Monday, 11 October 2010

Employee Benefits Exhibition – London

Back in the 80’s I worked for an American healthcare company who paid fantastic wages (golden handcuffs), but provided few benefits apart from Private Medical Insurance. At a staff forum, the finance director was asked what he considered should be offered as staff benefits. He smiled wryly and said ‘continued employment’.

How times have changed. A couple of weeks ago I attended the ‘Employee Benefits Live’ – a showcase for benefits and rewards professionals across the UK. In its 12th year, there were more exhibitors than ever.

In these tough economic times, you could be excused for expecting employee benefits to be curtailed. But as the variety of providers represented demonstrates – benefits are here to stay.

The first thing that struck me as I wondered round the exhibition stands, was how the same benefits continue to be popular – health insurance, screening,  pensions, wellness, group risk solutions. Several global intermediary organisations were there and, perhaps a little naughtily, I asked a fresh faced young man on one of the stands what he could do for my company in terms of health and wellbeing advice. He thought that I was a reward director and launched into a passionate description of everything that could be done to keep my staff well and motivated, along with reducing claims costs and sickness absence. It was exactly the same speech that I used to give my clients when this young man was still in short trousers! This doesn’t mean his advice is wrong – but that so much has stayed the same in wellness over the past 20 years.

There has been progress in other directions. Flexible benefits offerings are on the up and, along with voluntary benefits and incentive schemes, are beginning to capture the imagination of reward specialists.  Will writing, cinema tickets and even a wildlife park (the baby meercats were adorable) were on show and can give employees everything from peace of mind to some fun.

But two exhibitors particularly impressed me. Global Corporate Challenge is a ‘unique, fun and incredibly effective way of getting employees more active’. Essentially, a company signs up for a challenge and using simple pedometers and fresh in-house marketing and PR, individuals get fitter while helping their team towards the ‘global challenge’. This is a great way to include the less fit and engenders a healthy team spirit.

Another ‘benefit’ that caught my eye was Workplace Giving UK. Their exhibition stand looked like a cross between Wizard of Oz and Desperate Housewives – all primary colours, wicker fence and gingham aprons. For exhibition attendees only, each company that signed up for the ‘give as you earn’ scheme were given an additional £5 donation voucher for each member of staff who joins the scheme. (

Maybe when it comes to employee benefits – giving is the new receiving…


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