Zoe Spicer: Voluntary benefits need to reflect employees’ complex lives


Employees’ lives are as complicated as ever, coupled with an increasing need to attract and retain top talent. So HR professionals need to stay ahead of the competition when it comes to pay and benefits: the employee value proposition. 

In today’s busy world, targeting employee rewards at helping employees feel money rich and less time poor really works. With the increasing work-life blend, and new graduates seeking a working experience rather than a traditional career, focusing rewards on a flexible set of possibilities hits the mark. Voluntary benefits are a great way of letting employees work out what is most value for them.

The traditional employee assistance programme (EAP) model should now be adapted to provide home-help, nanny or errand-running services, as well as financial, legal, family counselling and help services. The EAP should be focused on assisting employees on a continual basis, rather than as a quick fix or in response to a crisis in their lives. Helping employees achieve their hopes and aspirations outside of work, allows employees time and focus during their work day.

Wellness initiatives are now so much broader than just gym membership, and include onsite medical services or fitness classes, corporate ‘step’ challenges, quit-smoking workshops, and flexible working hours or annual leave too, rewarding employees for a job well done rather than hours or days in the office. Employee wellbeing and feel-good strategies can also become organisational culture and a great way to build teams. These initiatives not only provide pay back in terms of employee fitness and motivation, but can also help reduce an employer’s private medical insurance (PMI) renewal. 

Employees’ lives are complex, and so are their motivations and needs. Knowing employees helps employers target what will be attractive within their organisation, whether it is paid time off for voluntary work, increased family-friendly provisions, tuition reimbursement or an annual yoga retreat, tapping into what helps an employee will lead to greater employee happiness at work, loyalty and retention.

Zoe Spicer is a speaker on Ashridge Business School’s Strategic HR Management course and former head of HR, EMEA at Adobe