As part of Britvic’s aim to include all staff in perks, auto-enrolment has helped to boost take-up of it’s pension scheme, says Nick Golding
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Britvic’s head office in Chelmsford is notoriously hard to find. So having arrived without so much as a glance at a map, I felt somewhat uplifted until discovering that the building I was at was actually the warehouse. The subsequent hour I spent battling through the town’s ruthless one-way system, provided the opportunity to consider the possible effects on an organisation whose offices are divorced from its production line, and whether a them-and-us attitude emerges when the two sets of employees’ paths cross.
But Michael Mountford, head of compensation and benefits at Britvic, explains: “We have a total dress-down policy at Britvic. The last thing that we want is management turning up to factories or warehouses in suits creating a them-and-us-type attitude. Throughout the firm we are [also] on first name terms.” To support this claim, the open plan design of its head office makes for a comfortable, informal environment, where employees are not granted the opportunity to hide in individual offices or cornered-off departments. Hot-desking, which involves staff occasionally moving between desks instead of sticking to one space for too long, is also the norm at Britvic. This helps to break down the formality seen in many offices. “By employees not having fixed desks they are simply exposed to more areas of the business and to more colleagues.
It helps to break down barriers in the office,” Mountford says. This informal working environment is complemented by Britvic’s relaxed attitude to working time, Its flexible working arrangement is one of the company’s most effective retention and recruitment tools. “The impact of flexible working should never be underestimated. It basically means there is an understanding of the hours that are expected of us [and] no-one who works at home is seen as skiving,” explains Mountford. Both Britvic employees and management have found there is a level of trust that needs to be maintained if flexible working is to be effective. If this is achieved, the company has found there is no need for rules and boundaries around flexible working. “The philosophy is that you are trusted when you work from home. There is no formal flex scheme, it is just a flexible, flexible arrangement,” he explains. This modern approach to work-life balance also extends to health at Britvic, where wellness campaigns, such as encouraging employees to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, are run on a regular basis.
This drive towards a healthy workplace comes at a time when Britvic, and other soft drinks manufacturers, are under pressure from the anti-obesity lobby. Since creating a new corporate social responsibility department in January this year, the company has focused on marketing non-sugared drinks. It has also worked on driving down the cost of healthy food in the staff restaurant. Mountford is also a strong believer that healthy living and flexible working can help to combat stress. “We live in a society where people in general are suffering from stress, so these are obviously issues that we are concerned with. Through benefits such as healthcare and occupational health schemes we can support staff.”
This is typical of Britvic’s approach to benefits, which looks for ways to include all of its 2,700 employees across the country. So when the drinks company floated on the London Stock Exchange in December 2005, all staff were given the chance to benefit. At the launch of its share incentive plan (Sip) staff were offered £750-worth of free shares each, and the option of buying shares on a buy one and get two free basis. Some time later, they were given the chance to buy one share and get another free. According to benefits consultants, this is a generous deal. Stella Brooks, director of consulting at Incubon, explains: “If you think that the average for most large companies is around £250 [worth] or less of free shares at the time of a float, you can see that Britvic has been quite generous.” Unsurprisingly, the scheme was very popular, and as Mountford explains, employees at Britvic know a good deal when they see one. “The fact that we had a 75% take-up rate at the time of launch shows employees valued the deals that were made available,” he says.
Mountford, who cites the launch of the Sip as one of his key achievements since joining the company in March 2004, is also keen to emphasise the advantages of the share scheme in terms of its effects on employee involvement and motivation. “We mustn’t forget that benefits also exist to enhance individual performance, so there is an emphasis on shares. We want people to invest their own money in the company, so that if the business is doing well so are they,” he explains. An effective share scheme can also have a positive effect on staff retention. Britvic’s average length of service currently stands at nine years, which the company is keen to protect. “A share scheme like this can reduce turnover significantly, and although this may not be the major driver behind introducing a share option, it is certainly a welcome by-product,” explains Inbucon’s Brooks.
Mountford has also had the opportunity to make some fundamental changes to Britvic’s pension arrangements. Its original defined benefit (DB) scheme was closed to new members to August 2002, when a defined contribution (DC) scheme was launched for new joiners. However, take-up rates for the new plan dropped to just 25% early last year and auto-enrolment was introduced to tackle the problem. “People were not joining the scheme, and it was as simple as that, so we had to move to auto-enrolment to increase the take up,” explains Mountford. Since its introduction, Britvic has seen an increase in the number of employees involved in the scheme. Take up is currently around the 80% mark. “At the time, we were not happy with the situation because pensions are regarded as a core benefit to any package, and they were not being utilised. “Pensions can be complicated, people don’t want to understand them, and they had been getting some poor press too, so to boost this through auto-enrolment was pleasing,” explains Mountford.
As a further step to help increase the pension scheme’s popularity, he is looking at moving it into Britvic’s flexible benefits plan, My Choice, which will enable employees to make tax savings when contributing to their fund through salary sacrifice. My Choice was launched online to employees in April 2004 with an initial take-up rate of 97%. This level was achieved through a great deal of hard work in communicating the change to the employees, many of whom are not office based and are unable to access the company intranet. To help overcome the issue of staff access, Britvic decided to appoint employees to act as champions around the country. Each was allocated a constituency to manage and in which to communicate the benefits of flex. “Champions were a group of people with a high level of training and education on the My Choice system who were tasked with encouraging and cajoling other members of staff into taking part,” says Mountford.
Staff involvement in benefits is central to Britvic’s objectives and its mission statement, which was set out in 2001. This is partly being achieved by encouraging staff to participate in the marketing of benefits by spreading the word. “One of the pillars we currently operate under is ‘making Britvic a great place to work’, and getting staff involved in perks helps us achieve this through motivation and recognition of effort,” explains Mountford.
Michael Mountford joined Britvic in March 2004 as head of pensions. His initial job responsibility was to smooth over problems in relation to low take up of the firm’s defined contribution pension scheme following its launch. He has now taken on a wider role as head of compensations and benefits. Prior to joining Britvic, he spent three years at The Pensions Advisory Service (Opas), where he worked with pension specialists to help provide individuals with free advice on their pension plans, so was well equipped to take on the pensions’ brief. Mountford also worked as a consultant at Aon for seven years, so feels he has wide experience of the benefits industry. “There was never really a master plan, it was just the way it happened. I started in consultancy and moved from there. I certainly see myself as fortunate to have seen the different sides of the industry,” he explains.
Defined benefit scheme which is closed to new members. The firm has a defined contribution scheme and operates auto-enrolment for all staff. Britvic matches contributions between 3% and 5%.
Healthcare Medical screening, dental insurance, eyecare and private medical insurance available through flex. Occupational health scheme for all staff.
Share incentive plan (Sip)
Launched for all staff in December 2005. Employees were offered ®£750 of free shares, and the opportunity to buy one share and get one free.
User chooser company car scheme according to business need and grade.
25 days as standard. Staff can also buy or sell up to five days through flexible benefits scheme.
Corporate social responsibility
Any money raised by employees for charity is matched by the company.
Throughout the year, employees can buy any of Britvic’s products at cost price in the staff shop. At Christmas, all staff are given a ®£15 voucher to spend.
Employee case study
Loretta Taupin, corporate social responsibility adviser, has been with the soft drinks company for six years, although she has only held her current position since January this year.She previously worked in the Britvic press office. Taupin particularly values the company’s healthcare benefits. “The well-woman scheme which comes under the healthcare scheme is one that I use a lot. I have done so for about three years, along with trading holiday, dental care and eye care,” she says.
Another attraction is the flexible working system, which allows her to spend some time each week working from home. “The office roles allow us to spend a day a week working from home, which is so useful, and removes the need for us to lie about needing to be at home on a particular day,” she explains. Taupin is also keen to see some new benefits included in Britvic’s offering, in particular the opportunity to take time out of work to complete volunteering roles.
“I’d like to see volunteering included, [for example] between one and three days a year offered to staff to conduct volunteer work in the community, such as litter picks, [or] painting a local school or hospital,” she explains.
Britvic at a glance
The Britvic brand dates back to the mid-nineteenth century, when a chemist in Chelmsford began selling soft drinks from a local shop. The British Vitamin Products Company, launched fruit juices to the market in 1949. In 1971, the company changed its name to Britvic. Today, Britvic is still based in Chelmsford where 600 of its employees are split between the factory and the head office. Its remaining staff are based at 25 factory sites and depots across the UK, and offices in Hartlepool, Marlowe and Solihull. It bottles Pepsi and owns the Tango, J20 and Robinson soft drinks brands.
Britvic was part of Six Continents until October 2002 when the group announced the proposed separation of its hotels and soft drinks businesses from the retail business. This eventually took place in August 2003. In December 2005, the soft drinks company floated on the London Stock Exchange and was valued at ®£494m. Pernod Ricard, Whitbread and InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG) all sold their stakes, while PepsiCo retained some holding. Britvic is currently the UK’s largest supplier of still soft drinks, and the second largest supplier of all types of soft drink.