Attracting and retaining skilled employees is key to the growth of any business, especially in these tough times. Since most companies are not in a position to keep increasing salaries, they regard flexible and voluntary benefits as an alternative way to keep their employees interested and loyal. It used to be the case that lifestyle benefits such as childcare vouchers were not considered valuable but over the last few years, more and more employers have been offering these and other family-friendly flexible and voluntary benefits in order to stand out from their competitors.
So the crucial question for companies is how to continue attracting and retaining valuable employees, especially working parents, without drastically increasing costs? You would be surprised that it actually doesn’t take much. In many cases, working parents just want the support and recognition that they are parents and that they have a life outside work, whilst still wanting to build a career. In a recent survey conducted by Citymothers, when asked what one thing their employer could do to support them better, feedback included offering maternity coaching; access to childcare; greater acceptance of flexible working; a need for line managers to support and implement company policies; more open lines of communication; and more defined paths to career progression. None of these requests are high cost, in fact most are questions of management and culture. It goes to show that providing working parents with the tools to support themselves and each other can be invaluable without having a huge impact on a company’s balance sheet.
Voluntary benefits, which are those products and services that are available through an employer for purchase by employees, usually at a discount, out of their own taxable income or sometimes via salary sacrifice arrangements, can be extensive and yet have a positive impact on an employer’s workforce. These schemes differ from flexible benefits schemes as the employee, rather than the employer, pays for the cost of the benefits. Under such schemes – although the employer does not pay for the benefits provided – some costs may be incurred, for example in respect of the time spent researching suppliers of services or for administration fees but once set up control is handed over to the employees to decide what works best for them. Another benefit to voluntary lifestyle benefits is that they allow companies to test the water in terms of the relative popularity of various benefits and helps them design and fine-tune their future benefit provisions more accurately. This is particularly useful when you have a changing workforce, for example an increase in parents or elderly carers as the workforce gets older.
One company that has taken the time to sit down with its working parents to listen and understand what they need is L’Oreal. From an initial request to be recognised as parents through the hosting of a Christmas children’s party, L’Oreal has developed a comprehensive package aimed at supporting this group of employees. Along with the normal benefits one now expects – childcare vouchers, cycle to work scheme, paternity benefits and enhanced maternity benefit, L’Oreal has also partnered with Parental Choice to offer a range of essential services including:
- Discounts and offers on child-focused services and products;
- Discounted childcare search services, which covers maternity nurses to tutors;
- Regular talks on issues which affect parents (Terrible Twos, Preparing your child for school and the Guilty Working Parent); as well as
- A regular newsletter with information on topics both inside and outside of L’Oreal which relate to them.
Inherent in all of these offerings is a recognition that parents want support but also control over the choices they make concerning their families and lifestyles. This package hands them the information to make their own choices whilst knowing that the company they work for recognises their situation and encourages them to build their career around their home lives.
Isabelle Minneci, L’Oreal UK & Ireland HR Director: “We appreciate that the recruitment and retention of talent requires an understanding of the challenges facing working parents, in particular, working mothers. Supporting them means recognising the pressures that they’re under and giving them the tools they need to achieve a successful work-life balance.”
L’Oreal is an example of many businesses that increasingly understand that work-life balance and family friendly policies such as flexible working, access to childcare and support within the workplace are fundamental business tools for optimising resources, building effective ways of working and improving loyalty and performance. Listening to and realising that your employees are worth it is a major step forward and L’Oreal is a strong role model for other businesses to follow. Let’s hope other like-minded companies follow this great example.