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HR Benefits Masterclass with Sam Fromson

On the 12th of September, 14 HR professionals and business leaders gathered at the offices of Notion Capital to discuss how to create the perfect benefits package for their companies.

Led by Sam Fromson, Co-Founder and COO of yulife, this exclusive masterclass asked attendees to share their experience of building their own benefits packages, explore the values behind them, and consider what makes a benefits scheme a success.

What is the purpose of benefits?

The answers to this question could be split into three groups: attraction, engagement and productivity. People in the room agreed that employees, and particularly millennials, are now expecting good benefits when they join a company, and some HR directors even said they emphasise the benefits they provide in their recruitment process.

The “sense of belonging” that benefits bring was also a main point in the discussion. Attendees shared how their benefits made their people feel more engaged with the business, more trusted, and as a result, they were more productive in their work.

Flexible working, a balanced holiday policy, and mental health awareness featured heavily in the conversation as cheaper benefits that people expect and that tick the attraction, engagement and productivity boxes.

Julie Webbe, Interim HR Director at Currencycloud, phrased it in a simple way: “businesses spend a fortune on insuring equipment - benefits are there to insure the people”.

GIF of man saying "it's true"

What’s important when purchasing benefits?

The room agreed that the main thing is that employees actually use the benefits offered to them. Internal surveys, polls and research into what competitors offer were the most popular ways for companies to figure out what their people want and what they were likely to use.

A point about the difference between the requirements of varying stages of life and ages was made: some employees may appreciate dental insurance or income protection more than others, depending on their age or whether they have children or a mortgage.

The discussion then went a step further to delve into the philosophy of benefits, and which part of the hierarchy of needs they fulfill. Attendees recognised that today, although people in Britain are still looking for a job that will pay the bills, they’re also looking for something more. Without understanding what aspirations the job they’re offering is meant to meet, their benefits schemes cannot be coherently put together.

People also acknowledged the significance of picking benefits that align with the company’s values. Some talked about the benefit of having core working hours or one (or more) working from home days per week as a way of allowing people the flexibility and trust they require, whilst giving senior management the peace of mind that people are still collaborating in the office.

How do you get benefits approved?

HR directors sometimes need to jump through hoops to justify purchasing new benefits or amending their existing benefits scheme. People raised the need for a set budget to counter this issue.

Everyone agreed that data played a serious role in convincing senior management to sign off new benefits. Some companies prefer a portfolio of competitors’ benefits, whereas others choose to present data on a particular benefit to back up their decision on specific amounts of cover or price.

Regardless, they all recognised the need to ‘do the leg work’ before presenting a new potential benefit to managers, which led Notion to agree to create a benefits benchmarking document for their portfolio, which can be exceedingly helpful in providing this data.

GIF of woman saying "do tell"

What is the importance of a benefits mission statement?

Admittedly, in a start-up environment, it’s sometimes difficult to create a benefits mission statement instead of purchasing benefits ad hoc. However, attendees stressed the importance of researching and planning a benefits programme to align with company values and employees’ needs.

The questions most people ask themselves when they come across a benefit they would like to purchase are:

  • Does it resonate with my employees?
  • Does it resonate with what my company stands for?
  • Does it resonate with our company’s values?
  • Does it resonate with what I’m trying to achieve as an HR professional?

People explained that instead of creating a smorgasbord of benefits with no inside logic, these questions help them create a meaningful plan that entices their employees to join in.

The conversation digressed, and the importance of showing gratitude in benefits and outside of them became the main topic of discussion. Some companies have Slack shout-out channels, others choose to show gratitude with all-hands meetings, but everyone agreed that creating a culture where people feel loved and appreciated is a top priority.

What benefits are out there?

Sam went through a few different benefits that companies can consider, which sparked an interesting discussion about the question of unlimited holiday. Companies like Paddle have allowed unlimited holiday for about a year now. What sparked this was seeing that employees whose family lives far away (Australia, for example), have saved up their holidays for the end of the year and then took them all in one block to go and visit relatives.

Paddle wanted to avoid burnout of employees such as these, and sought to encourage them to take more days off during the year with unlimited holiday. The results were surprising: the average person took 24 days off, 4 days fewer than before they implemented the new policy. Of course, some employees took a lot more - but Paddle found that these people had special circumstances, like going on a honeymoon.

Most companies who have similar policies saw a reduced rate of annual leave, and some attendees said this was the reason for not approving unlimited holiday: they wanted to encourage a healthy amount of holidays, and believed unlimited holiday would not do that.

Others raised the issue of discussing holidays with staff if they haven’t taken any days in a while. Some even do an audit every quarter or every 6 months. People have also appreciated the importance of mental health days, and said they encouraged their employees to take them instead of taking a day off or a sick day, so that they can help more.

Besides mandatory issues such as holiday or pension, the group examined other core benefits that companies should consider providing. Group life insurance, critical illness and income protection came up as financial products people appreciate.

Group life insurance provides a payout if an employee dies while being employed, whereas critical illness provides a payout in case an employee suffers from a serious illness, as set out in the policy. Income protection, on the other hand, pays out in the form of a salary replacement in case an employee is unable to work due to illness.

People discussed the benefits of these policies and pointed out that many younger employees might not be excited about them. That’s when Sam explained how yulife changes this: every policy comes with the yulife app, which rewards employees for healthy activities, such as walking and meditating, with air miles and gift cards from brands like ASOS and Amazon. By that, companies make sure their employees are supported with their wellbeing, they receive amazing rewards, but they also get the core benefits they are looking for.

Overall, the masterclass was a great way to showcase different approaches to creating a benefits programme, from people who all tremendously care about their employees and want to encourage them to live their best lives. We hope everyone found it as helpful as we did, and look forward to more events like these!


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