Employee Benefits Awards winners 2007

National Express, McDonald’s Restaurants and Siemens were among the many winners at the Employee Benefits Awards 2007 which was held at the Park Lane Hilton Hotel, London on June 8. By clicking on each of the categories below you can find out the names of the winners and finalists. You can also look at photographs of those who attended the event below.

Photographs from the Employee Benefits Awards 2007 (2.77mb, PDF)

Photographs from the Employee Benefits Awards 8 June 2007

Grand Prix

Benefits team of the year
Most effective benefits strategy for organisations with fewer than 1,000 employees
Most effective benefits strategy for organisations with more than 1,000 employees
Most successful new benefits launch
Most effective employer and adviser partnership
Most effective healthcare strategy
Communications strategy of the year
Most effective pensions strategy
Most effective use of group risk and long-term absence strategy
Most effective motivation or incentive strategy
Most effective all-employee share scheme strategy
Most effective use of a flexible benefits plan
Most effective use of intranet/internet sites
Most effective application of tax-efficient benefits
Most effective use of financial education in the workplace
Most effective use of a payroll giving strategy
Most effective use of a voluntary benefits plan
Most effective company car strategy

In association with:

Grand Prix
Sponsored by Watson Wyatt Worldwide

National Express Ltd

The judges voted National Express winner of the Grand Prix because it had “come a long way in a short space of time” in what is a tough sector. Back in 2004, the scheduled coach operator just offered employees coach travel passes, but it now provides them with a whole range of perks designed to boost employee engagement and reduce staff turnover. The “low cost, but high value” employee benefits solution contributed to the significant fall in turnover from 50% in July 2005 to 27% in November 2006. The new strategy also helped to boost levels of employee satisfaction.

The new package of benefits was devised with the aim of offering something for everyone in a workforce which includes support staff based at a large call centre, travel shops and bus stations throughout the UK, as well as 500 drivers working directly for National Express and 1,600 who are working on the network but are not direct employees. New perks included long-services awards, which ranged from a bottle of champagne after five years to a trip to Egypt after 25 years, an employee assistance programme for all staff and their families, an online discount scheme and interest-free loans for staff who were in need of extra financial support. The judges were also impressed with the use of benefits to help increase the appeal of the male-dominated organisation among women. These included boxes of goodies for new parents, increased maternity provision, flexible working and the option of buying childcare vouchers through salary sacrifice. Other perks offered through salary sacrifice included a bikes-for-work scheme, and buying and selling holiday.

Since the benefits initiative began, the company has experienced increases in turnover (from £192.4m in 2004 to £200.5m in 2006), and profit (from £18.8m in 2004 to £21.5m in 2006).

Benefits team of the year

RBS Group

The judges felt that the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) Group was the outright winner in this category. The company launched a new pension scheme to sit alongside its final salary plan and provided for the new plan within its flexible benefits package RBSelect.

The RBS Group human resources reward team worked closely with other parts of the business, including group communications, group legal and compliance and group logistics, as well as the company’s offshore HR departments. This cross-functional team delivered all aspects of the design, implementation and communication of the arrangements on time and to plan. This included everything from carefully managing the impact of the launch of the new scheme in the press, to ensuring that the technical design of new plan met the company’s legal requirements and employee expectations. Young staff at RBS were particularly engaged with the arrangements, with 77% of those opting into the new scheme under the age of 35 years.

Runners up

In the space of two years, the benefits team at Benfield Group undertook several projects to move away from a one-size-fits-all package and give employees more choice. This included the launch of tax-efficient benefits, such as childcare vouchers and bikes for work, the ability to buy up to three days additional holiday and the launch of a group personal pension plan. The judges felt these efforts meant Benfield firmly deserved to be short listed for this category.

The small QinetiQ reward team successfully designed, developed and implemented the reward brand QinetiQ Currency with little outside help from consultants. The company went from having salary, pension and holiday as a benefits package to a scheme which now includes bikes for work, childcare vouchers, total reward statements and a share incentive plan. The judges were impressed with the way these benefits were implemented by a team of 3.5 individuals who continued to also carry out their everyday work.

Virgin Mobile
Virgin Mobile had worked hard as a team to improve what was already on offer and to introduce new benefits, including a concierge system and £100 for each employee to give to charity. The team also launched the company’s reward roadshows. The first event, where the package was promoted over the course of a week, was a success and similar events are now planned for each quarter.

Most effective benefits strategy for organisations with fewer than 1,000 employees

Royal Automobile Club – Royal Automobile Club Flex Benefits Scheme (entered by Foster Denovo Ltd)

The reason this entrant rose to the top among an excellent range of contenders, was the crucial role that benefits played in a fundamental cultural change at this very traditional club (not to be confused with the RAC breakdown service).

Until 1 December 2006, the 450 employees received a very conventional set of core benefits including, among others, a trust-based pension scheme, income protection and death-in-service cover. Some perks such as private medical insurance and company cars were limited to certain levels of seniority.

After a review, it was decided to gradually introduce a flexible benefits scheme. In the first year just two benefits (childcare vouchers and buy/sell holidays) were added to the existing list of benefits, and the pension scheme was re-launched as a group personal pension. It was felt that adding too many benefits at once would lead to confusion. This allowed the club to focus on communicating the scheme. After a series of group presentations, all staff had a one-to-one meeting with an independent financial adviser who talked them through their benefits choices, discussed their pension needs and demonstrated how to use forecasting tools. This carefully thought out strategy, that didn’t try to do too much too quickly, led to a huge increase in pension scheme take up (from 151 to 304 staff). As many as 70% of staff made a flexible benefits selection, and 84% now say their understanding of the benefits package would have a positive influence if they were considering leaving.

There are plans to use feedback from staff to decide which benefits will be added to the flexible benefits scheme in year two. The judges commented that this entry demonstrated a “radical culture change from a traditional, take-what-you-get approach to a culture of select-what-you-want, with open communication”. The panel felt the strategy is comprehensive, with the employer being clear about what it is trying to do. “The benefits matched what staff want, it is a good example of what employers should do,” said the panel.

Runners up

Actelion – Actelion Flex (entered by Redbourne)
One of our smallest entrants, Actelion prides itself on innovation. Its sophisticated employees (they discover, develop and market new drugs), needed something different to capture their attention. This was achieved by offering staff the use of sophisticated online modelling tools for some benefits. As a result all 30 staff had taken up at least one benefit by December 2006, while 86% were using salary sacrifice for one or more benefits.

Amadeus Services Limited (ASL) – Value Benefits (advised by You at Work)
This technology booking firm needed to recruit the best graduates, but was battling to keep them due to staff feeling under valued. Part of the solution was to communicate the existing benefits (which are good) more effectively. The offering was also enhanced so that it was aligned with that provided to staff who had transferred into Amadeus under TUPE. This was achieved through an online total reward platform that now allows staff to see that their benefits are worth between 20% to 50% of salary.

Bevan Brittan LLP – mybenefits (entered by Jelf Group Plc)
Following a demerger, this law firm set out to increase the actual and perceived value of benefits and their take up among its 550 staff, reduce in-house administration and restructure three pension schemes into one. It achieved all of the above with no increase in cost, using national insurance savings from the salary sacrifice of pensions to increase its contributions. It also launched an online benefits system.

Loyalty Management Group – Sweeter Rewards (entered by thomsons online benefits)
The judges were impressed by the well-integrated strategy used for this flexible benefits launch, including the branding Sweeter Rewards, linked to the company’s well-known Nectar loyalty product. They also praised the reduction in administration, high recognition of the value of benefits (90% of the 170 staff value their benefits) and the savings that were made (with half going into increased pension contributions and the other half going to cover the cost of the scheme).

Providence Row Housing Association (PRHA) – Benefits @ PRHA
This entrant managed to turn around “shocking results” in staff recruitment to achieve a 98% success rate. It believes that its benefits package played a key role in this change. New benefits were launched that put an emphasis on health and wellbeing, and were integrated well with the housing association’s broader strategy of caring about its 130 staff by offering a good work-life balance through flexible working.

Most effective benefits strategy for organisations with more than 1,000 employees
Sponsored by Jelf Group Plc

National Express Ltd – Xtras

The judges were highly impressed with the “sea change” that has taken place at the scheduled coach operator over the last three years. Back in 2004, the only benefits National Express offered to staff were coach travel passes. But in a bid to reduce staff turnover and boost staff satisfaction, the transport company came up with a new HR strategy that concentrated on employee engagement of which a key strand was focused around reward and recognition. A new package of benefits was devised to offer something for everyone in a workforce that includes support staff based at a large call centre, travel shops and bus stations throughout the UK as well as 500 drivers working directly for National Express and 1,600 who are working on the network but are not direct employees.

National Express also wanted to offer benefits that would help it reposition the business, historically dominated by men, as one that can also attract women. Encouraging staff to stay with the company and help them in good times and bad, were also priorities. Some of the initiatives it introduced include an employee assistance programme for all staff and their families, an online discount scheme, an interest-free loan for people in need of extra financial support, boxes of goodies for new parents, increased maternity provision, flexible working and free coach travel for employees, and their partners and families.

Employees were also given the option to take up benefits such as childcare vouchers, bikes for work and buying and selling holiday on a salary sacrifice basis. A scheme rewarding long service was also introduced with typical gifts ranging from a bottle of champagne after five years’ service to a trip to Egypt after 25 years’ service. Employee turnover which stood at 50% in July 2005 has now reduced to 27% in November 2006 and the response rate to employee surveys has increased from 67% in 2004 to 74% in 2006. Employee satisfaction levels, and company turnover and profit have also improved.

Runners up

ASDA – Total Package Communication
The aim behind Asda’s total reward package is to create a point of difference in order to attract staff and motivate its 160,000 employees working across 350 sites. It is proud of its labour turnover rate of 26.43% in what is a sector plagued with high staff turnover. It offers a bonus, a 10% discount after 12 weeks’ service, a share ownership plan, a sharesave plan, pensions plans including life assurance, voluntary benefits, private medical cover for managers, recognition initiatives and long-service awards as well as competitive pay rates.

Bank of America – Associate Benefit Choices (entered by Towers Perrin)
The Bank of America’s flexible benefits scheme, launched in 2005, resulted in over 80% of staff enrolling in the plan and selecting from over 20 options. Since the launch it has added a leisure account and extended the plan to employees of the recently-acquired MBNA and staff in Ireland and Canada. The judges were impressed with the bank’s commitment to matching staff contributions to learning, health and wellbeing accounts and and thought that this was an interesting way to encourage behaviour change and self-development.

Cattles Plc – Benefits Through Innovation
The judges thought that the provider of financial services used a comprehensive and accessible set of communication materials, including total reward statements and an intranet site, to help improve employees’ understanding of their benefits package which includes a pension and share scheme. The strategy has resulted in a 26% improvement in the understanding of the benefits package, an increase in the number of hits on the reward intranet site and a reduction in staff turnover from 42.7% in 2005 to 33.9% in 2006. This was all for an investment of £1.50 per employee in the cost of communication materials.

Shell International – My Benefits (advised by Gissings Advisory Services Ltd)
The oil company set out to broaden its benefits package and to differentiate it from that offered by competitors. Historically benefits had included car schemes, flexible working practices and pensions. After an assessment of employee demographics and needs, sector benchmarking and round-table discussions with employee representatives, it introduced new company-paid benefits such as private medical insurance (with the ability to extend cover), employee discount programmes and childcare vouchers. All benefits were packaged as components of a single programme.

Most successful new benefits launch

ING Direct – Pick and Mix (entered by Vebnet; advised by Mercer Human Resource Consulting)

This entry caught the attention of the judges because of its strong branding and unusual communications campaign, which included members of ING Direct’s management team dressing up as ushers to deliver a bag of pick and mix sweets to every employee. The judges felt that this activity couldn’t fail to catch employees’ attention and also demonstrated management’s buy-in and commitment to the launch of the company’s flexible benefits plan. One judge was so impressed with the company’s approach that she said she would copy it if the appropriate opportunity arose.

ING Direct’s decision to move to flex was made as a result of feedback from staff focus groups, which indicated that employees felt their perks were difficult to access and were not relevant to everyone. The launch also included presentations hosted by the company’s HR director at both of its sites and a benefits fair which gave staff the opportunity to meet their benefits providers. The fair was attended by ING Direct’s compensation and benefits team which hosted a pick and mix sweet shop at the event.

ING Direct received particular praise from the judges for managing to carry all of these activities out at a relatively low cost to the business and well within its set budget.

Runners up

CODA Plc – CODA Group Personal Pension Plan (advised by Hargreaves Lansdown)
The judges were impressed with the high take-up rate achieved by CODA’s group personal pension plan (GPP), which they thought was indicative of a highly-effective communications campaign. The company was prompted to revamp its pensions provision by a forthcoming demerger, which led to it replacing its three existing pension schemes with a single GPP.

Kent County Council – Mobile Salary Saver (entered by Flexphone Limited)
Kent County Council introduced a mobile phone salary sacrifice scheme for its 20,000 employees. The judges were impressed with the effectiveness of its marketing campaign in reaching such a large workforce.

Malmaison and Hotel du Vin – Flexible Benefits Scheme (advised by Davidson Asset Management)
The Malmaison and Hotel du Vin hotel group was praised by the judges for its commitment to the launch and communication of its flexible benefits scheme. The move marked a significant change in benefits strategy for the hotel group, as this was the first time that benefits had been offered to non-managerial employees.

npower – npower smile (advised by People Value)
Npower’s ‘smile’ scheme awards employees points when they switch their power supplier to npower. These points can then be redeemed against a range of products and services. The judges felt that implementing the scheme for 11,000 staff was quite an investment. Take up of the scheme surpassed the company’s target figures, and was felt to be an effective way of encouraging staff to become advocates of the brand.

Royal Automobile Club – Royal Automobile Club Flex Benefits Scheme (entered by Foster Denovo Ltd)
More than 70% of the Royal Automobile Club’s 450 employees enrolled in its flexible benefits scheme at launch. Additional communications at the time of the launch were used to promote its pension scheme and resulted in pension membership more than doubling. The communications campaign as a whole helped increased the number of employees who value their benefits.

Most effective employer and adviser partnership

RBS Group – RBS Retirement Savings Plan (entered by Aricot Vert; advised by Towers Perrin)

The judges were highly impressed with the way Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) Group, its adviser Towers Perrin and communication experts Aricot Vert worked in a three-way partnership to design and communicate what the panel described as a “very innovative” offering to employees.

With the help of Towers Perrin, RBS designed its new Retirement Savings Plan, which brought its pension provision into its flexible benefits plan RBSelect and offered employees the chance to take extra cash rather than pension contributions.

Aricot Vert worked closely with RBS and Towers Perrin to devise a booklet that the judging panel described as having been “brilliantly” executed and which formed the basis of a “strong communication campaign”. The launch of the new scheme was a success, with young employees particularly engaged — 77% of those opting into the new scheme were under the age of 35 years.

Runners up

Bevan Brittan LLP – mybenefits (entered by Jelf Group Plc)
As part of Bevan Brittan’s plan to become an employer of choice and reduce in-house administration it appointed the Jelf Group Plc. Working together, the company restructured three pension arrangements into one, introduced total reward statements and wellbeing days to promote voluntary and company-provided benefits among other things. As a result of the partnership, take up of the pension scheme increased from 60% to 90%.

Home Retail Group – Discover Your Voluntary Benefits (advised by Motivano)
Home Retail Group (Argos and Homebase) worked with Motivano to revamp its voluntary benefits scheme. The aim was to better target its voluntary benefits scheme, Discover your voluntary benefits,to staff. As a result of the review new relationships with suppliers were developed, particularly in the travel and leisure sectors. This helped lead to a 90% increase in employees using the scheme.

Malmaison and Hotel du Vin – Flexible Benefits Scheme (advised by Davidson Asset Management)
The close relationship between the hotel group’s benefits team and its adviser Davidson Asset Management (DAM) was praised by the judging panel. When Malmaison purchased the Hotel Du Vin group it decided to improve its benefits package for employees. This resulted in staff being able to make some choices around their benefits provision and the implementation of a personal pension. DAM created a schedule of presentations to fit around busy hotel periods and also produced a benefits guide for the financial controller and HR co-ordinator in each hotel to help them answer employees’ questions.

Mourant – The Mourant flexible benefits scheme (entered by Ceridian)
Working with Ceridian, Mourant implemented an online flexible benefits programme. The judges were impressed with the time saving that this brought to the HR team, with the administrative burden of delivering flexible benefits reduced from a five-week process for three people, to a one-week activity for two staff.

Vanco – v:choice (entered by thomsons online benefits)
Vanco worked with thomsons online benefits to launch a flexible benefits scheme simultaneously across eight countries including the UK, Italy, the US, Singapore and Australia, working to a tight time scale with less than five months to complete the project. Since the initial launch in 2003, the scheme has been extended to a number of additional locations, including Brazil in 2006.

Most effective healthcare strategy
Sponsored by HSF health plan

Winner London Underground – Health fairs

This category was a closely-fought battle with a number of entries adhering to the same high standards. London Underground was selected as the winner for the “brilliant” results that it achieved through its health improvement plan.

Over the course of last year, it held 26 health fairs for employees across the network in order to help it make contact with all staff, particularly those who who can be difficult to reach because they work across different locations and have varying shift patterns. The fairs were aimed at raising awareness of the need for employees to take responsibility for their own health by making suitable lifestyle adjustments, and giving them the knowledge to detect potential health problems at an early stage. In only the second year of the strategy, attendance at the fairs increased by 26%. Employees were given the opportunity to have their cholesterol, blood pressure and glucose readings checked by trained nurses. London Underground’s provision also includes a nutritionist, an occupational health team physiotherapist, and an on-site occupational health team stress counsellor.

The judges were impressed at the way in which the organisation has focused its initiatives to suit its workforce demographics.

The company was also praised for the quality of its campaign’s supporting communications materials, which were felt to be very user-friendly.

Overall, London Underground’s comprehensive approach has had significant results, particularly in improving employee satisfaction. It also estimates that its absence rate will be reduced by 5% this year, saving the company £42,000. The absence rate is expected to reduce further in subsequent years.

Runners up

Cadbury Schweppes – mychoices Fit for Life
The judges praised this entry for its “multi-dimensional approach” to employee health and wellbeing. All employees are offered a free onsite health check, while healthy-eating options in the staff canteen and classes such as yoga and Pilates are also available onsite.

Dimension Data – Absencia (advised by Employ-Mend)
Dimension Data has successfully sustained a low absence rate of 1% after implementing an absence management system two years ago. One of the programme’s functions is to ensure staff are directed to other relevant benefits where necessary such as the company’s employee assistance programme and private medical insurance.

Grimsby Institute of Further & Higher Education – Healthy Institute Strategy
Highly praised by the judges, the Grimsby Institute of Further & Higher Education, which has the challenge of a disparate workforce spread over 12 sites, came a very close second in this category. It offers a wide variety of options designed to tackle staff wellbeing, which have been carefully tailored to suit its staff.

Pfizer – Health and You (entered by Lorica Consulting)
Pfizer’s healthcare initiatives were driven by the company’s global cost-reduction programme. Using a preferred provider option, it estimates that it will save nearly £2m over five years.

PricewaterhouseCoopers – zest for life at PwC
PricewaterhouseCoopers has taken an integrated approach to health management, benefits and employee wellbeing, which it believes has clear business benefits. Last year, it developed its wellbeing programme – Zest for life at PwC – which is aimed at raising employees’ awareness of health issues, and includes initiatives such as healthy-eating options, and wellness days.

Shell – Shell Healthcare Plan (advised by Gissings Advisory Services Ltd)
The judges thought that this was a “really well-managed project”, which offered a good choice to employees. Shell’s package provides a degree of flexibility to some core healthcare benefits, enabling staff to include family members and extend the level of cover they receive if they wish.

Communications strategy of the year

Siemens – My Choice (advised by Creative Direction)

In this highly-competitive category there emerged a winner well worth emulating. Siemens did it by the book, but did it well and comprehensively. Its communications programme started long before the scheme was designed and ready to roll out – a crucial factor that averted potential disaster.

It first piloted its flexible benefits scheme. Piloting is not as common as it should be in benefits practice, but Siemen’s experience is a curt reminder as to why it is so crucial. The pilot bombed with a take-up rate of just 19%. However, the company took this on the chin, worked on feedback from the pilot and went ahead with a full roll out to staff. The communications were comprehensive, using all media channels. However, it was the most powerful communication channel that was used most effectively – word of mouth.

Employee ambassadors were chosen from the initial pilot group to act as advocates of the scheme. This employee endorsement lent credibility to the scheme.

In all, staff were touched 13 times each by communication messages – at home and in the workplace. The result was a 70% participation rate (9,967 staff out of a workforce of 14,141). To top it all, the scheme saved the company £2.2m in national insurance contributions and is expected to deliver a saving of £2.7m in 2007.

Highly commended

Center Parcs – Center Parcs Group Pension Plan (entered by Hargreaves Lansdown)
This entry stood out because of the effort the firm made to communicate the plan to staff including asking financial advisers to cycle to where staff were based in the Village. The take-up rate for the group personal pension plan was 87%.

Runners up

Cadbury Schweppes – mychoices
This entry showed a good all-round approach to communications that included the use of the union in order to reach all staff, no matter what time their shifts