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Posted 6th April 2023

Making Economics More Empathetic

With the recent developments in our economy upon emerging from the pandemic, many companies, big or small, have started to struggle. Whether it be with how to handle your finances and benefit plans for their employees, or how to establish a workplace that caters to everyone’s best interests, you may feel as though you’re unable to progress.

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making economics more empathetic.

Making Economics More Empathetic

With the recent developments in our economy upon emerging from the pandemic, many companies, big or small, have started to struggle. Whether it be with how to handle your finances and benefit plans for their employees, or how to establish a workplace that caters to everyone’s best interests, you may feel as though you’re unable to progress. In times like this, it can be difficult to connect with the entirety of your employee base, which could eventually lead to a downward spiral within your workforce. Here, we take a closer look at how Mercer Marsh Benefits believes employers can advance the quality of their workspace to benefit both themselves and their employees.

The Power of Benefits During Difficult Times

Companies can help employees during this cost-of-living crisis by ensuring that their benefits package meets their needs. But how can a company understand what is right for its employees? The cost-of-living crisis has focused employees on securing their financial, physical, and emotional health and wellbeing more than ever before. But many SMEs are seeing their margins being squeezed due to inflation, meaning some cannot afford to pay salary increases or bonuses.

So, what can companies do that will not cost them the earth to ensure they keep working productively, and do not lose them to competitors? Many of Mercer Marsh Benefits’ clients are considering how to make their employees’ benefits work better for them. Securing the correct culture to engage staff and make them feel valued has never been more important, and benefits are a fundamental part of that. 

Retention challenges

Retention is a problem that employers urgently need to address. In its new study, Mercer’s Inside Employees’ Minds study, Mercer Marsh Benefits found that those most at risk of leaving their employers are blue-collar employees, employees in the food service, retail and hospitality industries; employees working in fully remote arrangements; and employees from some minority groups. Worryingly, two in five people are considering leaving their employer. This could be down to mental fatigue and burnout from employees’ tough workloads, or insufficient pay, which becomes a problem when companies cannot increase salaries.

Replacing employees will cost you more in the current environment, and you may struggle to hire people who are just as experienced. Companies now need to step up their efforts on retention, align themselves to the needs of their workforce, and focus on financial health.

Health and wellbeing strategies also need to consider new mental health challenges due to the impact of the pandemic and the financial climate, and consider how their workforce has changed as a result. In the last year, half of employees enjoyed working from home and having more time with family, all whilst also taking up new hobbies. However, the other 50% were negatively affected, possibly as a by-product of falling into debt, or adopting bad habits such as unhealthy eating.

Before the pandemic and cost-of-living crisis, Mercer Marsh Benefits found that the biggest gaps in benefits packages were typically in financial wellbeing. But it is now noticing a multitude of companies trying to catch up with financial education and support.

The Four Pillars of Wellbeing

When reviewing your benefits offering, it is important to think about the four pillars of wellbeing, which are all intrinsically linked.

The first is physical, which concerns the condition of your body and links to fitness and health levels.

The second pillar is mental, which relates to out psychological and emotional condition and how we handle stress. 

The third social pillar affects the ability to form meaningful relationships and sense of belonging. 

And, finally, a relationship with money is the fourth pillar.

If an employee is struggling in any one of these four pillars of wellbeing, this could act as a trigger for a downward spiral in their health, which is why it’s crucial to have a benefits package that can support employees across all four pillars.

Addressing Disparity Across Incomes

One problem that companies face is that they have structured compensation packages to attract and retain senior management, but have focused less on lower earners. SMEs often offer private medical insurance only to senior management as a retention and recruitment tool, which results in other employees missing out on access to fast and efficient healthcare and other important support services.

Even though lower earners and part-timers need at least the same level of support, they often do not have important insurance, healthcare, mental health, and financial wellbeing support. This can lead to poor engagement, high staff turnover, low productivity, and poor business reputation.

Understand your Workforce

To understand what your employees value and where they may need more support, you could consider getting direct feedback from return-to-work interviews, exit interviews, employee surveys, and focus groups. This can help you to detect themes across the workforce. Analysing benefit usage can help you to understand the level of engagement from employees, and potentially the state of their health too.

Absenteeism rates, productivity, and customer satisfaction ratings can tell companies a lot about how well or unhappy the workforce is. Low productivity and customer satisfaction can be a sign that employees are not as engaged in their work and may be unhappy or struggling. On the other hand, good productivity and customer feedback suggests an engaged workforce.

Even if you offer a very rich benefits package, do your employees know what they have access to, and moreover if it’s relevant to themselves? If you don’t communicate this to your employees correctly, they may miss out on important support, and you will not be getting the most from your benefit spend. 

Helping Your ‘Uninsured’ Employees

Companies could do more to support their traditionally ‘uninsured’ employees. Some SME clients are reviewing their pension setup to see if it is functioning as intended, and providing value for money to employees. Some are considering salary sacrifice, which is an agreement to reduce an employee’s entitlement to cash pay, typically in return for a non-cash benefit. This is a way of saving money for the company, as well as making employees’ money go further. One of Mercer Marsh Benefits’ clients, who is conducting a salary exchange exercise, will save around £65,000 through this process.

Clients are also interested in supporting their employees to better manage their money. Financial education sessions were traditionally conducted via seminars but since the pandemic, companies are increasingly turning to webinars. Companies can also consider requesting the assistance of a benefit and wellbeing consultancy, which could help with providing a benefits and strategy review, benchmarking data, and guidance on employee practices, policy, and employment guidelines.

What Actions Employers Can Take Now?

There are three key areas where employers can take actions now in order to deal with these challenges.

  1. Evaluate your employee benefits package to consider how well it supports your workforce now, post-pandemic and in a cost-of-living crisis. Does it offer something for everyone? Do you understand what your workforce needs, and how well does what you have in place cover those needs? 
  2. Address what actions you need to take. Do you need to have better promotion of your current solutions? Can a review of your options help free up budget to do more for your workforce? Remember that benefits package can play a large factor when people change jobs.
  3. Communicate the benefits and support that you provide to employees. You can do this by ensuring you have strong signposting and communications so that your workforce is aware of everything you’re offering them. This can then help them to further understand how it can help them.

The Benefits of Partnering with Mercer Marsh Benefits

A comprehensive employee benefits package can help attract and retain talented people.

But affordability is a key concern for SMEs, which is why Mercer Marsh Benefits offers to help employers create a cost-effective benefits package based on what they need. It offers employers a free, no obligation benefits audit that can help you deliver value to your employees and your business. It understands your business so that it can identify potential gaps in your benefits and benefits strategy.

Because Mercer Marsh Benefits is independent of any provider, it can review the market and work with any provider to ensure its clients are receiving the best benefits. It also offers free extras, such as optical, dental and physio care, a virtual GP service, and health assessments.

Mercer Marsh Benefits can help you to get the most from your benefit spend at a time when it is crucial to find the right culture that engages staff and makes them feel valued. The team strongly believes that if you look after your employees, they will look after your business.

Categories: Business News, News

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