Strategy & Operations » Leadership & Management » The importance of data when tailoring benefits for different generations

From gift cards to financial advice, providing an attractive range of benefits is essential for any organisation to engage when it comes to recruiting and retaining employees in a competitive climate.  

However, the cost of a comprehensive benefits strategy can add up quickly, particularly if the company is intent on providing a wider range of benefits in an attempt to accommodate its entire workforce. Instead of attempting to finance as many offerings as possible, companies can focus on providing a narrower range of benefits that are tailored to the unique needs of their workforce.

This approach will not only save the company from overspending on too many benefits but will also ensure that any offerings will deliver a high level of engagement with staff.

Who are your employees?

The first step to a more personalised benefits offering is to understand the makeup of your workforce, and what their specific needs are. A combination of more personal engagement from line managers and broader company-wide surveys can help to deliver useful data on what kinds of benefits are most in demand.

A good relationship with employees will make it much easier to gather data and make accurate decisions on the best benefits to provide. Surveys can be useful for a broader look, while line managers will be familiar with individual staff and have a better understanding of their lives.

This process needs to be well communicated by the HR department and team leaders, and as with any venture involving the personal data of employees, organisations will need to consider data privacy issues, particularly with the EU GDPR now in effect. This means that any use of personal data must be very transparent, and companies need to ensure any information they collect is properly secured and managed.

Companies particularly concerned about this aspect may look to use generalised data such as statistics provided by the ONS to get a feel for the demographic, although this will not help them to personalise offerings for their own workforce.

A safe middle ground approach is to anonymise the information, reducing it to datapoints such as postcodes, dates of birth, and salary ranges. This will provide valuable information about what benefits might be well received without running the risk of breaching employees’ privacy.

Automated analysis

Gathering and analysing employee data can be relatively straight forward in a small workforce but becomes steadily more complicated and time consuming as the number of personnel goes up.

When dealing with groups of more than 50 employees, it will start to become more cost effective to begin using automated tools instead of trying to collate and analyse data manually. Machine learning and AI-powered tools can not only analyse datasets much faster than a human, but they can also identify new trends which would otherwise likely go unnoticed.

For example, it might become apparent that employees are taking Mondays off this year, or that there is a notable improvement in performance from workers involved in a recognition program. While the initial data gathering should always be performed with specific goals in mind, these additional insights can be very useful for shaping strategy.

Automating data analysis will also free up administrative staff to concentrate on other projects and will make schemes more cost effective to manage and maintain.

Getting started

With a scientific approach powered by machine learning, a company can achieve an intelligent and granular analysis of its employees that will inform any number of different benefit strategies. For those just exploring the possibilities, it might be best to start with a simple generational divide, looking at the main groups usually labelled Millennials, Generation Xers and Baby Boomers.

The young generation, millennials, are those that came to adulthood in the 2000s and beyond. Younger millennials in their early 20s are likely to be relatively carefree and apt to live for the now – as well as low on funds. Benefits with an immediate reward, such as retail vouchers and gym memberships will work well here.

Generation X meanwhile will usually have more responsibilities and be looking further than their younger colleagues. Benefits such as good pensions schemes and flexible working to accommodate childcare needs will be well received, as well as rewards that offer extra days off or short holidays.

Finally, as the oldest generation in the workplace, Baby Boomers will most likely be setting their sights on the end of their career and eventual retirement. Firms can offer financial advice as a benefit to help them get the best of their pensions and investments, and anything that recognises their years of loyalty at the company will also work well.

A cost-effective approach

Companies running a bespoke benefits strategy can use a dashboard system that can be used to track employee engagement and the take up for each offering and compare it to the costs and resources required.

From here the firm can assess if each benefit is providing good value – for example a provision that is costing thousands of pounds a year to maintain but is only being used by a handful of people is likely not worth it. Conversely, more analysis might reveal that those using the benefit are high level.

By establishing a tailor-made benefits system backed by the right tools and data, firms can ensure that their offerings are both maximising employee engagement and are as cost effective as possible.