Written by Chris Ronald, VP EMEA B2B – Incentives, Rewards & Benefits at Blackhawk Network, the cost-effective, free to set up, employee benefits platform.

In today’s economic climate, workplace benefits are no longer just a perk, they are a necessity. Employers should be helping employees’ salaries stretch further during the cost-of-living crisis, not only because it will help keep their staff happy, but because it is the right thing to do.

We recently conducted research among 500 HR decision-makers (HRDMs) and 2,000 employees up and down the UK to understand attitudes towards workplace benefits and how they can be optimised to maximise the help they give employees. We wanted to explore the perception gap that exists between employers and employees regarding workplace benefits.


The disconnect between benefits being a perk versus a necessity

The data clearly shows that workplace benefits are no longer solely viewed as added bonuses. As the cost-of-living crisis mounts, employees are increasingly beginning to rely on them to stay afloat. As a result, workplace benefits have become key factors in ensuring employers are able to attract and retain talent.

Employees want more support and failing to provide this could result in staff walking out the door.

Already, 72 percent of businesses have suffered staff resignations over the last six months, including 33 percent of all employers surveyed who have noticed an increase in the number of staff leaving.

What the research also highlighted was clear disparities between what employees want, versus what they are currently receiving. SMEs must recognise this and prioritise a review of their benefits package.


Never assume – understand what your employees want and need   

Our research revealed that over three quarters of employees (76%) are looking for more ways to save money on what they buy. So whilst businesses did list gym memberships, bikes, and childcare as the top three things employees can currently save money on via their benefits, more than half of employees (51%) reported that financial assistance with groceries was the top benefit their employers should be offering, followed by travel to work by car, and technology.

HR decision-makers need to listen to what their staff are telling them and adjust their benefits packages accordingly. However, currently, fewer than two in five (37%) are planning on reviewing the benefits they offer at least quarterly. And more worryingly, while a quarter (24%) have considered expanding their benefits package in response to rising inflation, a further quarter (25%) have no plans to change or expand their package this year.


Looking ahead 

Despite this, the vast majority of HRDMs (86%) do understand the important role workplace benefits will have in supporting their employees during the cost-of-living crisis. In fact, many HRDMs anticipate that cost-related benefits are only likely to grow in importance over the next 12 months.   And many employees agree.

Almost half are concerned about what their financial situation will be like in 12 months’ time (48%), and over a third expect inflation to impact their financial situation significantly.   However, while 67 percent of businesses without cost-savings benefits are interested in offering them, the most common barrier they say they are currently facing is the cost. But there are solutions out there where cost need not be a concern. Our Extras platform is one example. We offer employers a way of helping their people with everyday essentials with the bYond card, which gives employees up to 15 percent cashback at over 85 retailers, including groceries and DIY.


Taking the first step

We are currently experiencing one of the most difficult economic periods in decades. And while many businesses would love to offer their employers cash, or a salary increase to match inflation, to help see them through, it’s just not always possible. What they can do, however, is re-evaluate their benefits packages to truly help employees’ salaries stretch further– a key part of which must be listening to what it is their employees want and providing choice. Now is the time to find out what your employees genuinely want and offer flexible options so that employees can choose what makes the most impact to them.