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Good communication about the value of employee benefits is vital

Employers must be frank and upfront with staff about their employee benefits strategy to get the most out of their schemes during recession, according to Informa's HR director.

Thomas Humphris, head office HR and UK reward director at the media company, told delegates at HR magazine's People Strategy Forum: "It is all about ‘the real deal' when it comes to employee benefits, so great benefits communication is vital."

Informa, which recently received praise from the Guardian newspaper for its employee benefits, offers staff a raft of voluntary discounts as well as health and wellbeing perks.

The firm, which employs 3,000 UK staff, implemented a robust total reward statement strategy, so all staff can view their total remuneration on line.

Humphris explained: "We know that value statements do work to recession-proof benefits. Facts and figures show staff exactly how much they receive from the company and can focus the mind."

On the company's reward platform staff can see a ticker across the top of their screen reminding them of the latest offers, benefits are broken down into categories for ease of use and Humphris is currently investigating the implementation of RSS feeds to update staff regularly on benefits news.

The company has also held discount fairs achieving as high as 75% staff attendance. And a number of the discounts for staff were negotiated with the company's current corporate travel or accommodation providers, saving the cost of brokerage.

Humphris added: "We have had to make cutbacks on spend in places. But we were frank and upfront from the onset and have seen no adverse effect at all. Engagement scores are high."

Informa offers perks to employees' dependants and continues to provide benefits to staff that have left the organisation to help during the downturn. Humphris and his team are also developing financial and mortgage education initiatives for staff.

He said: "Employers may be considering reducing the number of benefits on offer, but with varied communication and the offer of cost-effective discounts giving staff practical help, they can sustain a benefits scheme which will continue to engage staff."