The case for tailored 'positive' benefits

Benefits are expected in today's workforce, but a thoughtfully curated perks program can pay a meaningful happiness dividend

The case for tailored 'positive' benefits

Benefits are expected in today’s workforce. All but the smallest, most bare-bones operations offer some kind of benefit package to their employees. Health and dental plans are a necessary side of the working contract, but their impact is felt during harder moments in an employee’s life, which, one hopes, are few and far between.

Tom De Iulis thinks employers should look to provide benefits “for the good times” as well. The SVP at Venngo is trying to provide a more omnipresent benefit package for employees with lifestyle discounts as the keystone. He thinks Venngo offers an augment to any company’s traditional benefits package. Its benefit program, WorkPerks, extends the employees’ experience beyond the organization.

He knows, too, that the sort of benefits Venngo offers must fit into the employee experience. Positive benefits need to be thoughtfully built to meet the unique needs of an organization.

“We come at the market more holistically,” De Iulis explained. “We think of benefits that can enhance those good moments in the lives of your employees. We want employers to think about being there for employees and helping them take advantage of more opportunities in the good times.”

He cited how a “positive benefits” program can create a sense of trust and happiness that will drive productivity among employees. The trick, though, is providing a discounts program that actually touches on employees’ day-to-day lives.

A benefits program might offer online discounts, De Iulis explained, but as much as we talk about online shopping, local brick and mortar shops are a far better way to touch an employee’s routine. Venngo strives to make its instore redemption process as frictionless as possible, seamlessly integrating benefits into an employee’s routine. It’s easier to remind them of the benefits they get when they’re at a local coffee shop, boutique or restaurant than when they finally decide to buy a mattress online. It all combines to building a sense of privilege and greater association with the organization.

“One of the distinct features why our program connects better with the users is because of our local content,” De Iulis said. “We want employees to feel the benefit at the local favourites where, statistically, they are likely shopping. We want the program to extend that employee experience and that employer’s brand out into the lives of their employees. And if their employees are statistically living their lives in the neighbourhood, spending in the neighbourhood, spending close to home and not necessarily buying online, other programs won't fit the bill and won't be as valuable.”

That approach takes serious work on the part of Venngo. It has built longstanding relationships with merchants in cities from coast to coast. When an employer comes to it looking for a perks package, it pulls from a “library” of lifestyles discounts, determining which benefits are best suited to the lives of a company’s employees. It will determine what’s needed based on that organization’s existing relationships, its competitors and what its employees actually, and practically, need.

Approaching these kinds of benefits from a common-sense perspective demands a focus on organizational uniqueness. Location is an obvious one. A Halifax office isn’t going to need the discount at London Drugs that a Vancouver office requires. But the needs of the team, where they tend to live and how they like to consume all need to be considered when building a perks program. If those benefits are thoughtful, tailored and unique, your organization will see a happiness dividend. If they’re callous and cookie-cutter, there could be negative consequences.

“I don't want to say there’s a harsh negative impact from less thoughtfully constructed programs,” said Kondwani Mwase, head of innovation at Venngo, “but the risk is that your employees lose a little bit of trust and faith in the organization.”

De Iulis and Mwase both agree that perks programs have a place even in small organizations. Startup companies and small shops might have tight budgets, but attracting and retaining employees is a major challenge facing small businesses today. Without the staff size in those early days to offer traditional benefits to, a perks program, however small, could be the difference maker for an up-and-comer.

In building offerings for smaller businesses, De Iulis looked at Venngo’s own experience as a startup. Employee happiness has been its priority from the start and its own benefits program helped achieve the retention rates and culture it wanted. De Iulis and the Venngo team took that inspiration to build something low-cost and easy to use. Now, he says, it has a small business package that can take as little as 20 minutes to set up and could form the base of that company’s benefits package.

“[Our package] is never going to be the single source reason why someone joined your organization,” De Iulis admitted. “But look at it as one of the things that adds to your profile, and to the reasons why people enjoy being where they are.

“In a working world where you’ve got a lot of people flowing in and out, moving from one organization to another, these kinds of benefits may be helpful in having them stick around a little bit longer.”

A recent LinkedIn study found that Canada had the fourth highest employee turnover rate globally, at 16 per cent. That same study said 36 per cent of those employees left their jobs because of dissatisfaction with their work culture and 41 per cent left because they were dissatisfied with management.

Perks programs can buttress an organization against those employee concerns. Today’s working world is strained by a tightening labour market and deep anxiety among employees. A couple of bucks off your morning coffee or a discount on a night out could set a tone of happiness and trust that ripples throughout your organization.

"Our program helps organizations create a happy and positive work culture,” De lulis said. “It puts organizations at the centre of good times with their employees.”

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