Finance: The flexible way to benefit employees - Business - News - The Independent

Finance: The flexible way to benefit employees

CHOICE IS the new buzzword. Increasingly, organisations are reporting that employees want more choice - choice over how they work and how they are remunerated.

The main area in which companies are delivering choice to staff is in benefits. This is, in part, driven by the need to rethink the way benefits are offered and still allow companies to remain competitive, while keeping a tight control on costs.

We are also beginning to see more companies offering choice over other aspects of work. The motivation is clear. Providing your employees with that choice and how they are remunerated gives a good impression to the marketplace - progressive, leading edge, responsive. But how practical is it and what can be done to help with the management of such flexible initiatives?

At Arthur Andersen we conducted a survey of companies' attitudes towards flexible benefit schemes. There were startling conclusions. Sixty per cent of companies operating flexible benefit schemes find that administration is complex, and 35 per cent say explaining the scheme to employees is difficult.

On closer inspection, the survey shows companies introducing flexible benefits spend relatively little on administration systems, use systems that carry out only core functions, and run their "flex" systems rather autonomously. Communication with employees sticks mainly to memos, e- mails and presentations.

We feel the tremendous advances in technology should be used to help the management of flexible benefit schemes - cutting paper flows, integrating with human resources, payroll, accounting and other internal systems, and enabling easier communication with those outside the company involved in providing benefits.

Systems can be adapted to allow employees to see projections of different remuneration packages, showing how the flexibility on offer would affect pay. The effective use of technology could also help with the management of other initiatives, such as flexible working. But companies do not seem to be taking advantage of these possibilities, and the reason seems to be, simply, money.

In our survey, more than 60 per cent of companies considering introducing flexible benefits expect administration to be complex and costly, and more than 20 per cent expect communication to be difficult. But these firms do not expect to spend much on systems and technology - a few thousand pounds to purchase, set up, install, test and run a system to administer their multi-million-pound benefit programmes.

One cannot imagine such small investments being made on other systems, such as payroll. The result will be companies using systems that are inflexible, non user-friendly and liable soon to be obsolete.

We have developed a flexible reward management tool, taking the name for the system from the very thing it is aimed at managing - Choice! It is designed to help companies communicate the choices for employees in a clear and understandable way and help administer and manage the choices.

The system enables companies to communicate and administer benefits plans effectively and efficiently, thereby minimising the demands of running either traditional or flexible benefits schemes

At Arthur Andersen we have introduced our own system, Alpha. This is a traditional flexible benefits scheme giving employees a combined remuneration and benefits budget, to cover benefits including medical and dental insurance, retail vouchers, cars, financial planning and tax return preparation. We also use Choice! as our main information and administration system.

Ultimately, Choice! could be used to administer much more far- reaching concepts such as Flexible Reward, where employees can choose how their entire package is delivered, and the Flexible Working Environment, where employees are given choice over aspects such as their office accommodation, working hours, business travel and equipment. The extension of flexible rewards to cover the entire working environment is probably beyond most companies at the moment.But we have the technology to implement such a concept.

The author is a partner in Arthur Andersen's human capital services division

News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SQL Developer - Watford/NW London - £280 - £320 p/d - 6 months

£280 - £320 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...

Senior BA - Insurance **URGENT**

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...

Training Coordinator / Resource Planner - City, London

£35000 - £38000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Training Coordinator / Pl...

Data Governance Manager (Solvency II) – Contract – Up to £450 daily rate, 6 month (may go Permanent)

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently looking...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week