More Asia-Pacific employers are zooming in on staff benefits as a carrot to retain or woo talent in a highly competitive market.

Yet, a significant proportion of employees appear to undervalue these benefits, according to a recent survey by consulting firm Towers Watson.

"The findings raise troubling questions about the effectiveness and value derived from these strategies," said Mr Matthew Jackson, Towers Watson's Asia-Pacific director of benefits optimisation, in a statement.

The 2013 Asia-Pacific Employee Benefit Trends Survey found that four out of 10 employers in the region are spending more than 20 per cent of their payroll on providing staff benefits, such as an-nual leave, medical insurance and gym memberships.

The biggest spenders are employers in Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.

Singapore employers appear to be lagging, with 42 per cent spending less than 20 per cent of payroll on benefits while 33 per cent spend 20 to 40 per cent.

Just over half said their benefits were not valued highly by employees, with 15 per cent feeling they were not valued at all. That calls for a different strategy than a one-size-fits-all benefits portfolio, said Mr Jackson.

Another factor explaining the lack of appreciation of such benefits could be a lack of engagement with staff on these plans. The report found 31 per cent do not communicate with employees when it comes to their benefits.

Employers also need to recognise diversity. "Different employees have different needs. Flexible benefits are a great way to do this, as it enables employees to pick and choose benefits that appeal to them," said Mr Andrew Heard, Towers Watson's managing director, Asia-Pacific, Benefits.

A quarter of employers in Singapore and Malaysia do not have a well-articulated plan on benefits, way behind employers in mainland China and Taiwan.

Benefit strategies play a key role in talent management strategy. "For the majority, it's no longer a 'nice-to-have', but a 'must-have'," the report said.

The survey was conducted between February and March among 1,066 employers in the region.