Flexible benefits schemes are formalised systems enabling employees to vary their pay and benefits packages to satisfy their personal requirements.
They are no longer regarded as a simple staff retention tool and it has been suggested that this may be connected to efforts to improve employee engagement towards specific business goals, especially if there has been a period of economic or organisational instability.
But questions remain about their popularity and what organisations can do to promote them.
A reason for this could be that flexible benefit schemes can vary in complexity and generosity, and implementation can take between nine to 12 months. Organisations have to decide whether the time involved in initiating these schemes in relation to their value to the organisation, employee engagement and productivity, is worthwhile.
Staff buy-in from all levels of the organisation is also considered critical when deciding to implement flexible benefits, because finance directors may question the costs of implementing schemes, especially in times of economic uncertainty. Related to this, the way such schemes are communicated throughout development and the ongoing development of the schemes is seen as crucial to their effectiveness.
Organisations fail to promote all the choices that are available throughout the year or explain the personal value that the benefits may provide to an individual, resulting in low take-up.
Although organisations may have an online facility where such benefits are promoted, some have argued that senior and line managers have a role in cascading information down through the organisation to improve employee awareness of the benefits available.
Flexible benefit schemes are a way in which organisations can improve employee engagement by enhancing the choice of benefit packages available to individuals.
However, organisations must have an understanding of what benefits are of most use to employees, and the management of their implementation and communication is vital for their success.
Dr Zofia Bajorek is a researcher at The Work Foundation.