Four in 10 employers in the Asia-Pacific spend 20 per cent or more of their payroll on employee benefits, but about half of them believe their employees undervalue these benefits.

In fact, 15 per cent said the benefits offered were not valued enough or at all.

This came up in a survey by global professional services company Towers Watson, which also found that more employers plan to introduce or step up the flexibility in their benefit plans so workers can pick from a menu of benefits that appeal to them.

In the 2013 Asia Pacific Employee Benefits Trends Survey, 1,066 employers in the region were polled; 277 were from Singapore.

Among Singapore employers, 36 per cent said they spent more than a fifth of their payroll on employee benefits; 16 per cent said their employees undervalued these benefits or did not value them at all.

Towers Watson corroborated this by referring to its Global Workforce Study done last August. From that study, less than half (45 per cent) of Singapore employees believed that the benefit programmes met their needs. This was lower than the Asia-Pacific average of 56 per cent, and the global average of 53 per cent.

Matthew Jackson, director of benefits optimism in the Asia-Pacific for Towers Watson, said employers are paying more attention to their benefits strategies as a way to attract and retain talent.

He added, however, that simply adding benefits is not an effective option, as employees are diverse and value different types of benefits: "These employers would likely achieve a similar or better result by reviewing and adjusting their existing portfolio of benefits, and introducing employee choice - rather than adding more programmes for everyone."

The survey found that a third (32 per cent) of employers in the Asia-Pacific plan to increase such flexibility in their benefit schemes next year, up from 15 per cent this year.

Some 23 per cent say they will introduce flexible benefits next year, up from 12 per cent doing so this year.

The survey unearthed another trend - that almost a third of employers do not communicate with their employees about the benefits. Andrew Heard, managing director of Asia-Pacific benefits in Towers Watson, said this is crucial in ensuring a successful benefits scheme.

"Without a strong communication and administration strategy, much of this effort would be wasted. Employers should take a holistic look at their benefits design and overall portfolio to optimise their benefits spend and increase employee value perception," he said.

The survey found that companies that communicate effectively tend to be workplaces where employees value the benefits more highly.