Employees missed out on benefits during coronavirus pandemic due to 'perception gap'

Despite a majority of companies (69%) increasing their spending on benefits during the pandemic, nearly half (45%) of employees felt they hadn’t received the support they needed from their organisation.

While nearly all (88%) companies adapted their benefits to help employees deal with the pandemic, only 22% of employees realised their benefits had changed, research by Mercer Marsh Benefits (MMB found).

David Dodd, partner at MMB, said this leaves a worrying ‘perception gap’, where companies trying to help their employees are not seen as doing so.

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“Companies are still failing to strike a chord with employees when it comes to engaging on reward and benefits. 

“Their people are their customers and they are being let down by a lack of consumer grade experiences when it comes to engaging in the workplace.”

Dodd therefore argued there was a need for greater personalisation, with companies no longer able to rely on traditional on-site workplace benefits. 

He said: “Too many businesses are traditional in their approach to benefits, which don’t suit the needs of the modern workforce. 

“People choose their employer for the culture and how the business aligns to their values. A greater focus on diversity and inclusion, environmental, social, and governance policy, and sustainability is needed in order to be competitive in the war for talent.”

Many companies shuffled around their benefits during the pandemic: six in ten changed their value added benefits, and four in ten their core benefits

Dodd said: “Businesses are trying to do the right thing - they are spending more than ever on benefits and tech, but a more focused, strategic approach needs to be taken.

“Too many businesses still focus on investing purely on the benefit offering rather than the glue that holds it all together - engagement.”

Sophie Forrest, founder of consultancy ForrestHR, told HR Magazine that an unfocused benefits strategy is leading businesses to miss out.

She said: “There are so many quick wins that employers can do that are hugely low cost, which just aren’t being considered.”

Some companies, she added, are sinking large budgets into trying to impress employees with perks and benefits - yet this doesn’t always work.

“Many people are really just looking for more appreciation for the financial and mental challenges that the pandemic brought,” she added.

“Even small-scale solutions, such as having regular wellbeing meetings with the team, away days to build relationships with new staff members or the ability to offer training and development programmes, are a step in the right direction.