Prioritising staff wellbeing key to retaining talent

Putting staff wellbeing first is central to retaining and attracting employees as businesses emerge from disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report from Gallagher.

The findings of the consultancy’s 2020 Benefits Strategy & Benchmarking Survey highlighted the need for UK employers to prioritise employee wellbeing by enhancing benefits packages and improving internal communications.

Seventy-three per cent of UK employers surveyed said they intend to enhance their existing benefit packages in 2020 while 33% said they are planning on making changes to their reward and benefit packages.

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With employee engagement continuing to cause issues for HR leaders both during and post-coronavirus, the survey also found that businesses need a stronger employee value proposition (EVP) to differentiate the workplace and attract, retain and engage the best talent.

Gallagher said the findings showed the importance of a clear strategy and narrative for both employee engagement and re-engagement.

Using impersonal, formal channels such as email meant that senior leaders could not convey a sense of genuine concern and commitment.

This has become more important than ever as employees switch to home working.

Fifty per cent of organisations surveyed said they now intend to invest in digital communication channel upgrades to improve engagement and maintain or lift productivity.

Nick Burns, CEO at Gallagher’s UK Employee Benefits Consulting Division, said: “In a post-COVID-19 world, where workforces are more disparate and borderless than ever before, benefit communications will play a key role in re-engaging employees. Investing in these digital channels and ensuring they are fit for purpose will be key for boosting morale and maintaining a productive workforce.”

Half (52%) of those planning changes for 2020 intend to improve their benefit communications while two in five organisations now have a benefits portal with relevant communications, up from one in three in Gallagher's 2019 survey.

Sixty-five per cent of organisations surveyed said they lacked a predefined communications budget specific to employee benefits while 34% of HR and benefits practitioners said they struggled to communicate effectively about benefits.

There has also been a slight increased demand for benefits aligned to environmental, social and governance (ESG). Thirteen per cent of businesses surveyed have now introduced an ESG strategy, which also applies to their pension fund investment approach and related internal communications.

Asset management is the most ESG-focused employment sector, with 70% of organisations having a formal ESG strategy and related communications approach to employees.

In other industries, only 40% of employers have an ESG strategy, half of whom have applied it to their pension fund investment approach and related internal communications.

Burns added: “With so many people now working from home, creating a sense of belonging has had to be approached differently. Those who focus on aligning a company’s purpose with their benefit offering, ESG strategies and general governance will come out on top.”

Conducted from April to June 2020, the 2020 Benefits Strategy & Benchmarking Survey aggregates responses from 200 organisations across the UK from various industries and sectors, and of varying size and revenue streams.