understand what the over 50s can contribute. 

What Older Workers Bring to Your Business  

Older doesn’t mean worse. In fact, many of the UK’s key industries rely on more mature staff. Take farming. The average age of a UK farmer is 59. These people bring years of skill and expertise to their jobs. And the country remains well fed and is able to export meat and other produce because of their work.  

There are plenty of other benefits that come with hiring older employees: 

  • They’re less likely to leave than their younger counterparts – saving you time and money when it comes to recruitment and training. 
  • They’ll understand your ageing customer base better – as the population ages, it’s not only workers but customers who will be getting older. Having employees who are the same age as your customers, who understand their needs and can talk to them on an equal footing will bring major benefits to your business. 
  • Diversity brings additional advantages to your wider team and business – and that includes age diversity. Think fresh perspectives, knowledge sharing, new ideas and improved problem solving. 

There are also benefits to the economy as employing more older workers will contribute to tax revenues offsetting some of the costs associated with an ageing population. If everyone in the UK worked one year longer, GDP would increase by 1%. Which can only be good for the economy and, by proxy, your business.  

Managing Older Workers 

Hiring older workers may be easier in some locations than others due to the demographic makeup of the area in which your business is located.  

Cities tend to have larger populations of younger people whereas older people often move away from urban areas. So, if hiring over 50s sounds like a good option for your firm, you might need HR support to attract and retain the right people. 

But it’s not just recruitment that you’ll need to consider. Think about adjusting your workplace practices to create an age-friendly culture that appeals to all generations.  

A key practice that cuts across all age groups (although for different reasons), is flexible working. For older workers this could mean giving people the opportunity to work from home, condense their hours or work part-time or in job shares. These options will allow them to: 

  • achieve better work-life balance 
  • carry out caring responsibilities 
  • manage health conditions 
  • wind down to retirement 

Making flexible working practices available to all staff is a certain way to engage your people, whatever their age.

For older workers you might also need to consider making changes to: 

  • Work tasks – heavy lifting could be a no-go for some older people but judge this on a case by case basis 
  • Training provision – ensuring everyone in your team is up to speed with how you work will deliver best return on your compensation and benefits investment 
  • Technology – not all over 50s are behind the technology times but you might need to invest in technology training to ensure your latest recruit is up to speed. This could mean introducing formal training sessions or learning on the job by being buddied up with a colleague. 

As skill shortages worsen and the working population ages, hiring older workers will be a necessity for many businesses. The workplace imposes barriers on every individual and all employees, no matter their age, have their individual strengths and weaknesses. Your challenge as a business owner is to find out where your staff need support and where you can make the most of their existing expertise.  

Attract, hire, engage and retain staff of all ages with expert support from Crosse HR. Get in touch today on 0330 555 1139 or at hello@crossehr.co.uk. 

Employee Engagement –  What it Really Means and How to Manage it on a Budget

Employee Engagement – What it Really Means and How to Manage it on a Budget

Employee engagement. Everyone wants it, but what does it actually mean? And how do you create it if you don’t have a heap of money to throw at any engagement challenges? We answer all these questions and more in our latest blog.

One Term, Many Views

Look up the term “employee engagement” and you’ll find lots of different definitions.

At Crosse HR, we believe employee engagement is a state of being that’s reflected in higher levels of employee motivation and job satisfaction. This results in an increased commitment to an individual’s role and the organisation. And discretionary effort over and above that which people would normally give to their role.

A wide range of research has shown that higher levels of engagement result in motivated workforces, improved talent retention, reduced absenteeism, enhanced employee wellbeing and, ultimately, a better bottom line.

No wonder businesses are keen to ensure high levels of engagement amongst their workforces.

However, most organisations have no formal engagement strategy in place and two-thirds of employees are disengaged.

So how can you get ahead of your competitors, do what’s right by your people and achieve employee engagement, even on a small budget?

Low-Cost Employee Engagement Solutions

Ask and You’ll Receive

Employee engagement initiatives need to be well, engaging. Research often identifies issues like poor management or a disconnect with the organisation’s mission, vision and values as drivers of poor engagement. However, before you invest time in engagement activities, it’s worth understanding your organisation’s specific issues so you can deliver focussed solutions.

For genuine staff insight, try gathering employee feedback via surveys or focus groups. It can pay to hire someone in from outside your organisation to carry out the research to ensure you get completely honest responses.

Not got the capacity or budget to carry out a survey or hold a focus group? Our article on the different demographics in your workforce and their needs gives great insight into what each age group values.

Communicate What’s on Offer

If your people don’t feel well rewarded for their work, the chances are they won’t give their best effort. Put this right by helping your staff understand what’s in it for them with total reward communications.

Comms can explain any bonus schemes, demonstrate the value of your pension contributions or show staff the benefits and discounts they’re entitled to. It’s worth asking your benefit providers to help you get the word out with branded posters for example. This kind of support is usually free and helps your staff understand what’s in it for them.  

Words Are Valuable and Cost Little

Communication – lack of it or not the right sort – is often a major employee complaint. And it can be really damaging to employee engagement.

Businesses often focus on what they want to tell employees rather than what employees want to hear. So taking the time to understand which communications your employees want will pay dividends. Particularly if you create opportunities for two-way communications.

Allow your people to have their say with engagement or pulse surveys and other opportunities to feedback directly to leaders. This will allow employees to express their views while giving you the opportunity to find out what’s irritating them so you can take action.

Investing in this virtuous feedback loop will ensure your organisation continues to improve taking employee engagement to new highs.  

Create a Culture That Works For Everyone

Modern employees want to work with their employers not for them. Which means taking a collaborative, partnership approach to working relationships.

What does this look like in reality? You could:

  • Make your mission, vision and values clear and give broad direction that’s aligned to them rather than micro-managing your staff
  • Show people that you trust them by treating them like adults, for example allowing flexible working and enabling people to work from locations other than the office
  • Give employees a hand in their own job design and objective-setting, helping them play to their strengths
  • Facilitate whole person growth by funding personal and career development activities

Recognise Your People

Those two little words – thank you – are more important than many managers realise. Not hearing them enough is one of the main reasons people leave their employer.

Doing the basics, like taking your team out for a drink after work or paying for lunch can go a long way to saying thank you. If your recognition budget is zero, you could award an employee of the month certificate, create a wall of amazing customer feedback or give top performers an afternoon off.

Driving employee engagement is every business leader’s responsibility. Changing your business can’t all fall on one person’s shoulders, so ensure your managers are brought into any changes to ensure their success.

If employee engagement is dragging your business results down, work with Crosse HR to diagnose your issues and prescribe a range of effective solutions. Whatever your budget, get in touch on 0330 555 1139 or at hello@crossehr.co.uk.


New Government Pay Rates

The government has announced the new rates that will apply from April:

Cap on a week’s pay for the purposes of calculating statutory redundancy payments and the basic award for unfair dismissal: £525
Guarantee pay: £29 per day
Statutory sick pay: £94.25 per week
Statutory maternity, paternity and adoption pay: £148.68

National Minimum Wage:

Over 25                            £8.21
Adult rate (over 21)                       £7.70
Development rate (18 – 20)         £6.15     
School leavers (16 – 17)                £4.35
Apprentices                                    £3.90

More details can be found here.

Managing the Multi-generational Divide

Managing the Multi-generational Divide

With more people living and working longer, businesses need to accommodate more generations than at any time before. Managing employees at different life stages, often with completely different levels of experience and world views, can be a challenge. So here’s our guide to successfully managing across the multi-generational divide.

The Generation Game

There are now five generations in the workplace as the following research from Barclays shows.

Maturists – pre-1945

  • Percentage in UK workforce: 3%
  • Aspiration: home ownership
  • Attitude to technology: largely disengaged
  • Attitude to career: a job is for life
  • Communication media: formal letter
  • Communication preference: face to face

Baby Boomers – 1945 – 1960

  • Percentage in UK workforce: 33%
  • Aspiration: job security
  • Attitude to technology: early IT adopters
  • Attitude to career: careers are defined by employer
  • Communication media: telephone
  • Communication preference: face to face but phone or email if required

Generation X – 1961 – 1980

  • Percentage in UK workforce: 35%
  • Aspiration: work-life balance
  • Attitude to technology: digital immigrants
  • Attitude to career: early portfolio careers; loyalty to profession not employer
  • Communication media: email and SMS
  • Communication preference: email and SMS

Generation Y – 1981 – 1995

  • Percentage in UK workforce: 29%
  • Aspiration: freedom and flexibility
  • Attitude to technology: digital natives
  • Attitude to career: digital entrepreneurs; work with organisations not for
  • Communication media: text or social media
  • Communication preference: online and mobile messaging

Generation Z – born after 1995

  • Percentage in UK workforce: currently employed in part-time jobs or new apprenticeships
  • Aspiration: security and stability
  • Attitude to technology: technoholics; entirely dependent on IT, low grasp of alternatives
  • Attitude to career: career multitaskers; will move seamlessly between organisations and pop-up businesses
  • Communication media: hand-held or integrated into clothing devices
  • Communication preference: facetime

So what can you do to manage across these generations? What are the golden threads that link them all?

Encourage Diversity

It’s now well accepted that diversity brings different perspectives and more innovation and creativity. And research shows that more diverse groups tend to focus, question and process facts better than homogenous groups.

Generational diversity also presents the same advantages. To make the most of the full range of experience within your business, encourage employees to work with and listen to people from different age groups.

Cross-generational teams are a good way to share more experienced team members’ insights. And those with less experience can bring completely fresh ideas to the table to prevent thinking from becoming stale.

Cross-training – sharing skills between different roles – will also help to deliver a cross-pollination of perspectives. Which will keep younger generations engaged while respecting the experience of older team members.

Deliver Communications via Multiple Channels

Communication is key to management. But a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work across the different age groups in your business.

Creating a multi-channel communications plan is the best way to ensure you communicate with everyone effectively. Include face-to-face briefings and invest in business social media platforms and blogs as well as the usual all-staff emails, posters and newsletters.

Create Development Opportunities That Appeal to All

Baby Boomers want a career defined by you, their employer. Younger generations want flexibility. The way to appeal to everyone is to create career paths and development opportunities that offer the best of both worlds. Here are a few ideas:

  • Allow employees to switch between disciplines to gain new skills and share best practice
  • Create a career break policy so staff can take time out form work and come back to their job; this also creates openings for others to step into
  • Provide funding for your staff to pursue interests outside of work – by taking them outside of their comfort zone, you’ll help them gain experience that can be redeployed in work

Apply Flexibility to All

Flexible working conjures images of young people working from a trendy cafe. But it can be a lot more than that.

Creating a truly flexible working policy that appeals to all ages is a great way to keep everyone on board. Be open to the idea of letting Generation X employees work from home or create open workspaces that enable Generation Y staff to collaborate with their team.

Maturists and Baby Boomers might like the option to work part-time hours in the wind-down to retirement. And allowing those with caring responsibilities – whether for children or ageing parents – to work flexibly is another way to appeal to all workers.

Although there are marked differences in the ways different generations relate to work, there are lots of ways to manage across the divide. By implementing these ideas, you’ll engage everyone in your workforce and reap the rewards with improved performance and a better bottom line.

For support implementing management tools to harness all your workers, get in touch with Crosse HR at hello@crossehr.co.uk or on 0330 555 1139.