What can we learn from Somali pirates?

Employee benefits don’t immediately spring to mind when you think of Somali pirates but, in an unexpected turn of events, they showed us how important it is to communicate your employee benefits effectively. You’re probably asking, “what have pirates got to do with that?” Well, one of our oil & gas clients had a vessel seized when passing through the Indian Ocean. Not surprisingly this caused a spike in employee queries as the crew sought to find out how their families would be provided for if they didn’t survive this ordeal. After a few tense days, the ransom was paid, the vessel sailed on, and the unharmed crew breathed a huge sigh of relief.

This may seem like an extreme example of the need for effective benefits communication, but evidence shows that communicating them well is a challenge. Aon’s “UK Benefits and Trends Survey 2020” reported that 55% of employers offering flexible benefits cite “communicating with employees” as one of their top three challenges.

Being held captive by pirates is an extraordinary example of why communicating benefits effectively is important but there are some key points to sail away with.

  1. Stuck in the Indian ocean or not, employees may not have easy access to traditional communication methods. Aside from pirates, there are several things that can get in the way. Different time zones, office hours and remote working can all create barriers to getting the right information to your employees.
  2. Nothing makes you evaluate your life, and benefits, more than an unexpected life event. Making sure your employees fully understand their benefits from the get-go will give them one less thing to think about during a time of change. Arming them with information, and reassurance, to face even the most bloodthirsty of sea dogs.
  3. Employees often don’t realise that their employer is providing an EAP scheme which gives them mental health support, allowing them free access to professional advice and help. Understanding what their benefits include, and making use of them, could limit employee absences.
  4. There is no way of knowing what challenges your employees may face but letting them know they’re supported goes a long way. The crew’s ability to access their benefit information gave them peace of mind that their families would be taken care of – some relief in a highly stressful situation.

So, raise the flag for good employee benefits communication and make sure that, when the going gets choppy, your employees can weather the storm.