By James Malia, head of P&MM Employee Benefits

The winter may be upon us but the future can be bright for employees across the country with attractive incentives that ensure the cost of everyday living can be reduced.

Employers are challenged with ensuring that employees have benefits that will encourage them to remain within the company. Whilst the annual pay rise or end of year bonus might not be feasible, this does not mean staff need to miss out. Employers can reward their team with valuable discounts that make a genuine difference to everyday living.

Convenient and flexible benefits

Employee benefits offer opportunities to give staff rewards which do not cost a company large sums. Most discount schemes offer substantial saving opportunities for thoughtful shoppers, with the better programmes able to deliver annual savings of well over £1000 to individual employees – the equivalent of a valuable pay rise. Employee discount schemes can provide a vital ‘hook’ for HR teams to deliver a positive message to their workforce, can help support employees’ personal finances and can help retain a feel-good factor in the organisation despite the tough climate.

Voluntary benefits schemes deliver unlimited access to offers and discounts. Employees are able to make major savings without any need to change normal spending patterns. Voluntary benefits discounts are flexible and can be obtained both nationally and locally whilst online cashback discounts add convenience. In short, they offer thousands of ways to save money, benefits that help everyone.

However, it is not only the big savings that make a difference. For many people, the opportunity to save £40 or £50 in December could make the difference of being able to afford a babysitter for an evening out over Christmas, buying a ‘treat’ take-away or buying a special Christmas gift. Just a small financial difference can make a big emotional difference in times of austerity.

Receiving discounts on treats and luxuries can improve the lives of many, help to reduce stress, and ultimately, increase employee productivity. Do not underestimate the power of these schemes as a focal point for discussion at work and outside – during the Christmas period employees love telling their friends and family about how they have saved money courtesy of their employer. This is an excellent loyalty message which delivers above and beyond the obvious advantages through creating positive PR for the employer.

Communicating benefits

Ensuring staff are aware of the benefits available is essential towards a programme’s success. I recommend that employers ensure their provider offers numerous tools to support the communication of a benefits package. Communication of a scheme can be achieved via the use of leaflets, posters and attention grabbing and engaging content for the intranet. It is advisable that companies incorporate the communication of an employee benefit strategy within their overall plan as this ensures it is not forgotten. Providing employers with a toolkit regularly, for example on a fortnightly basis, which includes details of future offers enables promotions to be fully planned and helps the key messages to be communicated effectively across the workforce.

Regular communication is vital, and employers may also choose to plan meetings when feasible to discuss the options available and offer employees the chance to fact find.

Amongst the daily media updates of price hikes and high unemployment rates, employers should utilise their strong position to announce positive news about employee benefits. Through this a company’s valued workforce will remain engaged and inspired.