Clare Kelliher: Can voluntary benefits motivate and engage employees?

Anything which enhances the lives of employees and adds to their rewards package is generally to be welcomed.

Doctor Clare Kelliher

Non-monetary rewards which may include things like shopping or restaurant discounts and childcare vouchers can be useful ways to motivate and engage employees. However, the value attached to non-monetary rewards is always subjective and so may be more attractive to some employees than to others.

It is important for an employer to give careful consideration to what benefits are offered to employees and how these fit with the organisation’s overall people strategy.

For example, if an organisation is keen to promote health and wellbeing, then offering discounted gym membership might make sense. And for sectors such as financial services where the demands on employees’ time are high, offering a concierge or dry cleaning service at work to help to make employees’ lives easier.

Other benefits such as reward or experience day vouchers may also be valued by employees since they may be viewed as ‘treats’ by those who receive them.

However, just because an organisation is offered a benefit by a supplier, such as a local business, does not necessarily mean they have to offer it. They should consider if it fits into its overall people strategy, rather than just accepting offers on an ad hoc basis. There may also be issues of fairness if some significant benefits may not be accessible or relevant to all parts of the workforce; for instance, you may need to consider demographics of the workforce if you are offering discounts at high-end retail outlets or likewise garden centres or for childcare.

The available benefits also need to be communicated clearly as part of a good overall communications strategy. Details need to be easily accessible, rather than being tucked away on some rarely visited intranet pages or noticeboard, and understandable, kept up to date and regularly reviewed to ascertain the level of uptake and interest. To motivate and engage employees, benefits have to be meaningful to employees.

Clare Kelliher is professor of work and organisation, Cranfield School of Management