COVID-19 has forced companies to reassess their priorities. Getting the basics right, such as payroll duties, is now by far the number one concern. Besides that, we see both a strong shift towards cost-efficiency and increased emphasis on employee experience, including personalisation and work-life balance. Although these three objectives could be met effectively by turning the spotlight on to flexible rewards, few companies seem to see the connection.

In our survey ‘The Future of Work and People in Europe’ – conducted in June 2020 – a total of 3,000 companies from 11 European countries shared their set of priorities for the post-COVID-19 era. These answers came out on top:

At the other end of the spectrum: reward policy. Surprisingly so, since smart and flexible rewards perfectly match the revised HR focus. This is how.

Flexible rewards and flawless payroll

Flexibility means complexity. At least, that’s what a lot of companies think. Therefore, they stay clear of reward policies that offer employees too many options – especially now that providing correct and on-time payroll is key.

“That image isn’t necessarily true”, says Ferdi Claes, MD HR Europe at Computer Task Group. “Introducing a flexible reward system isn’t rocket science. As long as you’re well prepared, have a solid implementation plan and pay attention to transparent communication, the benefits greatly outweigh the efforts. And we have SD Worx looking over our shoulder to make sure all legal requirements are met. Today, about 80% of our employees sign in on flexible rewards and their feedback is great.”

Flexible rewards and cost efficiency

When the going gets tough, a lot of employers tend to cut back on wage costs – a major expense in a company’s budget – or, at least, look for ways to fully optimise them. A flexible reward scheme doesn’t fit that strategy, since it has the (unfounded) reputation of being a cost driver.

Marleen Dolfeyn, portfolio manager at SD Worx, paints a different picture: “Offering flexible benefits, such as allowances, insurances, extra holidays, mobility options and IT perks, is actually a budget-neutral way to go. Better still, you add value without paying for it. This again has a positive impact on, for example, absenteeism and productivity. Besides that, flexible rewards are often incentivised by tax-friendly rules. And to top it all off, SD Worx can fully automate the flexible reward process with inventive software for both HR managers and employees, saving companies a lot of time. Long story short, flexible benefits indirectly and directly lead to lower costs.”

Flexible rewards and engaged employees

Now, more than ever, it’s time to pay special attention to your workforce. The COVID-19 pandemic impacts not just your business; it also affects your employees. Both professionally and privately, they face new challenges. Flexible rewards might just be the missing link.

“Today, professionals from all generations want a tailored reward package,” according to Leen Scheepens, Senior HR Manager BeNeLux at Robert Half. “Our own research shows that about 4 out of 10 employees would consider leaving their employer if they don’t have a say in the reward system. Taking individual needs and preferences into account through flexible rewards can counter that and truly boost employee engagement.”

Clinging to old habits

Our survey reveals that, in Europe, almost half of the polled companies only offer a fixed salary to their workforce, while over 30% have no plan to increase the flexibility of remuneration in the short term. Don’t make the same mistake. There’s more to flexible rewards than meets the eye.

This post was originally posted on the SD Worx website here. They are an exhibitor on the HRTech247 Payroll and HCM floors. You can visit their HRTech247 exhibition stand here.