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Before the pandemic, flexible working was seen as the ultimate benefit. Whether it was the option to work remotely or to take advantage of a company’s flexi-hours policy, it was lauded as a fantastic perk for any role. Flexibility was offered to many, but not all workers (46% of UK workers weren’t offered any flexible working options in 2018), making it all the more desirable to those who were living without it. However, due to the dramatic shift we’ve seen in the past 12 months, this type of flexibility seems is undoubtedly here to stay. If it’s the norm, not the exception, what benefits should employers look at offering instead?

We recently hosted a webinar with four HR experts: Founder and Managing Principal at IA, Mark Stelzner; Group HR Director at Reward Gateway, Robert Hicks; Founder of Play Consulting, Marcus Thornley; and Saskia Donald, an HR professional with over 20 years’ experience. They discussed the need for employers to shift their employee benefits to better reflect individuals’ priorities. Find the key benefits below.

Wellbeing

Wellbeing will remain a huge player in the benefits game moving forward and, as Robert explained, “firms [who] do wellbeing well will see talent stay, and those who don’t will struggle”. Due to the challenges brought on by the pandemic, employees are now more in tune with their personal wellbeing and will look to their employer to help them cope. It’s important your clients view wellbeing holistically, taking into account mental, physical, financial, and social wellbeing.

In terms of mental wellbeing, companies looking to improve their offering can implement many different solutions, including training a mental health first aider, creating online resources, organizing structured training sessions, or even simply offering a subscription to a meditation app.

However, it’s not enough to simply have these resources available – clients should also lead by example when it comes to looking after their employees’ mental health. Mark described a recent moment where he recognized his employees needed him to lead the way during a period of acute stress: “I immediately put a message out to my entire team [to]… cancel every meeting if you need to and take care of yourself and your family.” Your clients should understand their employees will need support in different ways at different times; by allowing them space to pause and reset, they will prove they care about their workers’ mental wellbeing.

It’s essential to remember the other forms of wellbeing as well. For example, if your client is looking to promote physical wellbeing, they could implement a cycle-to-work scheme or hire a trainer to deliver virtual yoga/Pilates/meditation sessions. Similarly, by taking into account financial stressors and doing their part to alleviate them, employers could potentially offer a one-off stipend to help workers set up their home workspace, courses, and education around budgeting/pension funds, or access to a financial advisor.

There are a myriad of different options for those looking to introduce these benefits – the important thing to get right is recognizing the need to do so. Simply put, according to Robert, workers will ask their employers, “what are you doing to help me with my job, be effective and help me cope with all of my challenges?”

Learning and development (L&D)

Throughout the past 12 months, many of us have turned to online courses to develop skills or learn something new. According to Marcus, he’s seen “a lot of uptake in our business around learning… [it’s] never been [in] higher demand as it has been through lockdown”. There are a number of ways employers can encourage their staff to learn. Some of the better examples include allocating an annual amount for a person’s L+D and allow them to use it as they see fit; making online training documents available via a remote HR platform; or identifying those in the business with strong skills in a particular area and asking them to lead a presentation or seminar. At Tiger, the latter has worked particularly well: consultants have presented to the wider business on a variety of topics, from Brexit regulations to the importance of personal brand.

Remote benefits

While it’s not surprising we’re seeing more benefits to help employees set up their home workspaces, this trend is here to stay. Many employers are now offering a stipend for workers to spend on better working equipment, but Marcus believes this benefit may evolve in the future to include “home utility grants – electricity, Wi-Fi, gas.” Not only will it appeal to those struggling financially due to the pandemic, but it will ensure workers feel truly looked after by their employer.

Two months into 2021, the global pandemic continues to affect every aspect of our lives and work. As recruiters, our knowledge of this uncertain market has never been more essential. By remaining abreast of benefits changes, you’ll be in a better position to advise your clients and help them attract the best candidates moving forward.

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Chris initially chose to work within the Life Sciences and Medical Technology sector as he is passionate about healthcare and positively contributing to people’s lives. Chris has previous experience of both agency and internal recruitment, which has provided him with a real rounded understanding of what works well for clients and candidates. Initially working for a Times Top 100 recruitment agency as the second person into the Life Science Team, Chris positively contributed to the team’s growth through his commitment to providing a best in class service. Following a successful period of time in agency recruitment, Chris was headhunted by one of his largest clients. Perhaps due to the success of successfully providing them with 16 new and talented people for their business between March 2018 – October 2018. This business was ONI (Oxford Nanoimaging), who are one of the fastest growing biotechnology companies in the UK, with a headcount growing from 15 to 85 in just one year (2018). In the two years that Chris has been working with ONI, he has directly hired more than 40 people into the business, an incredible achievement.