Need to know:
- Certain voluntary benefits may be more relevant to staff at specific times of year.
- Linking voluntary benefits to the seasons could help to increase engagement and take-up.
- Using marketing techniques can help to promote relevant voluntary benefits to employees.
The clocks have ticked over into British Summer Time and Easter paraphernalia is filling the shops; both sure signs that spring has sprung.
Focusing a voluntary benefits package around a particular time of year, such as spring, could aid employees’ take-up of and engagement with benefits. If considering this approach, there are several key points employers should bear in mind.
Consider benefits seasonality
Seasonal activity and even the weather can have a bearing on the benefits taken up at different times of the year. For example, once the weather turns warmer and drier in the spring months, bikes-for-work schemes become more popular, while, in the summer months, gym membership and holiday promotions are more sought after, says David Walker, chief commercial officer at Personal Group.
“A lot of people don’t cycle in the winter months; when it comes to the clocks changing, that’s a brilliant time to promote bikes for work,” he explains. “Then we get into summer, and that’s all about entertainment and promotion of holiday offers. Most voluntary benefits programmes have holiday offers in them.”
Aligning a voluntary benefits communication strategy with the seasons could, therefore, aid engagement with benefits. This approach would give employees targeted information about benefits that will be useful to them at a particular time of year, providing staff with a greater opportunity to proactively plan which benefits they would like to purchase.
2. Employ marketing techniques
A targeted marketing strategy devised at the beginning of the year, that considers seasonal influences on employees, can also enable employers to be more tactical in their communications. Using the seasons as a base could help give organisations a framework for a year-round approach to promoting their voluntary benefits offering.
Chris Andrew, client partner director at Caburn Hope, says: “Organisations that have communicated benefits to really good effect are the ones that think about it at the start of the year. Everything is based around a theme, a series of themes or key messages that they want to focus on for that year, and that gives them a framework from which to communicate on a more tactical basis.”
Using consumer-driven marketing techniques can also be an effective way to improve employee buy-in with voluntary benefits. Employees are consumers within an organisation so benefits can be pitched in a similar manner to consumer products, says Manesh Patel, senior benefits consultant at Aon Employee Benefits. Using marketing terminology or acronyms that are similar to those used on television and that employees are familiar with, rather than industry jargon or tax speak, can further engage employees, adds Patel. “Terminology that’s specific to the way [employees] consume [information] outside of work should be brought in to the employer space,” he says.
3. Utilise a mix of memorable communication channels
A range of communication channels and techniques can be employed that link voluntary benefits to the seasons, and highlight their availability in a memorable way. This could include, for example, having Father Christmas walk around the office in November to promote retail offers and discounts available through an organisation’s voluntary benefits programme.
In addition to digital communications, a voluntary benefits champion or a temporary promotional pop-up event or benefits enrolment stand can be useful face-to-face touch points.
Andrew says: “[Employees] expect to be spoken to in a way that is timely and relevant to them when they’re in particular frames of mind, whether it’s time of day, time of season, using the channel that is most effective or indeed the kind of media that communicates to [employees] in the most effective way.”
4. Be mindful of external changes
Although there are generic seasonal trends that employers can adhere to as part of their voluntary benefits promotion plan, it is also important that organisations are mindful of immediate influences that could have an impact.
For example, it is worth highlighting the savings that employees can make through voluntary benefits, whether that be on gifts and experiences ahead of calendar events such as Christmas and Mother’s Day, or on everyday items when money might be tighter, such as after the festive season.
However, against the backdrop of Brexit, benefits that support employees’ financial wellbeing are likely to become increasingly relevant, says Patel.
Meanwhile, the devaluation of the pound could see more employees holidaying in the UK, says Walker. Organisations could, therefore, help employees to make savings in this area through discounts on UK leisure activities, days out and short breaks.