The employee benefits strategy in India has traditionally focussed on market-competitive and benchmarked benefits, which subsequently moved towards differentiation. However, the pandemic has driven employers in India towards an introspective benefits strategy built around individual needs, flexibility and choice - and most importantly, employee experience.
Triggered by a war for talent, heightened focus on diversity, equity and inclusion, and rising benefits costs, companies in India are planning to revamp their employee benefits strategy, says a survey by global advisory, broking and solutions company Willis Towers Watson.
The 2021 Benefits Trends Survey says that while 68% of the companies in India offer market-competitive benefits, only 43% address the individual needs of their workforce and even fewer (32%) offer significant flexibility and choice.
“The top strategic objectives in the next two years are integrating wellbeing into the benefits package (65%), increasing flexibility and choice (51%), enhancing tools and technology to support employees (46%) and focussing on inclusion and diversity (I&D) in benefits provision (38%),” it adds.
“The way we work has radically changed and, hence, the way we communicate, engage, reward and nurture employees must transform quickly as well. Holistic employee wellbeing will be the catalyst for organisations in making a successful transformation and a reimagined employee benefits programme will be the solution to differentiate and personalise employee experience. Adopting an integrated digital strategy is the only way to ensure that the benefits approach meets the needs of all workforce segments. Delivering a personalised employee experience while optimising costs is the mantra,” said Vinod VK, Head of Health & Benefits, Willis Towers Watson India Insurance Brokers.
I&D tops external influence driving benefits strategies
Indian employers have ranked I&D as the top external influence driving their benefits strategy. Among the top five, remote working, rising costs, tight labour markets and advances in technology make up the other four external influences driving benefits strategy in India. The increased focus on ESG (environmental, social, and corporate governance) is ranked number seven.
Changes in benefits package expected in two years
Employers are planning to make enhancements in healthcare benefits (58%), flexibility and choice (54%), support for mental health (64%) and support for lifestyle improvement (52%), among others, as per the survey.
Digital strategy for superior employee experience
Most employers are at an early stage of digital adoption, but nine in ten plan to embed and personalise the digital experience across benefits in the next two years. Furthermore, three in five employers are planning or considering adopting a digital data hub that houses all benefits, while a third are evaluating using predictive analytics to forecast future costs and risks. Similarly, two in five are considering online dashboards for providing senior management with instant access to information on costs, risks, claims and utilisation.
The survey is based on responses from a total of 3,642 employers globally, including 137 organisations in India with 879,000 employees at responding organisations.