Interview with Leisa Docherty, head of people services and reward at Sage

Leisa Docherty, head of people services and reward at software company Sage, is focused on the essential role reward plays in attracting and retaining talented employees

Coming up with fresh and creative ways of rewarding staff without breaking the bank is the biggest challenge facing compensation and benefits professionals, says Leisa Docherty, head of people services and reward at Sage. “It is about thinking how you can improve the way people view you as an employer through reward and benefits,” she adds.

This challenge has not stopped Docherty from revamping the reward offering at software firm Sage UK, where she is working on a number of new projects, including the launch of an occupational health scheme.

In her current role, Docherty’s responsibilities include talent management, HR policy, and design and delivery of the firm’s reward strategy in the UK. She is also accountable for employee relations in the UK, manages a team of 23 people and works closely with the UK board and senior leadership teams.

“The biggest hurdle is making sure you are rewarding people fairly and consistently, and making sure you are retaining key talented people,” she says.

In the coming months, Docherty will be examining Sage’s approach to pay to ensure it aids recruitment and meets its obligations on equal pay. “It is important to be constantly in tune with what is happening [with pay] in the market, especially from a recruitment perspective,” she says. “There will be lots more benchmarking. We are looking to be proactive from a reward perspective around how we need to compensate people and attract
and retain the best people.”

Another challenge facing Docherty is ensuring benefits and reward complement Sage’s talent management and succession planning processes. “It is really important to have robust processes around spotting, and developing and retaining talent,” she says. “Reward has a part to play in that as well. It is about being able to attract people in
the first instance. Our head office is in Newcastle and a lot of our roles are here, so often we are trying to attract people from different parts of the country.”

Growing business

Docherty joined Sage UK almost 10 years ago as an HR manager before becoming responsible for benefits in 1994 when she was appointed head of HR service delivery. “Sage as a business grew very quickly,” she says. “When I joined the business, there were a lot of things we did not have in place from a benefits point of view. We needed to do a whole review of processes and suppliers. I also led the implementation of our HR and payroll system.”

When she returned to work in 2009 after having a baby, Docherty became fully accountable for benefits and reward. The same year, she led the implementation of a flexible benefits scheme, which she counts as one of her biggest career achievements. When the scheme went live, 98% of staff logged on to view their total reward statement, designed to illustrate how their package could be improved by selecting benefits through flex.

When giving advice to others forging a career in reward and benefits, Docherty highlights the importance of networking. “You can learn a lot about what works well and what does not.”

Curriculum vitae

2009-present head of people services and reward, Sage UK
2008-2009 went on maternity leave; returned in 2009
2007-2008 head of HR operations for Sage UK’s commercial divisions
2004-2007 head of HR service delivery, Sage UK
2001-2004 HR manager, Sage
1991-2001variety of HR roles with the Automobile Association


What are your positive attributes?

I am good at leading and managing teams of people, as well as project management, innovation, creativity and
attention to detail. I also have good influencing and negotiating skills.

What would you like to change about yourself?

I have to be careful because sometimes I move really fast and this can be too fast for other people.

Who is your role model?

My role model is the chief executive officer of Sage UK, Paul Stobart, because he really is an inspiration. Whenever I hear him talking, he is just so passionate and really engages with people very well.

What is your typical working day like?

No two days are the same. It is extremely fast-paced, lots of meetings and lots of variety. I sometimes speak at events and get the chance to network. I also spend lots of time with the UK board and the leadership team.

What is your favourite benefit?

My favourite benefit is the health cash plan. It is really simple to use and it is for things that people do every day, such as going to the dentist or the optician. It is a benefit you can use all the way through the year.

Read more interviews