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Almost half of employers have an online benefits or flex portal

Communicating with employees is the biggest challenge of flex schemes

Flexible benefits programmes continue to be popular within organisations, despite communication and legislative challenges, according to research by Aon.

The consultancy’s Benefits and Trends Survey 2019 shows 45% of employers already have an online benefits or flex portal and 20% plan to introduce one within the next three years.

This compares with last year’s 37% and 26%, respectively.

The survey also asked employers what their top three benefits strategy objectives are, and found 89% said engagement is an objective, 80% retention and 70% recruitment.

Of those with a flex scheme, 71% of employers said communicating with employees is the biggest challenge, while the next is dealing with benefit design changes (36%).

Only 8% of employers feel their benefits strategy has been very successful, while 54% said it has been somewhat successful.

Clare Sheridan, principal consultant at Aon, said flexible benefit schemes remain popular despite the complexities created by the Optional Remuneration Arrangement (OpRA), came into effect in April 2018.

“Flex’s popularity could be because the technology and ongoing management has become more accessible as costs have reduced, making it feasible for more companies to implement, particularly mid-sized firms employing 200-1000 people,” she said. “However, employers are largely not able to understand if employees are truly engaging with the benefits offered.”

The results show that the main measures of success from an employee engagement perspective continue to be around employees actively selecting benefits or how many clicks are recorded on the portal.

“This is not understanding if you’ve won hearts and minds through behaviour change, or by receiving positive comments, or if you have made an emotional impact,” Sheridan stated. “Without this type of feedback, is it possible to tell how well the flex programme is working? Can an organisation really understand how benefits are impacting employees and ultimately business goals?”