Employee Benefits Awards 2012: Most effective alignment of reward strategy to business strategy for organisations with fewer than 1,000 employees

Barbon Insurance Group

This business was formed in difficult circumstances in 2008. Not only did it have to deal with the fall-out from the financial collapse of its parent company and a decline in profits, but staff turnover was high and increasing, and low levels of morale were contributing to rising sickness absence levels.

Barbon Insurance Group’s HR team was tasked with retaining staff, rebuilding morale and improving business performance. It needed to create a benefits package that would boost engagement and differentiate the firm from its competitors. Despite limited financial resources, it introduced a benefits package that included a 3% employer pension contribution, an employer-funded health cash plan, free health screening and long-service awards.

One judge was impressed by how this entrant took risks and pushed the boundaries of what was possible.

The key to increasing engagement was to get staff to value their benefits. This was achieved by introducing a multi-media communications campaign and incentivising the HR team to improve take-up of benefits, such as the pension and health cash plan. One move was to switch to single sign-on for both its flexible benefits and voluntary benefits schemes, which encouraged staff to use the websites more frequently. Initially, communications centred on how staff could spend their flex allowance, before focusing on pension membership and health cash plan usage. Videos were introduced featuring the firm’s chief executive officer highlighting the attributes of various benefits.

Results showed Barbon achieved its objectives in terms of reducing turnover and staff absence, boosting engagement and increasing business profit. For example, by December 2010, staff turnover had fallen to 12% and days lost to absence had fallen to 2,592, compared with 5,851 in 2008. Total business profit rose from £10.6 million to £15.7 million in the same period.

Richard Walden, HR director, said: “It has been a long-term strategy. We started the journey in 2008 and what we have done is in alignment with how our business has grown.”


YHA (England and Wales), YHA Rewards
YHA launched a cost-effective benefits package in conjunction with a three-year cost-saving plan to reduce central overhead costs by £1.7 million. The package had to achieve return on investment, engage and motivate staff, and help to harmonise employees’ terms and conditions.


D Young & Co, Lifestyle and You, entered by Thomsons Online Benefits
A new benefits package included salary sacrifice pension scheme with greater fund choice, life assurance, childcare vouchers, bikes-for-work scheme, gym membership, health cover and generous holiday entitlements.

Sanden International Europe, 360 Degree Benefit Review
This entrant reviewed and upgraded its benefits to boost morale after the recession. Its new strategy involved a review and upgrade of remuneration, a review of job roles, and improved training to meet business demands.

Towry, Towry Total Reward
A nil-commission business model called for a new reward structure, with high basic salaries and low variable pay replacing low basic salaries and high commissions. Shares and share options are a key part of total remuneration.

Which?, One Which? One Reward Framework
This strategy aimed to help staff understand their role in the organisation, opportunities for career progression and how they are rewarded. It also showed how business values are translated through specific behaviours.

William Grant and Sons
This entrant plugged gaps in its reward provision to improve attraction, retention, engagement and branding. This included revamping its long-term incentive plan, increasing choice around defined contribution pension contributions and increasing life assurance levels.

Read more about the Employee Benefits Awards 2012