An enthusiastic approach rubs off on colleagues and helps to meet professional challenges, says Ian Hodson, reward and benefits manager at the University of Lincoln
Ian Hodson, reward and benefits manager at the University of Lincoln, is a great believer in the contagious effect of enthusiasm – a personal trait he has displayed throughout his career in reward. “If you are not enthused about the [reward] offering, how can you expect your employees to be?” he says.
Hodson started his career in the early 1990s as a trainee accountant at food processing firm GW Padley Poultry (now Moy Park) before becoming involved with payroll and benefits.
He now applies his energy and passion to creating unusual and fun benefits packages. For example, the University of Lincoln hosts many activities for staff, including health screening, lunchtime fitness classes and retirement-awareness days.
At the Employee Benefits Awards 2010, the university was highly commended for its working parents and carers strategy, an accolade that Hodson counts as one of his biggest achievements.
This strategy includes providing support groups for carers and establishing links to the local football club to enhance family fun and fitness. “I often find the ideas we come up with around our benefits agenda are actually a combination of best practices from previous organisations, plus some new learning and thoughts,” says Hodson.
He is also proud of his ability to manage and help colleagues to develop and achieve at work. “In terms of what I see personally as the biggest achievement, I am always really proud of my teams, particularly when I see team members grow as individuals or deliver a piece of work that started as an idea and has evolved,” he says.
“I am incredibly positive, very driven and also very competitive. I hope I am seen not only as a good manager, but also an influential one who leaves a footprint wherever I have been, not only in terms of visibility but also on the people who have worked with me.”
Although Hodson is now in a position to influence other people’s careers, he does not forget those who inspired him. His role models have included Richard Pattrick, the financial director under whom he worked at GW Padley, who taught him a number of important lessons, such as how to be calm in a crisis, inspire others, and develop a good work ethic.
Meanwhile, Margaret Dale, chief executive of the Educational Competencies Consortium (ECC), continues to be a significant role model and source of inspiration for Hodson. “She has an incredible knowledge and has an incredibly positive approach to her work,” he explains. “She is a real mentor to those new to reward in higher education.”
When it comes to the biggest issues currently affecting professionals in his field, Hodson cites the challenges posed by the economic environment.
“The biggest challenge is the economic state of the country and the necessity of the wider reward package to keep employees motivated when perhaps pure pay increases will not be as forthcoming,” he says.
Overall, Hodson says his favourite benefits are those that make an obvious positive impression on the employee. “Activities like our Health Campus Week, the Walk the World Challenge and health screening are all good to have on the agenda and are incredibly rewarding if you see them have a long-term positive impact.”
2007-present: reward and benefits manager, University of Lincoln
2006-2007: shared services manager, Egg HR
2004-2006: payroll and HR projects manager, Moy Park
1999-2003: payroll controller/ manager, GW Padley Poultry
1993-1998: accounting technician, GW Padley Poultry
What is your greatest hurdle?
I think time remains the greatest hurdle. With reward and benefits, there is always something new around the corner or legislative changes. This often means you are not able to focus quite as much on some of the proactive ideas that you have because you are responding to changes.
How has the role of reward changed over the years?
From being quite a small element of the business that did not even really have its own agenda, reward is now a wide-reaching and complex area, and a significant tool in attracting and retaining employees that, if
done well, can have a very measurable impact.
Do you read management books?
I love the psychology behind management and reading about it – even if I am a hard-to-win-over audience. My favourite books are by the author Sean Orford and focus on being positive. Well worth a read. They capture positive messages in a humorous way.
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