We had over 200 corporate mobility professionals join us for our most recent webinar, “Core/Flex Programs: Pros, Cons & Best Practices.” This webinar was hosted by Jennifer Connell, SCRP, SGMS Practice Leader, Advisory Services as she drew on her experiences helping companies develop and optimize these programs.
During the webinar, attendees provided us with questions that we wanted share our responses to. The sheer volume of questions indicates how popular this topic is among corporate relocation managers; it also required us to split this post into two parts. For part one, I sat down with Jennifer to get her insight and responses to the first set of questions.
Q. From your experiences and knowledge, what are your thoughts on workforce mobility flexible benefits?
A. I think this is an exciting time to be a mobility professional with the variety of programs out there. Flexible approaches enable mobility managers to support organizational goals in a strategic manner. Instead of addressing mobility after decisions are made, they can be involved earlier in the discussion about managing their workforce and developing succession plans by applying a flexible approach.
Q. How have you seen the flexible benefits program make an impact on your clients?
A. A few years ago, I fielded numerous questions from clients when interest in core-flex programs increased. Many of the companies decided it wasn’t the right time for them to implement that approach and it was too much change. Since that time, I have seen an increase in companies that have not only incorporated menu-driven benefits into their program, but have seen a significant savings in their costs. Within our client’s organizations, I have seen Mobility working more closely with Talent Acquisition and Talent Development as they address workforce initiatives.
I've seen an increase in companies that have not only incorporated menu-driven benefits into their program, but have seen a significant savings in their costs.Jennifer Connell
Q. Can you elaborate on the importance of companies adding parameters and the power of saying no, when it comes to having a flexible benefits program?
A. I often hear from clients that they feel like they’re managing “by exception,” which only encourages them to consider a menu-driven or core-flex program. However, the benefits that they choose to provide under a flexible program and any limits should reflect the company’s culture, business objectives, and budget.
When implementing flexible programs, it’s important to spend sufficient time upfront on decision-making tools and processes. During implementation, document processes for developing a budget, approval of benefits and governance framework for selecting the appropriate tier of core benefits will provide the tools and rationale for addressing each situation. Without these boundaries, managers and employees will quickly revert back old habits, which can resemble an episode of “Let’s Make a Deal.”
Q. Do you think there are more advantages or disadvantages with flexible benefits?
A. Flexible programs offer more advantages but only when it is paired with in-depth counseling. This is necessary to help managers and employees understand how to take advantage of their benefits and fully utilize all the tools available to them. Ultimately, it’s not the right approach for every company; it’s only sustainable for organizations that can support training and communicate with stakeholders on how to use the program and the intent behind each benefit. When successful, employees feel their needs are addressed and report a more rewarding experience. Companies see this as a way to contain costs and strategically support business goals with their workforce.
Q. If a company is looking for more information on having a flexible benefits approach and seeing if this would be a right fit for them, what type of advice would you give them?
A. You can always take a look at benchmarking information to see what others are doing, but I feel that you should start with your existing program to find out what is and isn’t working. Also, reach out internally to employees through a survey to determine what benefits were helpful and which ones were critical to their move. Consider focus groups with managers and your talent acquisition folks to find out what benefits are deal breakers among candidates and identify benefits that would be effective in sweetening the deal. When developing your flex menu, consider provisions that will support recruitment/talent goals. Finally, get those cost reports ready so that you can calculate the cost of applying this approach using historical averages. Evaluate all costs when developing a program by looking into your exception history as a guide to determining flexible benefits.
In part two, Jennifer will answer even more of your flex program questions. Stay tuned.