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Date posted: 25th July 2023

25th July 2023

Guest Blog: How reward and benefits are evolving to become the foundation of the employee experience

Guest Blog: How reward and benefits are evolving to become the foundation of the employee experience

Author: Matt Macri-Waller, Founder and CEO, Benefex

In 2021, we undertook research exploring how employers were adapting to the seismic changes in the world of work, triggered by the global pandemic. We found that organisations in all sectors were focusing on, and investing in, employee experience as a way to meet rapidly evolving employee needs and heightened expectations. 

A major part of this was a greater focus on employee wellbeing provision, as HR and business leaders recognised the need to extend support far beyond the traditional employer-employee relationship, to help their people through the most turbulent and uncertain period for generations.

Two years on and the world of work looks very different. Employees have returned to offices and hybrid work is firmly established as the norm within many industries. New workplace dynamics such as ‘The Great Resignation’ and ‘Quiet Quitting’ have appeared and, some would argue, quickly disappeared. Talent shortages have become even more pronounced. And all of this against a backdrop of huge social, political and economic turbulence, and a cost-of-living crisis which is impacting a growing proportion of workers.

Employee experience needs to constantly evolve to reflect changing needs

As we present our new, 2023 research, the thing that stands out perhaps more than anything else is the scale of the challenge that employers now face in keeping pace with a dynamic, constantly evolving landscape. 

The onus on employers to protect and support their employees, both inside and outside of work, has intensified. But nothing is standing still. For HR and Reward professionals, strategies and programmes that looked good 12 or even three months ago, no longer meet the needs of employees, candidates or businesses themselves. 

The research highlights the critical role that employee experience continues to play, providing the platform for organisations to build compelling employer brands, to attract and retain the best people in a feverishly competitive jobs market.

But providing a world-class employee experience is becoming harder. It involves getting everything right – from wellbeing provision, benefits and recognition, through to company culture and values, and workplace technology. And it means building in the agility to continually evolve strategies and solutions in each of these areas in response to changing employee demands.

Understandably, faced with so many competing and urgent priorities, many HR and Reward professionals simply don’t know where to focus their attention. 

Employee benefits have become the bridge to better wellbeing, engagement and retention 

The research reveals the increasing level of importance that employers are attaching to employee benefits as a way to address their biggest HR challenges. Whereas it might once have been considered a tick box exercise within some organisations, benefits provision is now widely considered a key strategic lever to drive improvements in areas such as employee wellbeing, productivity, and talent retention and attraction. Indeed, 51% of reward and benefits leaders said they’re looking to add more flexible/personalised benefits over the next two years, and 49% want to increase their focus on wellbeing. 

Overall, however, there is a strong sense that organisations are yet to realise the full potential impact of their benefits provision. And there is an acknowledgement that employers need to improve their use of technology, data and insight to inform their benefits strategy and to measure the results that their benefits programmes are delivering. 

HR and Reward professionals must grasp the opportunities that lie ahead

Employee wellbeing, underpinned by flexible and personalised benefits provision, will continue to be a key focus area for employers in the months and years ahead. 

The research shows that most employers still have work to do to embed a positive culture of wellbeing within their working practices, policies and communications. However, the majority now have the fundamentals in place to support employees with solutions and services that protect and promote financial, mental and physical wellbeing. This is vitally important given the mental and financial strain that the current cost of living is causing for many people.

One of the most positive findings from this research is the expectation that investment in all aspects of employee experience – including wellbeing, benefits, communications and analytics – will rise over the next 12 months. This demonstrates the extent to which senior business leaders now recognise the critical need to continue to invest in their people to hit their strategic goals, even at a time when many organisations are looking for cost efficiencies.

For HR and Reward professionals, there is an unprecedented opportunity to deliver and demonstrate genuine business impact at a time when senior leaders are crying out for solutions to their ongoing talent issues. To do that, they will need to find ways to cut through the noise, identify priorities and develop strategies which can flex and pivot to meet ever-evolving employee needs.

Read the Evolution report

Benefex’s new Evolution report surveyed over 2,000 global employers and employees to explore how the relationship is evolving – and how reward and benefits are adapting to changing employee needs. In the first part of the research, The Employee Edit, we explored how employee expectations are changing and their priorities when it comes to the employee experience. 

Now, in part two: The Employer Edit, it’s time for the employer’s point of view… As employers face the challenges of keeping pace with a dynamic, constantly evolving landscape, we examine the biggest frustrations with employee experience and benefits provision, how employers are responding with benefits, wellbeing, and rewards – and technology’s role in creating better experiences.