Employers were warned they would have to adapt their benefits strategies to cope with key demographic, social, economic and technological trends and to stop “thinking like Victorian employers” at the HR Solutions and Employee Benefits Conference 2007, held on 1-2 May in Manchester.
In his opening keynote on Preparing for the workforce of the future, Professor Richard Scase, emeritus professor of organisational change at the University of Kent, said that, faced with an ageing population and the emerging economic power of India and China, organisations would have to compete for key talent globally and make the most of experienced older workers by better engaging them in the business. “In view of what is happening in regard to changing demographics and increased competition, HR has to take on a more strategic role,” said Scase.
He added that HR should consider reviewing standard benefits going forward to account for the desires of the younger iPod generation, which would expect to be able to work flexibly from home and to receive instant rewards in the form of cash rather than longer-term benefits such as pensions. Employers must also take the increasing numbers of staff living in single parent households into account.
Peter Thomson, director of the Future of Work Forum at Henley Management College, continued with the theme in his closing keynote address on The future of employee benefits. “Most organisations have employment packages that are at best 19th century. Some have got into the 20th century, but none are in the 21st century. Young graduates you are recruiting don’t want to hear about the pension plan they are going get in 40 years’ time, they want to hear about work-life balance and the challenges they will get in their work. We are still thinking like Victorian employers.”
He added that pay structures were “upside down” and “rewarding the wrong things” as people are encouraged to work longer hours due to overtime payments when they could be rewarded on the basis of output and efficiency. He also suggested that employers should fully embrace flexible working and equal opportunities.