Press Release

Thailand employers redefine benefits to meet diverse workforce needs

November 14, 2017
| Thailand

Willis Towers Watson Benefits Trend Survey key findings:

  • 67% of companies in Thailand realise that benefits matter to improve employee attraction and retention; 53% of employers say benefits improve employee engagement
  • Future trend is to personalize employee benefits, by adding non-traditional benefits such as family-friendly programs or financial well-being to traditional benefits
  • Key is to offer choice and provide tailor-made benefits to employees, coupled with proper employee communication
  • Retirement benefits are more and more considered as a top priority by employers
  • Nearly 60% of employers see rising benefit costs as a challenge to deliver their benefits strategy

Bangkok, November 14, 2017 — According to a recent survey by Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ: WLTW), a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company, Thai employers are increasingly recognizing that employee benefits matter and can be used to drive attraction, retention and engagement. However, only 36% of employees across Asia Pacific say that their benefits package meets their needs.

The 2017 Willis Towers Watson Asia Pacific Benefit Trends Survey found that 67% of Thai employers consider that employee benefits improve attraction and retention, and over half (53%) said they improve employee engagement.

However, employers recognise there is still work to do in improving employees perception of their benefits. Only half (51%) of Thai employers believe their employees highly value their benefits package.

“This low perception is troubling, particularly as benefits spend continues to soar,” said Cedric Luah, Head of Health & Benefits, Asia and Australasia at Willis Towers Watson. “Clear opportunities remain for employers to derive greater value from their benefits spend. This could be as simple as improving the way benefits are communicated or it could require a more fundamental change in the way that benefit programs are designed and delivered for tomorrow’s workforce.”

How are employers responding?

Thailand employers’ top priorities for their benefits programs over the next three years are to change the way benefits are designed to manage costs and influence employee behaviours, the survey found. “This suggests that employers increasingly recognise that, while costs need attention, a simple strategy of cost containment can no longer be effective and that the plan design and employee behaviour can themselves be cost drivers,” said Chris Mayes, Head of Health & Benefits, Thailand at Willis Towers Watson. “This means taking a broader view on how benefits are designed and delivered. It’s no longer about simply offering what’s in line with the market, but understanding the organisation and its workforce to determine particular drivers for engagement and behaviour change.”

Emerging trends in benefit design

The survey found that while traditional benefits continue to be the most prevalent in Thailand — and viewed as the most important to employees — three years into the future, employers are looking to expand the provision of non-traditional benefits such as:

  • Family-friendly programs like childcare benefits (expected to grow from 23% to 33%) and options to buy/sell leaves (expected to grow from 10% to 18%)
  • Financial well-being – almost one in eight employers plan to implement programs that assist employees with their financial security (expected to grow from 27% to 39%)
  • Well-being benefits are on the rise and go beyond just physical well-being – 60% of employers plan to have implemented activity-based well-being programs (currently 44%). Lifestyle risk management programs are also expected to jump from 18% to 39%.

Another emerging trend is that, while the majority of employers (93%) still focus on external benchmarking to design benefits, 73% of employers are examining the specific needs of their workforce.

“If employers are serious about using benefits to drive talent goals, it will be crucial to first establish an understanding of their particular workforce. What are its unique characteristics? What motivates and engages employees around their health and financial security?” said Mayes. “As such, it’s encouraging to see so many employers look inwards when designing their benefits, rather than simply keeping up with an arbitrary market standard.”

Diversity and choice

As more employers look inward, they discover the needs are diverse across their workforce’s age groups, nationalities, family status, and employee type. This leads many to a benefits package that is not “one-size-fits-all” but can be tailored based on employees’ preferences.

By 2019, an increasing number of employers in Thailand will offer some form of choice, either through employee choice (35%), flexible benefits (39%) or additional voluntary benefits (22%). And the rewards could be high: among those employers that currently offer flexibility, more than four-in-five (83%) said that it promotes employee appreciation and understanding of their benefits and demonstrates to employees that the organisation recognises their diverse needs (61%).

“One of the key roadblocks that employers face in fulfilling their strategic goals around benefits is a lack of employee engagement or understanding,” said Mayes. “A program that can demonstrate to employees that their employer understands them and their needs would go a long way to dispelling some of these obstacles. And any effective strategy comes coupled with robust communication and delivery for the right demographic, for instance, engaging digitally savvy employees through technology.”

Other findings from the survey include:

  • Health as a differentiator. In three years, 73% of employers in Thailand plan to make health and well-being strategies a key competitive advantage.
  • Stress is identified as a top issue by employers. However, less than a quarter (24%) of Thailand employers are taking actions to reduce work-related stress.
  • Focus on communication and engagement for retirement plans. Top priorities of Thailand employers for strengthening retirement over the next three years include boosting appreciation of programs (70%), improving employee engagement and understanding (64%) as well as reviewing investment performance of the fund managers (56%).

About the survey

The 2017/2018 Willis Towers Watson Asia Pacific Benefit Trends survey is the fifth in our biannual series. It focuses on high-level trends around benefit strategy, benefit design, health and wellness, retirement plans, benefit delivery and benefit cost. This year’s survey was conducted between April and June 2017, and received responses from over 1,141 large Asia Pacific employers, including 74 in Thailand.

About Willis Towers Watson

Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ: WLTW) is a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company that helps clients around the world turn risk into a path for growth. With roots dating to 1828, Willis Towers Watson has 40,000 employees serving more than 140 countries. We design and deliver solutions that manage risk, optimize benefits, cultivate talent, and expand the power of capital to protect and strengthen institutions and individuals. Our unique perspective allows us to see the critical intersections between talent, assets and ideas — the dynamic formula that drives business performance. Together, we unlock potential.