Some months ago I set up a new current account with my bank. I changed because the new one offered some benefits such as breakdown insurance for my car (very timely, because the large national breakdown organisation I had been with for many years had just tried to increase my premium by 35%), extended warranties on electrical goods, and so on.
After a while, the bank announced that it was dropping some of the benefits because very few customers were making use of them. An entirely pragmatic approach, you might say, but why didn’t they find out what the customers wanted to start with, instead of spending money on things they clearly didn’t want, and then have the embarrassment of having to take some away?
My bank is not alone in this approach, however. When we look at the employee benefits offered by many organisations, we see similar situations. I was very interested to read a survey which reviewed employee benefits in the UK, and compared employees’ preferred benefits with those actually provided by their employers. (Spoiler alert – I will probably return to the results of this survey in future posts).
Let’s take dental insurance. The survey shows that just over 50 per cent of the employees questioned viewed dental insurance as an important benefit to have, but only 20 per cent of employers funded it, and only 10 per cent funded it for all their employees.
Even dental treatment on the NHS is expensive these days (£244 for a crown – and don’t I know it, I had to have two replaced in 2017), and other surveys have shown that some people are deterred from visiting a dentist because of the cost. Insurance to cover these costs would be a significant element of an employer’s efforts to safeguard the long-term health and wellbeing of their employees.
Dental insurance is only one small example, but it clearly illustrates the disparity which sometimes exists between the benefits employees really value, and those they receive from their employers. From an employer’s point of view, why pay for things employees don’t want, while possibly failing to provide a benefit which is important to them?
Surely organisations should be able to identify which benefits their employees deem valuable, simply by asking them? The very act of asking shows that you value their opinions, and their answers may save you a fortune and guide you towards providing benefits which really make a difference.
Richard Scott is Head of Research for HR in Flow and People in Flow. For more information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
 UK Employee Benefits Watch 2016/17, Thomson Online Benefits