Articles - Flex schemes cater for employee age diversity says Aon

 Aon Hewitt has said that its 2013 Employee Benefits and Trends survey makes it clear that flexible benefit schemes offer employers better options for catering for the needs of an age diverse workforce. The results also emphasised the vital importance of communication, with the majority of organisations indicating that the way they communicate benefits is viewed as their number one benefits issue.

 This year's survey results endorse flex schemes as the preferred vehicle for providing benefits to employees, with 44% of employers with over 500 employees using flex schemes and a further 23% indicating that they intend to do so over the next three years. At 15% take up, flex is less prevalent among smaller employers but a further 19% indicated that they intend to deploy flex in the next few years. What is also clear is that flex remains equally popular across age groups at organisations, although – unsurprisingly – employees choose different benefits at different stages of their lives.

 Martha How, Reward Partner at Aon Hewitt, said:
 "While our Benefits and Trends Survey always throws up some interesting data, some findings are not so surprising. We consistently see employees over 40 contributing more to their pensions than those under 30 – often by as much as double. Even so, in other areas, the responses this year were less predictable; it's not just the young who go for retail discounts or computers while older employers go for medical, retirement or life assurance benefits. However, there seems to be a continued adherence to the value of traditional benefits across all age groups – while with the voluntary employee-funded benefits, the preferences vary between generations and income levels.

 "Our view – which is backed up by this year's survey – is that flex plans need to continue offering all the traditional benefits while maintaining appeal across an increasingly diverse age demographic. So the voluntary benefits on offer need to cater for varying life styles and life stages. Insurance-based benefits such as dental and travel insurance still attract 10 to 20% employee take-up rates in flex plans but other benefits – maybe perceived as 'younger' - such as computers, mobile phones, car hire or gadget insurance are vital to cater for diverse needs and to maintain the appeal of the scheme."

 Communication remains vital

 The Benefits and Trends survey highlighted that the majority of employers still see benefits communication as the number one issue for their flex plans – demonstrating the key point that the design of the plan will count for little if its methods of communication fail to hit the mark.

 Anne Oliver, Head of Communications at Aon Hewitt, said:
 "The norm for employees used to be long pensions booklets and insurance policies with small print and an annual pension statement. The expansion of flex and increased use of electronic media have changed this to online and more visually appealing documents. This evolution is continuing and more employers are deploying social media and web-based interactive tools.

 "But the evolution is relatively slow; 82% of the survey respondents use email communications but 66% still maintain printed media. Face-to-face presentations, benefit fairs or roadshows are deployed by 53% of respondents. Use of social media with flex is still very light – just 4% of respondents indicated that they use it. But it seems that flex scheme sponsors are looking to the future, as they believe that print media usage will be reduced to 38%, while 18% indicated their intention to use social media in the future."

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