Employee benefits serve a slightly different purpose than the regular wage. Their main role is to convince an employee that his employer wants to understand and fulfil his needs. A well-structured benefits package helps to maintain a high level of employee involvement which directly translates into the company’s improved performance.
Employee motivation is as important at a time of a crisis as it is during a period of prosperity. Only the reasons for launching incentive schemes differ. When the market slows down, employees may begin to feel uneasy and they have to be provided with a guarantee of employment stability. It is also a time when employees are expected to be more involved and to perform tasks that were previously delegated to a larger team of people. For this reason, benefits should also be awarded when the market is stagnant. They motivate employees to work, they are cost effective and can be flexibly managed.
This dependence is popularly recognised by Polish businesses. As shown by the results of an ARC Rynek and Opinia survey carried out in December 2008 in joint effort with Sodexho Pass Polska, Polish companies are not planning to cut their spending on benefit packages in 2009. A third of the surveyed respondents will increase their benefits budgets from 2008, while only 3% will reduce their spending. On average, the respondents are planning to increase their spending on benefits by 2% in comparison with 2008.

Fear Offers Poor Motivation

A common mistake made by employers at a time of a crisis is the expectation that employees who have retained their positions are sufficiently motivated to work by the fear of job loss. Layoffs lead to a trust crisis among the personnel who, by default, expect stability and future guarantees from the employer. Worker loyalty has to be secured even on an employer market because it is their involvement, diligence and loyalty that determine the company’s performance and customer satisfaction. The most effective ways of achieving the above are suggested by the results of the cited survey in light of which, in 2008, the most popular motivation schemes among employers were subsidised worker holidays and vouchers which were selected by nearly 50% respondents. Christmas gifts, preferential loans and child support were slightly less popular options (42%, 38.9% and 33% indications, respectively). Other types of benefits listed by the respondents included integration trips (26.7%), event tickets (23.6%), health care for employees (19.9%), additional pension insurance, life policies (9.3%), lunch coupons (8.4%), company products (5.5%) and prepaid cards (0.9%).

An incentive system for employees should account for benefits which are highly valued by staff members, while providing the employer with an effective and flexible motivational tool. As an additional advantage, benefits expenditures are largely covered by the Company Social Benefits Fund. Above all, the presentation of benefits is an act of giving. Benefits are not regarded as part of regular wages, but as an additional bonus or a gift from the company. Restaurant vouchers and food coupons are an especially valued motivational tool. They cover meal costs while giving staff members the freedom to choose the place, time and type of the meal. They build positive, long-term relations between the employer and the employees, which significantly contributes to work quality.

Wojciech Romaniuk

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