University of Lincoln places benefits at heart of talent strategy

The University of Lincoln’s employee benefits package is instrumental to its talent attraction and retention policy, which is why the organisation has had to overhaul its offering in the last few years as it strives to attract new blood. 

University of Lincoln

Ian Hodson, reward and benefits manager at the university, says: “The type of employee that we are trying to bring to the organisation now will not be motivated by the typical [benefits] package [of a good salary, a pension and sickness benefits]. We had to change our thinking.

“Lincoln is not a big labour market like London, so we have to make a package to attract and retain people with specialist skills, such as academics, researchers and people from overseas. We have put a lot of effort into a variety of benefits.”

Hodson, who was tasked with creating the university’s first reward package when he joined the organisation seven years ago, has introduced two health cash plans, provided by BHSF and Bupa, and installed a health monitoring point via Wellpoint, as well as salary sacrifice arrangements for benefits including parking, give as you earn and childcare vouchers.

As well as to engage staff, the introduction of health and wellbeing weeks, a bikes-for-work scheme and access to onsite sport centres has helped the university to reduce its sickness absence costs from £1.2 million to around £700,000 between 2011 and 2014, with savings reinvested into its benefits package.

Administering own benefits

Hodson favours best-of-breed benefits providers, rather than opting for a one-stop-shop approach, despite this arrangement creating more work for him and his team following his decision to avoid using benefits consultants. 

“We took the decision to administer our own benefits as a deliberate approach to work closely with [benefits] providers and to create broader relationships.”

This has involved expanding the remits of staff who work in payroll and pensions to focus on the wider reward market.

But one of the downsides of Hodson’s decision is the lack of support with rolling out new projects, such as the university’s benefits portal in 2011.

“What we have missed out on, and is a big challenge, is the communication and the hosting [offered by consultants],” he says.

“We had to come up with our own portal and our own branding, which was a significant challenge.”

The international spread of many of the university’s employees was also a challenge. 

Rosie Damarell, reward and benefits administrator at the university, says: “Communication is certainly a big challenge [because] we have employees overseas and staff on campus one day a week, so the portal is vital to executing communications.”

The portal, and all employee benefits offered through it, is also vital in helping to support the organisation’s corporate objective of creating a unique and quality experience for students while studying at the university, to support its talent management policy.

Students given access to staff benefits

To help achieve this goal, the university is committed to offering students access to some of its benefits, such as financial education. 

Hodson has spent the last 12 months rolling out a financial education strategy for employees with the help with its provider, Wealth at Work. Workshops relate to early, middle and late career stages and cover topics including financial career and retirement planning. 

The university also offers students access to its bike-for-work scheme, which is provided by Halfords.

Hodson says: “We have tried to connect wherever possible the benefits for our employees to our organisational objectives to help aid the student experience.”

In the future, this joint staff and student experience will be more heavily weighted towards community engagement, in line with the university’s quest to be seen as a corporate-social-responsibility-minded employer. Benefits to support this quest already include two days’ paid holiday per year for each employee to use for volunteering, known internally as ‘give-back days’.

“When we came up with what we wanted the reward strategy to achieve, there was a link between collective performance and reward,” says Hodson.

“It was [about] linking [reward] with the organisation’s values, which is why we give the ‘give-back days’ and [run a] green travel agenda [including] student cycle hire.

 “It is the type of employer we want to be seen as, and we are well on our way to achieving [this] aim.”  

The University of Lincoln at a glance

Humberside Polytechnic was transformed into a university in 1992 and become the University of Lincoln in 2001. It has centralised headquarters in the heart of Lincoln, where it has become one of the largest employers, and a number of campuses in Holbeach and overseas as the university expands.

The organisation’s staff range from students and academics, who span the globe, to employees who work as caterers and student liaison officers.

It has a workforce gender split of 50% men and 50% female, with an average length of service of six years.

Business objectives affecting benefits

  • Improving the employment prospects of departing students
  • Increasing income generation through its relationships with benefits providers
  • Implementing benefits to support its green agenda

Career history


Ian Hodson has been reward and benefits manager at the University of Lincoln for seven years. He has a mix of private and public sector experience and a background in accountancy and payroll management, which led him to a career in reward. He has worked for Moy Park, Mars, Prudential and Lincolnshire County Council. “I am most proud of creating a package with something for everybody. When I joined, the university was a blank canvas and there was no reward agenda,” Hodson says.

The benefits


Three schemes in place including a Teachers Pension, a Local Government Pension Scheme and the Universities Superannuation Scheme. A number of additional voluntary contribution (AVC) schemes are available.

Employer contribution levels range from 14% to 28% across all schemes. 

Healthcare and wellbeing

Private medical insurance, employer-funded for executive level and heavily discounted for all staff
Health cash plan
Health screening
Dental care
Financial education workshops
Subsidised sports-centre access
Employee counselling
Employee assistance programme
Wellpoint assessment station

Group risk

Critical illness insurance


Bikes for work

Work-life balance or family-friendly policies

Extended parental and carer policies
Childcare voucher scheme
Discounted nursery sessions
Support networks and an assistance programme available


Between 22 and 35 days per year plus six additional days for long service

Voluntary benefits

Online discount scheme 


All-staff merit awards
Staff suggestion scheme
Corporate achievement site
Encouragement awards
All-staff award and executive bonus scheme


Subsidised canteen
Subsidised parking
Discounts for local facilities or onsite facilities
Interest-free loans
Discounts on advisory services
Relocation assistance programme
Times Higher subscriptions
Payroll giving
Volunteering days
Staff development programmes