Are you aware of the employee benefits available to you?

A quarter of British small business workers aren’t aware of any of the employee benefits available to them.

A quarter of small business employees aren’t aware of any of the employee benefits available to them, according to new YouGov research released today by Unum.

Almost two fifths (38 per cent) of UK small business workers say their employer doesn’t understand what’s important to them in and 22 per cent are dissatisfied with their current package. The report also identifies financial benefits as a key area for support – with 37 per cent of small business employees stating the relevance and usefulness of financial education and guidance as part of a perk package.

In the war for talent, employee benefits play a key role, especially when the findings show around three in ten (29 per cent) are not committed to their current role, with ten per cent of these workers actively seeking new positions.

The findings come from Unum’s new Workplace Communications Blueprint – the culmination of a YouGov study of over 1,000 employees on their experience and an in-depth round table discussion with employee benefits and internal communications professionals. It was hosted by Unum and attended by senior executives from organisations including Cass Business School, the Institute of Directors, Thomsons Online Benefits, The Rainbow Trust, Aon Employee Benefits, CITI, Tarmac and Civil Aviation Authority.

Workplace communications blueprint – key findings

Unum’s Blueprint aims to help increase take-up rates, improve employers’ return on investment made into benefits and inform future offerings. It identifies five key areas for businesses to focus on to achieve this, and provides an extensive list of practical tips:

  • Go back to basics – measure benefits take-up, cost and return on investment and speak to employees to better understand what you want your benefits to achieve
  • Know your audience – educate yourself on the motivations and behaviour of your workforce and package bundles for different segments
  • Think external, act internal – engage with employees as you would customers or clients
  • Don’t just communicate with employees, engage them – build trust through an open, two-way dialogue by involving line managers and communicating across communications channels
  • Create social norms – communicate benefits regularly and enable a culture in which talking about, signing up for and measuring benefits is typical behaviour.

The Workplace Communications Blueprint is a progression of Unum’s Money Talks research from 2014 produced with Cass Business School. The figures showed that UK companies failing to tell staff effectively what employee benefits they offer is costing them £2.7 billion every year, through increased staff turnover and sickness absence. For a typical company with 1,000 employees, this equates to £470,000 every year.

Liz Walker, HR director at Unum, says, ‘For small businesses, investment in employee benefits represents a significant cost, when budgets are often tight. It is vital that these organisations ask their employees what they would value and appreciate before they do anything else. Both employees and consumers have an awful lot of information arriving at them from many different sources. So, businesses need to find a way to cut through that noise by offering relevant and engaging messages that reflect the needs, wants and motivations of its employees.’

Nick Bacon, professor of human resource management, Cass Business School, City University, adds, ‘Communicating benefits is crucial. Around two thirds of employers, 64 per cent, have invested in a large range of employee benefits but are failing to make it clear to their staff what they are entitled to. These companies are no better off than those employers who haven’t invested in any at all. There is a real need for getting the communication right and making it clear to employees that they are valued and their wellbeing is at the heart of the business.’

Related: Employee benefits terms and what they mean

Best practice workplace communications – case study examples

The report provides case studies from multiple businesses explaining how they put best HR communications into practice. Key highlights include how:

Institute of Directors turned its total reward statement on its head by giving employees an outline of the benefits that they had not signed up for and what they are missing out on (p.10)

Thomson Online Benefits changed its approach to communicating following a staff survey, resulting in a 25 per cent spike in both employee appreciation of the benefit programme and staff feeling proud to work there (p.10)

Unum boosted employee engagement with perks through video and iconography, resulting in 67 per cent increase in dental benefit participation (p.18)

Further reading on employee benefits

Owen Gough, SmallBusiness UK

Owen Gough

Owen was a reporter for Bonhill Group plc writing across the and titles before moving on to be a Digital Technology reporter for the

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Employee Benefits