Simply offering employee benefits isn't the endgame. The vast array of perks companies dangle in front of employees or list on job descriptions might seem attractive at first glance, but there's a subtle underlying issue: ensuring that employees actively engage with, and utilise, them (to the benefit of themselves and the company).
The Managerial Quandary
Central to this conundrum are line-managers. Typically, the expectation is that managers are the bridges for translating high-level corporate policies into day-to-day practices. But with diverse cultural backgrounds and disparate management styles, a unified culture can easily splinter into myriad micro-cultures. This fragmentation is palpable – for example, while one team enjoys the benefits of flexitime, another might find it daunting to even request a sick day. This results in confusion and uncertainty for individuals and perhaps, at worst, a feeling of unfairness.
The Silent Struggle: Stigma and Opportunity
Beyond the inconsistency, there's another side of the story that doesn't get talked about much despite being highly relatable: the silent stigma attached to actually using these benefits. Employees, in many cases, feel guilty or judged fortaking time during their day, even if it’s for a sanctioned benefit (such as Headspace, corporate gym membership, or calling the mental health hotline in the EAP). The perception of being seen as ‘less committed’ or fearing judgement dissuades many from embracing these opportunities when they need them the most, rendering many benefits moot.
This isn't just an issue of under-utilised perks. It's a missed chance for companiesto foster healthier, more engaged, and consequently, more productive employees. When an inclusive, consistent, and visible culture is established, where flexing one's day to achieve personal objectives is the norm and not the exception, it paves the way for genuine engagement.
Traditional Solutions and Their Limitations
Recognising these challenges, many companies have embarked on varied solutions - extensive (expensive) training, policy rehashes, consultancy and intense periods of internal marketing. Yet, these traditional routes tend to treat the symptoms, leaving deeper cultural issues untouched. The primary challenge persists: ensuring a consistent, engaging, and authentic culture across the organisation, where benefits aren’t just listed perks but an integral part of the employee experience.
A Rising Scepticism
This inconsistency hasn't gone unnoticed. A startling 1 in 3 job candidates are sceptical of flexibility claims from employers. It's an issue of trust, and rightly so. If 51% of candidates would jump at a role that genuinely offers flexitime1, and 3/4 of employees see it as a decisive factor2, it's evident that there's a communication and delivery problem in the corporate sector.
The Way Forward: Data, Digital Tools, and Authenticity
Addressing this requires a two-pronged strategy:
- Cultivating Genuine Cultures: Beyond policies and training, it's about embedding an authentic culture. A space where benefits, like flexitime and well-being initiatives, are standard and stigma-free.
- Showcasing Authenticity with Data: Numbers don't lie. When a company can showcase data-driven insights on benefit utilisation, it reinforces trust. Digital tools like Blinktime become invaluable in this journey, making cultural shifts visible, consistent, and tangible, thereby bridging the gap between what's promised and what's practised.
In conclusion, the world of employee benefits is undergoing a transformative shift. It's a waste of company time and money to simply pay for benefits without ensuring genuine integration into the ethos of organisational culture. Those companies that use data to inform benefit design and provide the opportunity foremployees to use them will see improved retention, recruitment and ROI on every penny spent.