The modern workplace is characterised by technologically-advanced tools, untethered workspaces and the influence of the millennials.
By Armaan Seth
The shifting priorities of today’s workforce, rapid evolution of technology and an increasingly competitive talent landscape have contributed to significant adjustments in business models globally. From adoption of smart technology to the rise of automated processes, the business world is becoming more agile by the day. The modern workplace is characterised by technologically-advanced tools, untethered workspaces and the influence of the millennials. To remain relevant in this changing landscape, many organisations are shifting to a more flexible workforce model.
Flexible benefit plans have become increasingly popular with employers these days, as organisations are tapping into the increased functionality, giving employees an opportunity to customise it to their unique lifestyle and needs. According to the recent Deloitte’s study of millennials in India, by 2020, India is touted to have 64% of millennial workforce in the working age group.
The millennial generation is the largest age group to emerge since the baby boomers, and as this group grows significantly as a proportion of the workforce over the next 20 years, organisations will need to make major adjustments in their engagement models. Considering that health and childcare expenditures have risen tremendously over the past several decades, this has had a major effect on businesses’ ability to offer benefits. These allow employees to customise their selection based on their needs and requirements, which are constantly changing. These employee benefit plans may include health insurance, retirement benefit plans, and reimbursement accounts that employees can use to pay for out-of-pocket health or dependent-care expenses. Today’s workforce is hungrier to advance and is more opportunistic than previous generations, and flexible health benefits have become much more pronounced in their minds.
To attract and retain top talent, organisations offer holistic employee wellness through these programmes that suit individual needs as well as provide transparency and flexibility. Offering flexibility gives employees and recruiters more options, and creates a greater pool of talent for them to choose from when looking to hire new people. A key advantages of consumer-driven health plans is these offer current employees better quality of life, and develop mutually-beneficial relationships. Benefits tailored to individual needs can improve employee satisfaction. From the employer standpoint, this flexibility means employers can save money by not spending on benefits that individual employees do not value. This type of plan structure may allow smaller employers a way to offer more benefits without excessive expenditures. But moving to a flexible benefits programme is not easy. It involves redesigning the benefits package with professional employee communications. To justify such a large-scale HR project, the programme must deliver on containing costs and increasing employee satisfaction.
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A flexible workforce model addresses concerns specific to each generation. Knowing that baby boomers are looking ahead to retirement or reduced working hours, Generation X is looking for work-life balance and millennials are drawn to work that inspires them, adopting a flexible work model can allow businesses to appeal to a diverse range of talent.
To specifically address the treatment and care of LGBT employees and to provide benefits coverage equally to all employees, organisations have revisited their health benefit programmes to ensure that LGBT couples are eligible for the same company benefits as others. LGBTQ-supportive flexible policies can have an instant effect on individual employees, consequentially creating less workplace discrimination and improved comfort about being openly LGBTQ at work.
In a nutshell, employers are starting to see themselves as facilitators of benefits, not pure providers. They are realising they can get more value by allowing young employees to choose the benefits that suit them best. A healthy person at the beginning of her career, for example, is more likely to want flexible benefits that support an independent lifestyle. In contrast, a long-time employee who is nearing retirement is likely to favour a more predictable structure weighted towards retirement savings. Flexible health benefit packages stand out as one area that can be made more appealing to the millennial workforce, thereby improving employee engagement, attract and retain talent that delivers better outcomes for both employee and employer.
The author is head, HR, Philips India Subcontinent