Monday, 19 October 2015

Personnel Today Awards 2015: Employee Benefits

About the organisation
Arup is an independent firm of designers, planners, engineers, consultants and technical specialists offering a broad range of professional services. Its structural designs include the Sydney Opera House and the Centre Pompidou in Paris.
While there was high satisfaction with a newly introduced benefits package, it was geared to longer-serving and senior staff, with little attention given to the growth and diverse needs of a multi-generational workforce. Group risk benefits were becoming outdated and unsustainable, affected by legislative and societal changes.The challenge
What the organisation did
  • Ran a number of focus groups and sent out a survey in late 2011, which gave the collateral to develop a new philosophy and strategic imperative for change.
  • Formed a multi-disciplinary steering group, which was then split into four working groups focusing on lifestyle, health and wellbeing, finance and social responsibility, co-opting specialists and reporting back monthly.
  • Increased the graded flex allowances for junior employees and offering lifestyle benefits such as travel insurance and PCs.
  • Introduced an extensive communication campaign, which focused on the philosophy and key drivers for change in terms of creating a better work/life balance.
  • Held roadshows throughout the country and engaged with business leaders and local employee representatives to provide feedback.
  • Introduced a new health and wellbeing strategy in 2013, in association with AXA PPP Healthcare, focusing on investing in proactive and preventative measures.
  • Encouraged employees to register on the Employee Health Gateway, which provides tools and resources to help them improve their personal wellbeing.
  • Offered new lifestyle benefits, such as a flexible working/sabbatical policy, floating holiday balances (staff can roll over holiday balances of -10/+20 days each year), a green car scheme, enhanced maternity/paternity leave and voluntary working.
Benefits and achievements
  • In the last 18 months, more than 52% of employees have received one or more health checks and 68% have registered on the Employee Health Gateway.
  • The percentage of long-term sickness absence has reduced from 3.9% to 0.1%.
  • The latest “Working at Arup” survey found that 85% of respondents are proud to work at for the organisation and 80% would recommend it as a place to work.
  • Of the graduates recruited, 85% of them had a very definitive view that Arup offered “High graduate starting package” – a 30% increase on the 2014 survey.
  • Arup is regarded as the best graduate employer in the UK for its peer group (Times Top 100 Graduate Employers – 2014 – ranked 27th overall).
  • The number of employees engaged in active flex enrolments has increased from 47% in 2011 to 78% in 2015, with the number of benefit selections rising from under 5,000 in 2011 to more than 9,000 in 2015.
  • Satisfaction with benefits is at an all-time high – 79% of employees believe the package meets their needs – which is an 8% increase on the 2013 Working at Arup Survey and +9% above the general index norm for Global 250 organisations (Hay Group).
  • Engagement with the Health Gateway is by far the highest of any of AXA PPP’s corporate clients; two-thirds of employees are actively engaged in improving their wellbeing.
Judges’ comments
“Arup should be extremely proud… it has demonstrated how thorough it has been in devising a new approach; communicating to employees; and demonstrating the benefits realised.”


About the organisation
BMW Group employs around 8,000 people directly in the UK with an additional 11,000 staff in its 147-strong Retailer network representing BMW and MINI brands. The UK is BMW Group’s fourth largest sales market in the world. The company has invested more than £1 billion in its UK operations since 2000, with a further £760 million between 2012 and 2015.
The challenge
BMW identified that many chronic diseases, health conditions and premature deaths can be prevented simply by choosing to live healthier lifestyles. It decided that by conducting a health check programme, it could get a better picture of company health. Baseline reports would provide an informed basis for agreeing strategic occupational health (OH) priorities and help set meaningful action plans for future success.
What the organisation did
  • Worked collaboratively with OH to develop a pioneering health and wellbeing programme for BMW Group in the UK, which includes a range of health checks.
  • Took a proactive and preventative approach to health and wellbeing with particular focus on: an aging workforce; musculoskeletal conditions; rising obesity; and work-life balance and resilience.
  • Aimed to: obtain a better understanding of physical and mental health issues; engage with individuals on the issues which really matter to them; deliver effective behaviour change and performance improvements; and help people address identified health concerns and access support from the GP or other specialist healthcare services.
  • Positioned health checks as a “20-minute MOT” for your body.
  • Introduced an internal communications plan, which included use of the BMW newspaper and intranet, plus posters, leaflets and banners as well as communication briefings to the various leadership teams.
  • Implemented an annual health campaign calendar that delivers key messages through news, posters, flyers and leaflets.
  • Introduced healthy eating campaigns, smoking cessation courses, biological age checks and resilience training.
Benefits and achievements
  • Number and type of health check assessments has increased, along with the length of appointment time available.
  • Enabled BMW to raise awareness of health and wellbeing.
  • Given associates the ability to recognise personal health issues.
  • Provided advice and support in an engaging and meaningful way.
  • Given people the means to take control of their own health and empowered them to reduce health risks by making healthier lifestyle choices.
  • Helped individuals feel healthier and more confident. Resilience has increased, boosting people’s power and performance both at work and at home.
  • Significantly reduced sickness absence rates, kept in check over the longer term.
Judges’ comments
“Focused on one component of benefits (health and wellbeing programme) and success of approach evidenced by being adopted by other BMW companies across the world.”


About the organisation
HSBC is one of the world’s largest banking and financial services organisations, serving around 48 million customers through four global businesses. Its network covers 72 countries and territories in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa, North America and Latin America, and it has around 6,100 offices worldwide.
The challenge
In January 2013, HSBC started 60 days of consultation with employees and unions regarding proposed changes to UK employee benefits. It was clear from consultation feedback that many employees did not understand their retirement provision, nor did they feel confident about personal finances. HSBC committed to invest in a financial education programme so that they could feel better equipped to make decisions.
What the organisation did
  • After realising that the previous pension scheme was too complicated, it ceased future accrual for defined-benefit pension scheme members on 30 June 2015, and enhanced the defined-contribution structure to become a market-leading arrangement.
  • Increased the matching from July 2014 from a maximum of 5% up to 7%. From July 2015, the core increased from 8% up to 9% of salary, with an additional 1% on the first £20,000.
  • Extended the funding of private medical healthcare to all staff, meaning that 24,000 employees were now covered, to bring the total healthcare fund in excess of £25 million for the year – a £7 million increase on previous year funding.
  • Committed to invest in financial education through the development of “Know You” – a straight-talking, interactive website to help employees navigate their finances.
Benefits and achievements 
  • Enrolment in the flexible benefits package reached 80% – the highest since inception of the flex scheme in 2009, and an increase from 67% on the old system.
  • In January 2014, the average contribution rate had increased to 3.21%, with 39% contributing the full match.
  • By January 2015, the average contribution sat at 5.09%, with nearly 16,000 (c.45%) contributing 5%+, with 10,600 (30%) taking advantage of the new full matching contribution (7%+).
  • The Healthcare Trust now covers c.42,000 employees, providing speedy access to healthcare benefits. Year to date, more than £140,000 of claims spend has been recorded for the expansion population.
  • “Know You” has seen more than 13,000 unique visitors since launch in 2013, with average time spent on the site at more than seven minutes.
  • Achieved employer savings through the salary sacrifice mechanism to assist with the sustainability of the provision.
  • The changes will assist the bank in providing long-term, sustainable, equitable benefits for all.

Judges’ comments

“The company showed how acting on employee feedback led it to provide financial education.”

Nationwide Building Society

About the organisation
Nationwide is the now the world’s largest mutual financial institution, the UK’s third largest mortgage lender, and one of the UK’s largest savings providers.
The challenge
Nationwide needs to meet the benefits expectations of a diverse employee population in administration offices, contact centres and branches across the UK, while providing a market-leading flexible and voluntary benefits offering on a budget. It also wanted to make sure its employees were viewing their benefits with “fresh eyes”, as familiarity with them can lead to them being undervalued.
What the organisation did
  • Started a two-stage revamp of the Pay & Benefits Statement (TRS) to be delivered across the summers of 2014 and 2015.
  • Redesigned the TRS supporting material and produced three inserts: a personalised letter; a copy of the Telegraph advertisement thanking employees by name for their contribution to the business; and a flyer pre-positioning the “youchoose” 2015 flexible benefits offering.
  • Introduced a more informal tone of voice to make material engaging to read and added new elements, including volunteering hours and the employee’s charitable contributions.
  • Produced manager toolkits for line managers to use in dedicated training sessions to encourage their teams to think of their pay and benefits in the context of total reward.
  • Went out into the business to give face-to-face presentations to teams promoting flex and provided guidance and presentations for HR BPs to use with their client managers.
  • Approached Apple to offer iPads and iPad minis via flex, which was so popular it was expanded in 2015 to offer a mix of high-end products and affordable products for younger staff.
Benefits and achievements
  • “Youchoose” enrolment increased from 10,968 options (value £9.9 million) in 2013 to
    13,147 options (value £11.9 million) in 2014, and further to 14,277 options (value £13.7 million) in 2015.
  • Employee savings through Youchoose participation increased from £2.7 million in 2012/13, to £3.4 million in 2013/14 and £4 million in 2014/15.
  • In 2014, 1,474 Apple products were selected, increasing to 2,270 in 2015.
  • Offered £2.01 million in discounted vouchers and cards selected in 2014, increasing to £2.25 million in 2015 – participants will save around £163,000 in discounts.
  • Bike4Work take-up more than doubled in 2015.
  • Employee survey “Viewpoint” results 2014 revealed that 90% of employees agreed that “Nationwide provides employee benefits that meet my needs”.

Judges’ comments

“The communication plan clearly increased employee engagement with the TRS and flex scheme.”

Nottingham City Council

About the organisation
Nottingham City Council employs 7,000 staff – it is one of the largest employers in Nottingham and 45% of employees are city residents. In a challenging economic climate, the Council relies on delivering exceptional benefits to help attract, recruit, retain and develop talented employees; but at no cost to the Council.
The challenge
In the context of continuing local authority cost cuts – in particular, the constraints on public-sector salaries – the challenge of attracting, retaining and engaging top performing people is substantial. To address this, the Council needed to focus on: improving employee engagement and wellbeing to create an engaged and healthy workforce; making workplace savings to help reduce the budget shortfall; attracting, recruiting, developing and retaining talent; and increasing the number of 16 to 24-year-olds employed.
What the organisation did
  • Introduced a benefits scheme, “Works Perks”, which enables employees to make substantial savings on their take-home pay through local and national discounts, and salary-sacrifice schemes.
  • Offered various benefits to employees as part of the scheme, including: childcare vouchers; cycle-to-work schemes and a green car scheme; annual leave purchase scheme (holidayplus); reduction of working hours scheme (MYtime); a mobile phone scheme; and workplace giving.
  • Offered employees various discounts, including: spreePlus multi-retailer discount card; money off bus, tram, rail and car parking; and a 50% discount at Council leisure centres.
  • Enabled employees to benefit from: health cash plans; an OH team; an employee assistance programme; a local government pension scheme; and the “Go the Extra Mile (GEM)” recognition scheme.
  • Promoted the new scheme using champions, who attend quarterly meetings and roadshow events.
  • Used various tools to communicate the benefits of the scheme, such as a voluntary benefits website, “Works Perks” newsletter, weekly staff bulletin, and adverts on screens and noticeboards throughout the offices.
  • Recently launched a new recruitment programme, People Plus, advertising roles internally.
Benefits and achievements
  • There have been substantial savings from annual leave purchase (more than £1.7 million in salary and NI savings since 2012) and the new Carplus scheme, plus employer NI savings from four other salary sacrifice schemes.
  • Estimated that the Carplus scheme could potentially save the Council £130k+ (year one), based on an annual 3% forecast employee uptake.
  • Achieved more than £730,000 in total savings in 2014.
  • Discount portal sign-ups have increased by 74% in two years from 2,440 in October 2012 to 4,247 in October 2014.
  • Around 10% of the workforce has enjoyed extra time off work, at their own choice.
  • Sickness absence rates have also fallen by around 10% in the last year.
  • Nearly 41% of the workforce opted in to People Plus, and 318 new job appointments were made.
  • Ninety-two staff members secured alternative employment within the Council either through redeployment, work trial or temporary project.
  • Achieved a 62% reduction in advertising spend (£36k from April to December 2014, compared to £95k for the same period in 2013), plus a reduction in redundancy costs.
Judges’ comments
“A really good example of how necessity breeds ingenuity. The entry was well structured and showed passion for the subject matter.”

Penguin Random House

About the organisation
Headquartered in New York City with operations in 20 countries across five continents, Penguin Random House is made up of 250 editorially and creatively independent imprints and is comprised of adult and children’s fiction and nonfiction print and digital trade book publishing. It employs more than 12,000 people globally and publishes 70,000 digital and 15,000 print titles annually, with more than 100,000 eBooks available worldwide.
The challenge
In July 2013 Penguin and Random House merged to form Penguin Random House (PRH). Overnight, employee numbers doubled to 2,500 and it was essential that the two workforces came together. Each set of employees came with significantly different benefits, so it was essential that these were integrated, while ensuring transparency and fairness.
What the organisation did
  • Established that the initial priority was harmonising London-based employees as 650 of these employees’ benefits were handled by Penguin’s old parent company, and this provision would cease from 1 April 2014. A £3.5 million fee relief was tied into meeting this deadline.
  • Decided to harmonise company-funded benefits into four different bands that were were devised based on current take up of benefits by people within those bands and the salary ranges/tax considerations.
  • Launched flexible benefits via an online portal, allowing employees to opt to flex back to their original benefits package and/or choose new benefits best suited to their lifestyle.
  • Widened salary sacrifice opportunities and introduced a variety of new benefits.
  • Made sure it delivered excellent ongoing communication, including: group presentation sessions and roadshows at all sites; personalised letters and impact statements; regular emails and updates; desk-dropped leaflets and FAQs; and posters in communal areas.
Benefits and achievements
  • Engagement with benefits was evident by the usage of the new benefits portal, which increased from 1,500 employees in 2014 to 2,500 employees in 2015.
  • Harmonising the benefits portal saved approximately £440k per annum.
  • The company NI saving was £48,642 and the tax saving was £102,826. Employee NI saving was £43,980 and tax savings amounted to £132,632.
  • Reduction in HR admin burden (and therefore costs as no need to employ an additional head to manage benefits).
  • Improved data accuracy and time saving with the introduction of integrated systems.
  • Employee feedback was excellent, including comments such as “I appreciate the opportunity to choose the benefits that are most meaningful to me. I’ve never had the chance to do this before.”
Judges’ comments
“A very well-presented entry that clearly showed how the company tackled the complex task of harmonising employee benefits. The transparency in which the process was conducted was refreshing to see.”

Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

About the organisation
Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council was created in 1974 to administer the newly formed Metropolitan Borough of Sandwell, in the West Midlands county of England. Sandwell is divided into 24 wards and is represented by 72 ward councillors. Since the Local Government Act 1985, Sandwell Council has effectively been a unitary authority, serving as the sole executive, deliberative, and legislative body responsible for local policy, setting council tax, and allocating budget in the district.
The challenge
Sandwell needed to create something innovative that would motivate and engage the workforce and support the council’s retention strategy and financial objectives. Through employee engagement events, it established that a benefits package needed to: make employees feel valued; play a key part in employees remaining with the council; and have a significant role as an attraction tool for new talent.
What the organisation did
  • Chose P&MM Ltd as its preferred partner, and devised a multi-faceted scheme, consisting of seven separate elements, each of which would normally be delivered via a six-month implementation plan.
  • Implemented a single reward platform, providing retail discounts and access to the entire benefits offering.
  • Introduced a variety of salary sacrifice options, an employee assistance programme and local offers.
  • Addressed any breakdowns and miscommunications with the trade union through open and regular communication.
  • Rolled out a target marketing campaign, to shift employee perception of the scheme as a real alternative to a direct financial reward. This included a teaser campaign, payslip flyers, roadshow events and a dedicated intranet site.
  • Worked with project leads and all relevant stakeholders to develop a communication strategy to help promote the new initiative.
Benefits and achievements
  • Achieved a registration rate of more than 20% within the first three days of launch – the target was 10%.
  • More than 4,000 logins were recorded in the first month, more than doubling predicted usage – these have since surpassed 9,000, with 37% of the workforce currently registered after only one year, against an optimum figure of 32%.
  • Hundreds of employees are saving on average 8% through the discount portal, amounting to £1,000+ annually.
  • In the first year, the council has saved more than £150,000; more than £60,000 of which has been achieved through the additional leave purchase scheme and more than £80,000 through the childcare and car lease schemes.
  • Local businesses are providing local offers advertised directly to an audience of 5,000 potential customers within the council, supporting local prosperity.
  • The employee assistance programme has received more than 2,000 individual employee hits, helping the ongoing reduction of sickness absence levels.
  • Council savings generated exceed £150,000, well above target, and more than £100,000 has been invested in organisational development.
  • In the most recent employee survey (2014) completed by 2,638 employees, engagement levels have significantly increased from 58% to 71%.
  • Sickness levels across the council have improved from 8.18 days per employee (2013/14) to 7.5 days (2014/15), which is unprecedented for an authority with more than 5000 employees.
  • The council gained Investors in People Bronze accreditation in 2014, one of the few local authorities to do so.
  • There has been a 30% increase in applications for hard-to-fill social worker roles and a steady reduction in employee turnover from a high of 27% to a current figure of 7%.
Judges’ comments
“The entry has shown the clear positive impact on employee engagement that the new scheme brought.”

Virgin Money

About the organisation
Virgin Money is a UK-based bank and financial services company owned by the Virgin Group and founded by Sir Richard Branson in March 1995. At the beginning of 2012, it acquired Northern Rock in a deal worth up to £1 billion.
The challenge
In 2014, Virgin needed to preserve and maintain colleague motivation once the business had moved from a private company to a publicly listed business. Faced with the prospect of significant changes in the business, its priority was to ensure that colleagues felt engaged in the process, were recognised for their contribution to the company’s success and would continue to stay with the employer for the long term.
What the organisation did
  • Offered an all-inclusive benefits package to colleagues, meaning that if a benefit was right for one colleague it should be provided for all (no hierarchical benefits).
  • Maintained a “share-in-success” bonus, based on company profits and calculated as a percentage of fixed salary (generally 5%).
  • Awarded all employees £1,000 worth of shares in the business upon flotation, and they will benefit from share price growth this year.
  • Instructed the share registrar to operate a telephone trading service over the weekend at the Company’s expense prior to trading to ensure that there would be no delay, and prepared the required communications to ensure colleagues had clear instructions as to how the trade would operate.
  • Presented the message clearly and effectively to shareholders, using annual reports and accounts, an clear and timely communications.
Benefits and achievements
  • The vast majority of those colleagues who have shares that vested on initial public offering chose not to sell but retain their shares (more than two-thirds retain the shares they received on IPO).
  • Despite this being a period of significant growth and change for the business, it has seen staff turnover remain relatively low going into 2015.
  • 2014 survey measured colleague engagement at 86%, with 99% of colleagues wanting to do the best job they can.
  • National press acknowledged the significance of the share award – described in Daily Business as “a cash windfall for 2,800 staff”, with The Times commenting that colleagues will “be popping champagne corks”.
  • Ensured that key benefits package was retained and not comprised its inclusive approach to benefits
SOURCE - benefits/