How should companies re-imagine their benefits strategy for a post-covid business environment? Howden explains

Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing (Howden) says many businesses will need to review and re-imagine their benefits and wellbeing strategy, in light of the impact and changing work environment created by the pandemic.

This was the subject of its latest webinar, ‘Our Ultimate Guide to Re-imagining your Benefits Strategy’ where host Matthew Gregson, Head of Corporate at Howden looked at why companies often leave it too long to do a review and the challenges that subsequently arise.

This follows a recent study by Group Risk Development (GRiD)[i] which found that 73% of employers think the pandemic will result in long term changes to how they support the health and wellbeing of their staff. The report revealed that employers expect to increase support for physical wellbeing (57%), social wellbeing (54%), financial wellbeing (52%), improve the choice of benefits (49%) and provide support for dependants (48%).

Matthew Gregson says, “For many businesses, changing their employee benefits can be problematic, and, as such, many benefits offerings continue to look the way they have always looked. For other companies, changing business circumstances such as through an acquisition can give rise to the need to fundamentally re-assess their benefits. The big question for HR is why and how the business should do a review, even if not compelled to do so?

Matthew highlights four common challenges for companies when evaluating their benefits strategy and how to address them.

The first is engagement – this is perhaps the main return on investment from an effective benefits programme and organisations should have a measure of the level of engagement with their offer.

The second is cost – the investment in benefits and wellbeing can be too high, too low or directed to the wrong people or the wrong products and services. Having all costs to hand is the first step.

Thirdly, there are risks – financial, operational, and reputational risk to the business. Companies need to take a more systematic approach to understanding where their exposures lie.

And lastly, administrative challenges – the burden could be too high, with too much manual intervention and not provide a good employee experience. Look to where you are wasting effort within the HR team and where processes and experience breakdown for your employees.

Overcoming these challenges is essential for the benefits strategy to meet the needs of the business and its people – but this can only be done by understanding the problems it is trying to solve. That requires data, analysis and understanding at a level many HR teams don’t get to.

Matthew Gregson says, “Companies should strategically review their benefits every three to five years. Most challenges are likely to sit within one of these four areas, with engagement being the most fundamental to a successful programme. Starting a review could begin with an employee survey to understand what employees like, do not like about the current benefits and what they would value going forward.

“Evaluating cost, risk and admin are necessary too. Once they have a clear idea of where they are at, organisations can look forward and align benefits to the business and the people agenda over the next five years. They will have evidence as to where changes are needed, so they can develop the business case to secure funding or the commitment to undertake a significant review.

“As businesses emerge from the pandemic and perhaps are looking at new markets or changes in operations, it’s an opportune time to conduct a review to ensure benefits match where the business is heading. Only by evaluating existing benefits, can companies make informed decisions to build a great benefits programme that offers value to both employer and employees.”

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