What are voluntary employee benefits?

Voluntary benefits are becoming much more popular in the workplace today, and research suggests that companies who offer them and manage them well see a positive impact on employee recruitment, retention and satisfaction.

Why are voluntary benefits different?

Traditionally, companies would offer incentives in the form of bonuses, with others providing life insurance schemes, critical illness insurance, accident insurance and health and dental insurance. Voluntary benefits are different because they are an easy, cost-effective way to reward and incentivise staff with a range of perks and discounts that are flexible and personalised to appeal to the needs of a diverse team.

How are voluntary benefits funded?

The employer offers voluntary benefits, but they are paid for by employees. Payment is usually either through discounts or by salary sacrifice. By offering shopping discounts or discounts on a gym membership, utility deals, broadband deals or experience offers, cinema deals, holiday or flight offers, employers can provide a low-cost incentive scheme that delivers a valuable incentive for staff.

Why do voluntary benefits matter?

Offering discounts and offers from retailers and other service providers to the workforce means that employees can choose from a range of offers to tailor their personalised benefit arrangement to make their salaries go further. This is important when a workforce has a wide range of interests and budgets requiring a benefits scheme that offers a choice of discounts and offers.

In offering a benefits scheme which effectively makes salaries go further, employees feel rewarded and engaged with their employer. It has been shown that employees will have a higher level of loyalty, motivation and job satisfaction and will perform better if they feel that they are being incentivised and engaged and that their individual needs are recognised.

How to make the most of voluntary benefits

The challenge in offering voluntary benefits is that the scheme has to be managed and promoted effectively. Employers need to see their staff as consumers and make sure that relevant offers are made and promoted to ensure high levels of engagement with the scheme. Benefits need to be clearly communicated and communicated often to ensure that team members can see what’s on offer and its relevance to them. 

Getting the message out

If employees are not aware of the benefits available, they may think that the benefits scheme doesn’t cater to their needs, and it then runs the risk of having a negative rather than positive impact. Employers need to make sure that they use a range of methods to promote the scheme. Social media can be a great way to promote benefits if team members have enjoyed a great discount on dining out or holiday deals, and they’re happy to share pictures and details of their experiences. 

Nothing is more persuasive than seeing an excellent recommendation. However, other employees may not be so active online, so posters on a noticeboard or in a newsletter may be the best way to get their attention. It’s essential to make sure that every option is covered to get the attention of employees at regular intervals throughout the year.

Keeping employees motivated and engaged

The problem with trying to engage employees with a voluntary benefits scheme is that employers need to change mindsets, seeing them in this context as consumers and making sure that what they offer is relevant. A voluntary benefits scheme has to be run just like any other marketing campaign. 

Employers could offer staff surveys to see what their team members want. Clever use of technology, including artificial intelligence, can identify suggestions for other relevant offers by looking at what offers have already been taken up. For example, travel insurance deals may be relevant to those who have taken up offers on flights and holidays.

Communication is key

As with any marketing campaign, securing employees’ permission to involve them in the campaign is essential. With mobile technology arguably being the easiest and most effective way to communicate the details of offers and discounts, employees may be reluctant to have employers invading their personal devices with benefits marketing messages. That’s why it’s so important to make sure that the benefits package offers something relevant for everyone so that staff feel they may be missing out if they don’t opt-in to the arrangement.

Think outside the box

To ensure that the benefits scheme is promoted effectively and has high levels of engagement, employers may need to think creatively when it comes to catching their staff members attention. After running a survey to find out what employees want, they could offer a launch event or even provide training sessions to show staff how to access the discount scheme. Cards could be issued to be kept in a wallet as a reminder.

Once the scheme has been set up and is running, it’s essential to make sure that efforts to keep employees engaged are ongoing rather than merely a one-off exercise. Otherwise, employees may also lose enthusiasm. A well-run scheme will see great results in the form of employee take-up, which will be reflected in the company’s recruitment, retention and overall performance metrics.

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