Aon Employee Benefits, the UK health and benefits business of Aon plc (NYSE:AON), has identified five of the main challenges employers have with employee benefits in a digital age, and provided advice to support each issue.

Clare Sheridan, principal at Aon, said:

“We generally see the same core issues arise in our work with hundreds of organisations, no matter their size nor speciality. The dynamics of work have transformed in the last few years with the internet and smartphones changing how employers and employees interact – and how they work with their customers. Many organisations want to offer excellent working conditions, support employees’ lifestyles in and outside work, and deliver relevant and engaging benefits for recruitment and retention.

“However, there are a myriad of factors at play in any organisation, aggravated by the changes in workforce habits, so getting the process right is not straightforward. If we can help employers with the secrets behind good employee benefits programmes, they can go on to resolve core issues. The secrets are, without doubt, strategy, relevance, experience, simplicity and accessibility.”

Problem one. Our Benefits aren’t working. The secret? Strategy.

In many organisations, benefits have developed organically so often don’t have strategic direction. Without aligning benefits to company’s goals, however, the value of those benefits is likely to be compromised. You need to know, for starters, what the business is trying to achieve, what employees need and want, what you’ll measure and what the return on investment will be. Remember that strategy isn’t ‘once and done’, as the business and employees are constantly evolving. An independent audit and analysis of data will help to benchmark the current benefits scheme to set out what needs to be done to meet company goals.

Problem two. Our people aren’t engaged with their benefits. The Secret? Relevance.

Engagement with benefits ranked as one of the top issues for employers in the Aon Benefits & Trends Survey 2018, with 58% of those with a flex scheme citing communicating with employees a challenge. Even the most valuable benefits programmes can have disappointing levels of engagement. So communicating real, tangible value to employees is essential. Keep it simple, create a dedicated brand, and reiterate with regular and relevant communications. Make sure you assess communications methods so that they work for the people you need to reach.

Problem three. Our technology is outdated. The Secret? Experience

As simple as a benefits programme is for employees, many see choosing and managing benefits as more work. Increasingly, ease-of-use is essential. Employees expect a consumer-like experience – perhaps like e-commerce sites, social networks and streaming sites, not least because 61% of all digital minutes are spent on a mobile. In short, make sure technology, including apps, enable people to interact and manage benefits without any barriers.

Problem four. Our offering is too complicated. The Secret? Simplicity

Benefits can get complicated as a company evolves and the workforce grows, often because of mergers and acquisitions. Simplifying a programme can make it far more effective and appealing; this requires clarity of offering, consideration of how it’s managed and delivered, plus you could look to strip away things that make it unnecessarily complicated. Understand the benefits mix, relevance to demographics, value and harmonisation, as well as whether any processes can be automated or outsourced.

Problem five. Our workforce is changing. The Secret? Accessibility

Office and production workers, home workers and mobile workers – in many businesses the workforce is increasingly diverse and disparate. It’s important to understand how each group lives, works and engages with the organisation so each gets access to relevant support. Carry out attitudinal segmentation and examine employee data to define demographics, plus use interviews and focus groups to gain feedback on attitudes and preferences. Technology that allows you to provide employees with access to their benefits wherever they are can also have a big impact on connecting your workforce with what you offer.

Helen Payne, principal at Aon, summed up:

“Benefits, when they deliver on promises, are a powerful tool to help engagement, recruitment, productivity and profitability. But if they’re not aligned to organisational objectives, or the engagement levels are low, they won’t see value from the investment. Challenges for HR and leadership teams in this digital world are only increasing, yet there are practical ways to meet them head-on.”

Read more in the Benefits in the Digital Age guide