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Why employers shouldn’t underestimate the importance of benefit packages

Laura Hewett, director at Hewett Recruitment

It almost goes without saying that salary is considered one of the top things job seekers look for in a new role but, employers need to remember that it’s not all about the money. Employee benefits have long been designed to attract and retain talent but, in an increasingly competitive recruitment market, a one-size fits all approach is no longer enough. Many existing benefit schemes were put in place for the baby-boomer generation and employers are now seeing a greater demand for flexibility and tailoring of packages, with those employers that listen to the individual needs of their workforces stealing an edge on the competition.

A well-executed benefits package has been found to not only enhance engagement and loyalty within existing staff, but also demonstrates to potential employees that you’re serious about rewarding and looking after your people. And, as it’s often argued, there’s no better investment a company can make than in its people.

So, what should you do if you’re worried your current package needs a bit of a refresh and you want to ensure your business can compete in the current marketplace?

Conducting a simple employee survey is a good place to start. This is an invaluable way of ensuring your current benefits are delivering their objectives for your organisation, simultaneously discovering what matters most to your employees while demonstrating that you value their input.

Our team at Hewett Recruitment has recently conducted a survey in conjunction with Herefordshire & Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce to identify the more common benefits currently being offered. We also spoke to businesses across a wide range of industries to identify what employees are currently looking for and how you as an employer can differentiate yourself from the competition.

Perfecting the work-life balance

Some of the most-sought after benefits within the current marketplace appear to be the ones that offer flexibility and improve work-life balance. We found that in 2017, nearly 60% of the businesses we surveyed allowed employees to work from home, whilst nearly 50% offered variable working hours. Ongoing advancements in technology have made this a much more viable option in recent years. Although it wouldn’t work for everyone, being open to a flexible work schedule where possible appears to be of increasing importance, not just for parents and those with other caring responsibilities, but also when seeking to engage the ever growing millennial market.

However, it is interesting to note that whilst flexible working options are on the rise, only 19% of the businesses we surveyed currently offer job sharing opportunities. Part-time hours, working from home and variable working hours are currently the most popular flexible working options available. Obviously, job sharing doesn’t necessary suit all business models but if it’s something you could accommodate but just haven’t explored properly, it could really give you an edge against your competitors.

Another benefit our research indicated could help companies entice employees away from their competitors is travel benefits. Whilst nearly half of the firms we spoke to now offer company cars to certain levels, a third of businesses do not offer any travel benefits at all. If your benefits budget isn’t huge then incentives such as subsidised travel or car parking, season ticket loans or cycle to work schemes might just be enough to sway potential employees.

Subsidised childcare is also an increasingly attractive benefit companies can consider to help them stand out from the crowd. We found that only 14% of the businesses surveyed currently offered this benefit despite it ranking high on employee’s job criteria and there are many ways this can be delivered: from employer funded programmes to helping employees take advantage of the various Government schemes in a tax-efficient manner.

Finally, when looking at additional benefits offered by businesses, one of the biggest rises has been in the provision of health insurance.  65% of businesses surveyed now provide paid occupational sick pay and a further 64% offer private health insurance, meaning employees and potential employees are increasingly expecting to be cared for in sickness and health by their firm. Of course, providing  health insurance typically translates into an additional expense for employers but, with the figures indicating this is something that both employees and employers alike are placing a higher importance on, the value to your business in reduced recruitment costs could far outweigh the initial investment.

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