Jane Viver, senior reward manager at the UK Border Agency, is motivated by the on-going challenge of finding low-cost but engaging benefits for employees
Little things go a long way, as Jane Vivier, senior reward manager at the UK Border Agency, has discovered during her time working in benefits.
“Some of the tiny little things you do can have such a massive impact on people and I get a huge personal satisfaction from that,” says Vivier, who before joining the government agency, which is responsible for managing the UK’s borders, and enforcing immigration and customs regulation, was reward adviser at Kent County Council.
There, Vivier revamped the council’s voluntary benefits scheme, enabling its 46,000 staff to claim either cash back or discounts on online purchases. The scheme was so popular that some employees used to stop Vivier in the corridor and tell her about the savings they had made. “I also had an email from a guy who had been diagnosed with diabetes who worked in a library and his doctors advised him to take more exercise,” she says. “So he took part in the cycle-to-work scheme and then used to send me emails about his cycle to work along the seafront. It obviously made a big difference to him.”
Vivier’s first-hand experience has reinforced her view that little things can have a significant impact. “I signed up for Benenden Healthcare and it was able to treat a member of my family who needed something quite urgently straight away,” she says. “That brought home to me that actually it doesn’t have to be big, expensive bells and whistles [when it comes to benefits].”
The not-for-profit Benenden Healthcare scheme is just one of the benefits Vivier is planning to communicate to employees at the UK Border Agency. She has been tasked with setting up a benefits package for the Home Office delivery agency, which was set up last year to take on the work previously handled by the Border and Immigration Agency, as well as responsibility for customs detection at borders from HM Revenue & Customs and for UK visa services from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The agency has about 30,000 staff working in 135 countries.
“The civil service as a whole has never embraced benefits in the same way as the private sector and some of local government,” she says. “So it is starting from the beginning and building things as you go along.”
Vivier has decided to go for some “quick wins”, such as implementing voluntary benefits and inviting the Financial Services Authority to run a financial education programme. This should help to build on the total reward statements that have already been issued to staff, as well as the civil service defined benefit pension scheme.
“We already have a childcare voucher scheme, but we are going to relaunch and revamp it,” she says. “Cycle to work we are looking at, as well as green transport bus travel and reviewing what else we can do to be efficient. We have some workplace gyms, so we are going to do salary sacrifice for those [who have access to them] and use our buying power to negotiate discounts for others.”
It is the challenge of finding low-cost but engaging perks for staff that keeps Vivier motivated. This stood her in good stead when she was putting together Kent County Council’s voluntary benefits scheme, which last year won the Employee Benefits award for the Most effective use of a voluntary benefits plan. She was also shortlisted for the Compensation and benefits professional of the year award, which is a career highlight for Vivier, who began working in reward around three years ago.
“I decided I didn’t want to be a recruitment consultant any more and just took a temporary job at Kent County Council to pay the mortgage. [I] was doing management training administration when the job came up in reward,” she says.
Vivier had always worked in people-related roles, having been a staff services manager at the London Eye and a cinema manager for Virgin Cinemas, where she worked on recruitment and training. “I have now found a job I love,” she says. “People fascinate me and I think reward is a good place to work if you like people and want to understand why they do what they do.”
2008-present UK Border Agency – senior reward manager
2005-2008 Kent County Council – reward adviser after a six-month stint as a training administrator
2001-2004 recruitment consultant
2000-2001 London Eye – staff services manager
1998-2000 Virgin Group – cinemas manager
- What has helped you progress in reward? My curiosity and enthusiasm, and the fact that very early on, before joining the reward team at Kent, I took a qualification in project management methodology that helps me to order my thoughts and run things smoothly. The other thing that has helped me is my skill at building relationships with people such as suppliers, employees and stakeholders.
- What appeals to you about reward and benefits? It is about being able to make a difference and the good thing about reward and benefits is that you can make a difference really quickly.
- What key challenge do compensation and benefits professionals face? Communication becomes more and more difficult. I think everyone thought that when we went into the electronic age, we would be able to send emails and be done with it, but it hasn’t quite worked out that way.
- What is your favourite benefit? It has to be cash back. Not just for me, but for everyone. Everyone needs to buy food and clothes, and being able to get little bits of cash back can make a difference.