Article: Will today's benefits still be relevant tomorrow?

Benefits & Rewards

Will today's benefits still be relevant tomorrow?

The perks of yesteryear have become the non-negotiable baselines of today, and the reward strategies of the future will require a much more open and flexible mindset. Kulapalee “A” Tobing, Partner and Regional Industry and Solutions Leader APAC at Mercer, explains the challenge.
Will today's benefits still be relevant tomorrow?

Flexible working, well-being, extra family time – prior to the pandemic, these benefits were rare things to be cherished, and could give companies a boost in the competition for talent. Now, though, many of these have become standard. And employers are having to adapt their value propositions very rapidly.

“Companies have to become more deliberate in terms of policy,” says Kulapalee “A” Tobing, Partner and Regional Industry and Solutions Leader APAC at Mercer. “It's because things like flexibility and well-being have become the norm. Everyone has flexible work arrangements today – it's not something that will entice people any more.”

So how do companies make themselves more competitive in the war for talent? It comes down to intentionality, she believes, and paying attention to what employees say: what they are worried about, what they are struggling with, what makes them stay or leave.

“Do not only focus on introducing a programme just for the sake of introducing it,” she explains. “Think about the approach and how to address specific situations. Employee listening becomes very important: as a company you need to actually look out for what your employees are saying, what they really want going forward.”

HR needs to constantly scan for new needs and decide to what extent new programmes should be introduced, on top of ensuring that the benefits that they already have are competitive.”

Some of these new programmes, innovative today, would have been considered unimaginable just a few years ago: she cites examples such as “pawternity” or “furternity” leave, granted to pet owners who want to adopt a pet. “This began during COVID, when people were alone at home and adopted a pet to keep them company for their mental well-being,” she notes.

There are many more such examples, she adds: protected break times to reduce burnout, for instance, or a long service award where employees who have been with the company for, say, five years, get two weeks of paid vacation as a reward.

Adapting, in practice and in mindset

As exciting as some of these new benefits sound, there is a major stumbling block: companies' own mindset.

“Sometimes it takes time for companies to understand what else they should do, because they are so used to traditional ways of managing rewards and benefits,” Kulapalee says. “But companies should have the mindset that changes are a given in this exceptional time. If they are to keep pace with upcoming challenges, they have to continue maintaining a degree of resilience, flexibility, nimbleness, and adaptability. That is how they can stay competitive and progressive.”

One important thing to keep in mind, she points out, is that offering new benefits does not mean a company is actually changing anything about its values or culture.

“We see that companies are evolving their return to work strategy into sustainable work models,” she observes. “They want to create a future of work model by preserving the culture and the climate of the company, so that they're not losing anything in that respect – but at the same time, they are allowing employees to blend work into their desired lifestyle.”

It might be as simple as giving people the freedom to dress down in the office on days when they do not actually need to wear suits or formal shoes – allowing them to be more comfortable, she says, and also making them more relatable to younger, newer employees.

On the other hand, it might be as complex as ensuring that compensation is fair and competitive by market standards, and that the company is genuinely transparent about salaries – giving people a clear picture of how pay scales are derived and where they stand compared to their peer groups. Again, Kulapalee advises, this comes down to having an open and flexible mindset around policies and communication.

“At the end of the day, the objective is to create a more sustainable future of work model that is aligned with employees' satisfaction, comfort, and lifestyle. If you think about what people's priorities are right now, they are most likely to say work life balance is important for them. They want to work with more flexibility, better compensation, and less stress. So how do you find a perfect solution for the employees? That becomes a very complex issue.”

Keen to delve further into this multi-faceted challenge? Kulapalee Tobing will be speaking on how to define 2023 rewards strategies at Mercer's 2022 AMEA HR Conference. Find out more.

People Matters is the exclusive media partner for Mercer's 2022 AMEA HR Conference.

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Topics: Benefits & Rewards, #FutureOfWork

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