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Top tips on reward from UK's 'best employer'

The best ways to reward staff when money is tight...
Top tips on reward from UK's 'best employer'

TOP TIPS ON REWARD FROM UK'S 'BEST EMPLOYER'

The best ways to reward staff when money is tight...

Gone are the days when simply throwing more money at employees was the method of choice to keep them loyal. Basic salary progression is still a fundamental aspect of any role; yet people today also demand greater flexibility, balance and autonomy than ever before. As such, the concept of reward has shifted from being solely about pecuniary remuneration to a much broader focus on employee experience and creative recognition.

Stats back up what at first might appear to be a bold claim. A recent study led by Glassdoor found that around four in five (79%) employees would prefer new or additional benefits to a basic pay increase. That number is even higher among younger workers, with 89% of those aged between 18-34 saying they’d choose more interesting perks over a nominal pay rise. Businesses big and small are taking note, with many now constantly on the lookout for new ways to attract and retain talented professionals beyond the standard pay rise.

The way firms choose to approach benefits has become a key marker of company culture and brand identity

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It’s only when reward and recognition is developed as part of a comprehensive strategy that it begins to have a lasting impact. It’s arguable that the way in which firms choose to approach benefits has become a key marker of company culture and brand identity. These days it might even seem that businesses are judged by the way they treat their staff as much as their profit-making potential. The good thing is that this gives smaller companies a much better chance of attracting top talent, even when the purse strings are a little tight.

 

Competing with the best

It’s only when reward and recognition is developed as part of a comprehensive strategy that it begins to have a lasting impact. It’s arguable that the way in which firms choose to approach benefits has become a key marker of company culture and brand identity. These days it might even seem that businesses are judged by the way they treat their staff as much as their profit-making potential. The good thing is that this gives smaller companies a much better chance of attracting top talent, even when the purse strings are a little tight.

Yet, when thinking of the world’s leading companies for employee experience and reward, it’s too easy to think of Google, Facebook or any other of the Silicon Valley start-ups. However, more locally, Anglian Water are making big waves in the creative remuneration pool. The company recently topped Glassdoor’s annual Best Places to Work UK list – and a large part of that success is down to the company’s focus on employee experience.

“A UK water company beating Google for first place in what is, in effect, the Trip Advisor for employee attraction, is no mean feat,” admits Phil Brown, Head of People Development at Anglian Water. “The truth is that Anglian Water has been taking employee engagement and reward seriously for more than a decade; it certainly hasn’t been an overnight task. The rather glib phrase ‘happy employees make happy customers’ is true but our wellbeing strategy has the strapline ‘heathier, happier and, safer’ for a reason. We take all those topics seriously.

“During that time, we’ve committed to pushing practical initiatives for both our people and their families – and they certainly don’t have to break the bank. We regularly run mental and physical wellbeing campaigns on diet, exercise and personal resilience, for instance. It’s often the smaller things that make the biggest difference, such as encouraging everyone to talk about mindfulness and conducting walking one-to-ones rather than sitting opposite each other at a desk. It’s easy to overlook but it all contributes to our overall experience of work.”

Making it affordable

According to a recent GRiD survey of 500 HR departments based in the UK, more than one third of businesses (36%) choose to fund ongoing employee benefit commitments as a way to motivate, reward and engage staff. Funding one-off events or payments also remains popular, with little difference in popularity between large corporates and SMEs.

Overall, 44% of companies invest in training, appraisals and continuous professional development, whereas just over a third arrange ad-hoc events such as parties/celebrations (36%), or ad-hoc bonus payments, vouchers and other one-off rewards (35%). 

“Health and wellbeing benefits, including financial protection, employer-sponsored life protection and critical illness benefits are also continually being enhanced,” explains Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for GRiD. “Providers work with advisers to find ways to make them more affordable.

“This is still a great benefit for staff, but it’s even more affordable for employers and better reflects the current pattern of employment. Companies that look at what’s available can often find options that enable them to fund long-term benefits. Those that don’t may mistakenly disregard these benefits out-of-hand on perceived cost. Specialist advisers will tailor packages to suit the size of organisation, demographic, and budget.”

It’s often the smaller things that make the biggest difference, such as encouraging everyone to talk about mindfulness and conducting walking one-to-ones rather than sitting opposite each other at a desk.
 

Staying creative

Employers that think creatively about the type of rewards they are offering their staff are those that stand to save the most money in the long run; the bank certainly doesn’t need to be broken to engage people and develop a stronger internal culture either.

Establishing a clear vision and set of values unique to the business often proves to be a key driver of engagement, one that doesn’t cost a penny. When individuals are aligned with a collective sense of purpose, companies quickly start to reap even greater returns in teamwork, collaboration and engagement. There’s no substitute for trial and error; in fact, it’s the only way to work out which initiatives make a better fit for the internal culture of an organisation.

More businesses are taking a holistic approach to employee reward and recognition, choosing to focus on benefits that will positively impact the work and home life of their people. That doesn’t always mean a drastically increased spend. The bottom line is that healthy, happy and engaged employees are more likely to reach higher levels of performance and productivity. Supporting the physical and mental wellbeing of staff through creative rewards and benefits isn’t just the right thing to do from an ethical standpoint – it also makes sound business sense.


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