Hyde Group builds employee engagement with benefits strategy

Housing association The Hyde Group’s (Hyde’s) employee benefits strategy has established a strong link with employee engagement, building everything around the needs of its 1,300-strong workforce in order to resonate with, and help staff live, the organisation’s business values.

Hyde Group

Hyde’s external brand is strongly associated with its internal brand, with reward linked to the organisation’s goal of ‘making a lasting difference’ to both residents in the 50,000 homes it owns and manages and the people it employs. 

Employees have had a constant say in Hyde’s benefits offering through its ‘iFlex’ flexible benefits plan, its ‘iSave’ voluntary benefits scheme and its new focus on health and wellbeing.

The organisation’s HR Hub helps to maintain employee engagement with its benefits, and staff are directed towards this where possible.

Sarah Bissell, head of reward at Hyde, says: “We move things forward and have a great sense of employee engagement with what we do here at Hyde.

“We have a group of flexible benefits champions, wellbeing champions and voluntary benefits champions that regularly meet to help build engagement in the workplace, and it helps the development of the reward strategy. It helps take everything in the right direction.”

This approach, along with the use of staff surveys, has enabled the organisation to grow and add to its benefits package in the two years since the launch of its Aon-provided scheme in 2013. In 2014 alone, Hyde added five new benefits to its flex window to reflect staff preferences.

Engagement scores increase

Engagement scores have also increased across its offering. This is largely a result of the organisation sticking with similar communication processes in the first year, such as using focus groups, holding roadshows with benefits providers and talking openly with its workforce through its champions.

“Our iFlex engagement increased in year two in terms of the number of people [logging on] using it and making selections,” says Bissell. “The score has increased from 69% in the first year of launch to 73% in the second year.

“I think the increase in engagement came because of specialist work we did with offline employees that are always on the road. It was key for us to learn the communication methods they needed to engage and by going down to visit them, holding roadshows and giving them their own reminders, such as car air fresheners with information on. Just showing them how to make selections on a computer really made the difference this year.”

It is a strategy that has been built over the last five years and it is now more of an evolution process for the organisation. Earlier this year, Hyde reviewed its package, and its aim for what it wants the offering to achieve has stayed the same: to attract and retain the best people, with a broad range of benefits that motivate people and meet individual needs.

Health and wellbeing focus

While the end goal remains the same, minor tweaks have been made, such as pay and performance. The organisation also has a renewed focus on health and wellbeing.

Its new Beingwell programme takes a holistic approach to the wellbeing provision for employees, and has been developed to cover all aspects of workplace wellbeing from physical and mental health to employee financial wellbeing.

It has four pillars to its design (live well, spend well, work well and cope well) and has a year-long campaign put together by its wellbeing champions to drive the engagement and wellbeing of employees at the organisation.

Sue Bunt, organisational development specialist at Hyde, says: “It has four quadrants that make up wellbeing at Hyde. There is livewell, which is around a healthier employee and incorporates campaigns, the global corporate challenge and our health-related benefits. Then there is workwell, which is aimed at encouraging an employees’ work-life balance.

“Pillar three, Copewell, is around stress and resilience. We know that this is a big issue for us so we have built resilience and mindfulness programmes to combat this.

”Spendwell is about the financial side of things; we build it into our flexible benefits scheme and it incorporates both spending for today and saving for tomorrow.”

These all link back to the benefits the firm offers and tie in with the needs of employees. The scheme was shaped by data gained from Hyde’s occupational health provider. 

Laurie Davis, reward adviser at Hyde, adds: “Employees having been looking at and finding information on losing weight, exercising more and how to eat more healthily, as well as sleep better through our occupational health service. Staff want to know about this and knowing what they want validates what we are doing with our Beingwell programme.”


With everything in place for the organisation and after consistent improvement over the last few years, demonstrated by an increase in take-up of the benefits it offers, Hyde plans to consolidate its offering before making any further changes.

Bissell says: “For Hyde, we do have overarching challenges because we are in an increasingly competitive market in terms of building new property and giving customers what they expect, but equally in attracting and retaining new employees.

“The strategy has moved in the right direction and the focus now on health and wellbeing shows staff that we take it seriously and want to help them be more productive.

“Before we go again we will consolidate the schemes, and let them grow instead of introducing something new. There has been a lot of change in the last few years with new benefits in flex, the voluntary benefits upgrade and the health and wellbeing focus.

“We will start again in the new year and see what we can do differently.”

Hyde Group at a glance

Hyde Group is a housing association that owns and manages around 50,000 homes and 95,000 residents in London, Kent, Surrey, Sussex, Hampshire, the east of England and the East Midlands.

The organisation was founded in 1967, and has more than 1,300 staff across 15 offices. The average age of staff is 42 and some 57% of employees are female.

The average length of service is six years and around 800 employees have been with the organisation for more than three years.

Business objectives impacting benefits

  • Having a package that remains competitive in its market.
  • Increasing the health and wellbeing of employees.
  • Attracting new people from outside of the housing sector.

Career history

Sarah Bissell joined Hyde in 2002 and held many different roles before becoming head of reward. In her current role, she is responsible for reward, pay and benefits at the organisation, as well as managing payroll and Hyde’s HR system.

Laurie Davis is a reward adviser at the Hyde and works closely with Bissell. Davis works on the implementation of benefits, in addition to helping with the rollout of projects. She previously held the role of research assistant within the HR team at Hyde. 

Sue Bunt is organisational development specialist at Hyde and works closely with HR and the people management team. She has been with the organisation for three years and her remit covers engagement, the new health and wellbeing project and organisation diversity.

The benefits offered by Hyde


Trust-based defined contribution pension scheme, with the option to make contributions via a salary sacrifice arrangement available via flex

Contribution rates are set at 1%, 3%, 4% or 5%, which are doubled by the employer. Employees can pay more but employer contribution is capped at 10%

A number of legacy trust-based defined benefit schemes that are still open to future accrual

Hyde also offers staff a new individual savings account (Nisa)

Healthcare and wellbeing:

Private medical insurance as core for senior staff with further options available via flex. Offered as a flexible benefit for all other employees

Health cash plan

Health screening

Employee assistance programme

Occupational health

Gym membership

Dental insurance

Group risk:

Income protection

Life assurance

Critical illness insurance

Staff travel:

Company car scheme available as a core benefit for senior staff, with a car salary sacrifice scheme available through flex for all other staff

Season ticket loans for train travel and annual car parking tickets

Bikes for work

Family-friendly benefits:

Flexible working for all staff

Career breaks

Five days’ paid dependants leave

Five days’ paid special leave

Five days’ paid compassionate leave

Members of Employers for Carers, providing support for working carers

Options to add family members to benefits via flex

Childcare vouchers


Minimum of 26, 28 or 30 days dependent on employee grade. Employees are granted an additional day per year of service up to a maximum of 30 days

Employees also receive an additional five days leave in the year of their 10th year of service, and then again five years thereafter

Staff can also buy and sell up to five days holiday through flex


Employee volunteering

Incentive pay/performance-related pay – pay progression via performance-related pay with annual pay review linked to performance rating

Voluntary benefits such as discount vouchers

Mobile phones

Give as you earn

Home technology