There is a significant disconnect between employers’ expectation and employees’ perception on how benefits support business goals, according to a new research titled 2016 Benefits Under the Lens Survey by Mercer Marsh Benefits, a partnership between global professional services firms, Mercer and Marsh.
Lack of decision-making power by HR teams is one of the key reasons for the disconnect, with 70% reporting they have limited decision-making power and 34% saying they receive only minimal support from management teams on benefits.
The report states three missing links, which HR have the ability to address, on why employee benefits programs in Asia have generally not produced the results companies are looking for.
1. Navigating without a road map
Most employers appear to have a destination in mind but are navigating without a road map. No clear link exists between the management of employee benefits and the intended goals.
The survey shows that 70% of respondents have difficulties in defining a strategy that would resonate with employees; while 89% of respondents said they have a lack of resources to develop a strategy. Eighty-one percent of respondents have difficulties demonstrating ROI.
Compounding the above - HR feel they have a lack of decision making power in relation to benefit strategy and future direction.
2. No clear brand and/or communication strategy
Over 70% of surveyed employers claim to brand their benefits; however, a deeper dive reveals some misunderstanding around the concept of branding. Twenty-seven percent of them said that they consider “consistently rolling out benefits locally” as branding — rolling out benefits consistently across countries ensures a common organization-wide objective, but it isn’t branding.
16% of them said that “global positioning applied regionally” represents branding — again, this is necessary to execute within a global governance framework, but it’s not branding.
“Employee benefits cannot be a tool for attracting and retaining talent if they aren’t understood or appreciated by current or prospective employees. Without a brand that resonates with employees and a strong communication, strategy, the value of benefits is diminished and gives employers little chance of achieving their top benefits objective of increasing employee satisfaction and appreciation,” said Liana Attard, Mercer’s Consulting Leader for Asia, Middle East & Africa, Mercer.
3. Lack of data analytics
Most employers are either not using the data at all or not using the correct data to gain insights into their workforce or to measure program success.
The survey shows that most employers collect a variety of data but that they are either not using the data at all or are not analyzing the right data for the results they want.
A third of employers do not measure the value or ROI of their benefits at all. When asked about the limitation of using data in assisting with structuring benefits 66% said the availability of data is the main reason, followed by accessibility to required data (54%), credibility of data (46%) and lack of resources, skills and investment in HR (41%).
“Most employers today are focused on benchmarking their benefits plan against their peers, negotiation and remarketing of their insurance policies, but managing a successful and sustainable employee benefits program requires so much more. Besides understanding the needs and challenges of their present workforce, employers are increasingly looking to anticipate the future needs of their organization’s workforce, as well as the competitive landscape and evolving regulatory requirements. Changes made today will have a significant impact on the future,” added Attard.
Four pillars for a successful employee benefits strategy
The report suggests four pillars in order to design a successful employee benefits strategy:
- Adaptability, sustainability and affordability – meet the changing needs of the workforce in Asia’s fast-paced economy and dynamic environment
- Differentiation and innovation – use benefits to attract and retain talent
- Analytics and metrics – use available data to design programs that are right for the workforce
- Branding and communication – ensure that employees appreciate the value of their benefits
When asked about the areas employers intend to invest in for the future: employee choice in benefits topped the list (51%), followed by innovative benefits (42%), health management (40%), and financial support (33%).
“The survey finds forward-thinking employers are looking for ways to differentiate themselves to gain a competitive advantage in the war for talent. Shifting focus to a more goal-oriented strategy that spans the four pillars via establishing a clear road map and leveraging available data is a good starting point,” concluded Attard.