A Blueprint for the Future

How do employers change to meet the needs of their workforce, asks Unum CEO Peter O’Donnell

With the excitement of the World Cup now a distant memory and the new football season well underway, things are getting back to normal. This is also true of our industry as the initial excitement over auto enrolment starts to subside and many advisers begin to look to the future.

As the UK economy continues to grow, employees are feeling more confident about switching jobs – with one study showing that almost half (47%) of workers are considering a move in 20141. With this in mind, companies need to start reassessing their benefits packages to ensure they retain the best and brightest talent. One way for businesses to do this is to promote themselves as a caring company by ensuring they operate and treat their staff well, in addition to offering a generous benefits package that complements the company ethos.

For the last five years, average pay growth has been consistently below the consumer price index2. As a result, employees may have to look deeper at a company’s benefit offering when choosing or moving company. Organisations can look to other benefits, such as Group Income Protection (GIP) and Sick Pay Insurance (SPI), if the salaries they pay cannot keep pace with inflation.

SPI, as an example, is a good way for employers to offer a benefit that will be appreciated and could help with staff retention. As SPI is a relatively small market, there is a great deal of room to grow and it is a great way for employers to differentiate their benefits package from the competition. In competitive industries, anything that can be used to retain the best personnel has to be a plus.

Over the summer we launched our blueprint document; ‘Creating companies that care’, designed to bring the subject of health and wellness to the forefront of the minds of business decision-makers. This was produced following conversations with a number of individuals working in some of the country’s biggest corporations as well as some of the most innovative start-ups.

The blueprint is designed to offer an insight into what it means to be a caring company and highlights some of the ways that culture, working practices, leadership and employee benefits are interlinked. It also provides practical advice to help build a company that cares. One really important point the blueprint raises is the fact that the world of work has changed over the years and will continue to do so. As such, companies must be aware of this and be prepared to adapt to meet the needs of their employees.

Over the last 30 years, the demographic of the workforce has changed. This is a both a challenge and an opportunity that the industry figures we spoke to were acutely aware of. In our discussions, they agreed that workplaces and employee benefits should – and more importantly, will – have to evolve to keep pace with these demands. As the workforce becomes more demanding, ‘soft’ benefits such as ‘Dress Down Friday’ can mean a great deal to employees, but may cost very little to implement.

It was also noted that many small and medium-sized enterprises are wary of changes to hard and soft benefits in their organisations. But it can be done, and these measures can help to attract and keep employees. Companies that talk about being caring and looking after their number one resource can back it up by acting on some of the suggestions highlighted in the blueprint. While they don’t necessarily have to cost a lot of money, importantly, they will be valued by employees.

I see our blueprint for a caring workforce to evolve over the years and if you have any thoughts on what it means to be a caring company or want to be involved in future studies, do get in contact with us.

As advisers, you are close to your customers and can see their changing demands. Your role is important in helping shape the products and services providers develop for the market. Tools like our blueprint are designed for advisers to use to provide a consultative approach to employee benefits that goes beyond simply offering financial products.

The ideas in the blueprint can be a great conversation starter with employers, who would normally be reluctant to take products like SPI, but when they see the products in context with other benefits, it can help employers to see the advantages.

1 http://www.hrreview.co.uk/hr-news/recruitment/nearly-half-of-british-workers-are-considering-a-job-move-in-2014/49789
2 http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/lms/labour-market-statistics/july-2014/statistical-bulletin.html#tab-6–Average-Weekly-Earnings

Peter O’Donnell
Chief Executive Officer
Unum