How to prevent underutilisation of employee benefits

A quick summary:

As the workplace of the near-future looks to be driven by healthier, happier employees, how do leaders stop their employee benefit efforts from being underutilised? Many believe the answer is to simply offer more, but the solution is much different than that. 

Employee benefits have been around for years, in one form or another. In the modern-day workplace, it seems many companies would rather sweep the topic of employee benefits under the rug. This contributes to one of the primary reasons employee benefits go unused, i.e a lack of understanding and knowledge on what’s available.

In this benefits communication survey by IFEBP, 80% of organisations believe the fault lies with employees not opening/reading benefit materials, but in reality, 49% do not understand the materials when they do read them. In addition to this, almost half of employees do not perceive value in the benefits available to them. 

What this tells us is that employee benefits can be a minefield. Whether it’s confusion, valueless benefits or lack of awareness of what’s available, something must change to ensure underutilisation doesn’t continue in 2022 and beyond. 

Why are employee benefits so important to business?

Before we look at how to prevent underutilisation of a benefits programme, a great place to start is understanding why they’re so important. 

Firstly, the belief that offering employee benefits is a one-way deal, is completely inaccurate. What business leaders must realise is that employee benefits have the opportunity to turn unhappy employees into highly engaged team members, and 87% of these are much less likely to leave their current roles.

These engaged team members are also much more likely to perform better than their unengaged counterparts, with performance and productivity accommodating lower turnover rates. That’s because nearly 37% of employees consider recognition as most important to boosting their productivity levels.

As you can see, engaged team members make for better business results, and this shows us exactly why employee benefits are so important for companies, if they want to push the boundaries of success. 

One very relevant quote by author and inspirational speaker Simon Sinek goes as follows:

“When people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute.”

For many businesses however, simply offering employee benefits isn’t the solution, and with employees neglecting or misunderstanding the benefits available to them, how can leaders make benefits more likely to be used by their staff?

What makes benefits more likely to be used by employees?

From a bird’s-eye-view, it looks like the kind of employee benefits people want are shifting, and that is true, but it isn’t the only driving factor. While employee benefits that focus on wellbeing and mental health continue to grow, delving deeper shows us it’s just as much the organisational culture these benefits exist in too. 

That’s because, yes, employers can encourage wellbeing initiatives and benefits, but if the workplace culture remains toxic, they are pushed to one side by both management and teams. 

For employee benefits, leaders must carry out these three things to encourage more use from employees:

  • Normalise the use of the employee benefit in the workplace - show others that their colleagues are making the most of the employee benefits available.

  • Raise awareness of the benefits by constantly prompting employees to make use of them whenever possible - Don’t make employees feel bad for using said benefits and be open about them in conversations with your team.
  • Once employee benefits receive the awareness and normalisation they deserve, the final way to ensure they’re used a lot more by team members is to make them easily accessible. If they’re hard to access, or inconvenient to use, employees simply won’t use them.

This list is far from exhaustive, but it details the key components to getting buy-in on your wellbeing initiatives from employees. After all, if employee benefits are really going unused, it could be costing your company money. 

How to offer employee benefits with purpose and intention

Offering meaningful employee benefits that employees will use isn’t always easy, but it isn’t impossible. What leaders need to recognise first and foremost, is the changing demands of employee benefits. 

As we embrace flexible working arrangements and hybrid working models in a post-pandemic world, benefits focusing on work-life balance improvements begin to wear thin. 

This isn’t to say they aren’t appreciated or wanted, but for many, this facet of working life has been dealt with. Now, we’re seeing more people turning to employee benefits that concern healthier lifestyles, self-care and wellbeing initiatives. 

So, step one to offering employee benefits with purpose and intention is to recognise the demands for these are evolving. This is especially true, considering millennials have made up 50% of the workplace since 2020 - and if there’s one thing we know about this generation, is that they’re more health-conscious than previous generations before them. 

Therefore, employee benefits with purpose and intention revolve around health and wellbeing, even more so for future generations of workers.

That isn’t the only way to offer a better benefits programme that’s used by teams however. Simply asking staff members for their opinion is a great option. This will give leaders a truly inside look into what team members value and how management can support them. 

The reason this idea works so well is that it also gives leaders a better perspective of organisational culture. If employees suggest simple benefits such as flexible working arrangements, more team-building activities or any other benefit which should really already exist, it will paint a picture of a toxic working environment. 

What leaders choose to do with this information then, will decide on how well the company retains talent, but also attracts talent. Regardless, the simple act of asking what employee benefits staff would like to see works wonders. 


What employee benefits should I avoid?

Trying to please everyone is hard, and that applies both in our personal and professional lives. However, we can only try our best, and doing nothing about it definitely isn’t the right choice. In the workplace, what benefits one person, might not work for another team, in another company. 

Despite this, here’s what we identify as employee benefits that can sometimes lack any real value or meaning - employee benefits that are better off left out of a benefit programme. 

Employee of the Month Awards

Employee of the month is very popular amongst businesses in all industries. Despite this, it’s a poor benefit, and in all honesty, it really isn’t one. 

For example, in a big team, one person may benefit from this, once or twice a year perhaps. Additionally, it isn’t available to everyone at any time, and decisions can be swung strictly on favouritism and performance. 

What’s more, this kind of recognition is short-lived, and for everyone else who doesn’t win, they pick apart their efforts and hard-work wondering why they haven’t won.

While many businesses consider employee of the month awards a recognition tactic, rather than an employee benefit, it’s unfortunate how many times it's promoted as an employee benefit in some companies.

A culture built solely on fun and social activities

On the surface, this employee benefit sounds great, who doesn’t want to have fun and work, simultaneously? That said, an organisational culture solely built on good times and having fun, just doesn’t work. These should be sold to employees as add-ons to company culture, not as core values. 

That’s because most people see professional development, self-improvement and company growth as reasons to work somewhere, not because they have a craft beer fridge or ping-pong tables. 

Unlimited annual leave allowance 

Unlimited annual leave allowance is a relatively new benefit introduced in tech giants and startups positioning themselves as forward-thinking. 

While this particular employee benefit can truly work, it does have its downfalls. This is because without that use it or lose it approach to annual leave, a lot of employees feel guilty taking holiday, in the pursuit of being a good employee/team member. 

CharlieHR produced a fascinating read on their three years of unlimited holiday allowance. They found that some employees were hovering around 22 or 23 days a year, which they believed wasn’t long enough for people to feel fresh and at the top of their game. 

What’s more, when team members request time off, and they’re met with rejection, leaders often feel unease denying holiday requests when they’re acting under an unlimited annual leave policy. 

These three examples are just some of the employee benefits we believe can often have no real value to employees. Leaders need to truly learn the needs of their teams and avoid vague, generic and meaningless employee benefits. 

Heka helps leaders offer better employee benefits 

At Heka, we’ve spoken with a lot of HR professionals and business leaders. The one thing we always hear is how employees are struggling to find motivation and purpose in their roles.

As discussed above, leaders need to flip the table and start offering initiatives and benefits that bring fulfillment and purpose to the workplace - something we firmly believe can be achieved through wellbeing. 

Our employee wellbeing platform offers more than a thousand unique health, fitness and wellbeing benefits to employees. Whether that’s virtual or on-site, we’ve truly considered what employees across all industries and businesses need, and brought it into one space. 

Want to find out more about our mission here at Heka? Take a look around

If you’d like to speak with one of our wellbeing experts, and understand how your team could benefit with Heka, book a demo today!