Allowing individuals a choice in selecting and structuring their benefits packages has been made much more feasible by changes in information technology.
But the revolution in means of communication has not necessarily been matched by an increase in communication by organisations with their employees about their reward packages.
There is evidence that although choice in benefits is certainly desired by individuals, this remains a communications challenge for employers and is not standard practice in a wide range of organisations, which tend to prefer more standardised packages.
Of course, if it is assumed that employers’ main motive in using benefits flexibility is to respond to employees’ different interests or values, recognising their diverse lifestyles, and promoting understanding about the various benefits provided.
But the limited progress of flexible benefits could be seen as indicative of the absence of a general tendency for UK organisations to offer tailored reward packages in response to different employee values.
While there are arguments for more use of informal deals between employers and employees on employment terms, there are practical difficulties in such an approach, not least HR staff time and workloads.
However, the potential of new media to facilitate greater individual flexibility may be just what is needed to enable this more employee-centred approach to benefits, rather than a more formulaic and standardised approach.
Employers that can use technology to the greatest real communication effect may gain greater perceived employee value from their benefits spend and reward packages.
This could aid their cost-competitiveness in a labour market that looks set to be much more competitive in the near future.
Dr Angela Wright is a senior lecturer in human resource management at Westminster Business School