A musical background with the Royal Marines and West End shows has given Nik Butcher, senior general manager reward at Ceva Logistics, an unusual harmony with the benefits world
From sailing the seven seas with the Royal Marines to playing in the orchestra for Les Miserables, Nik Butcher, senior general manager reward, UK, Ireland and Nordics at Ceva Logistics, certainly came to reward the long way round.
Butcher joined the Royal Marines at 16, spending nine years with the service as a musician. He was one of only 50 Marines ever to have officially set foot in the Soviet Union before the Berlin Wall fell in 1989.
“It was a fantastic life,” he says. “The big thing I learned was the self-discipline you need in any long-term career. It also gives you self-confidence to deal with people, including those you do not particularly get along with.”
Butcher’s musical talent in playing the flute and saxophone then took him to the orchestra pits of London’s West End musicals as a session musician and he even went on a European tour with Dire Straits.
But then Butcher decided to get a “proper job” in his home county of Dorset. It was there that his journey towards reward began. “Tesco was recruiting for a warehouse operative at a new chilled depot,” he says. “Within a couple of weeks of being there, I was asked to be union representative. I suppose the seeds of what I do now and my attitudes towards reward for staff were sown then.”
Butcher says the transition from music to working with people and numbers was not as tricky as it might seem. “There has always been a connection between people who are good at music and people who are good at maths,” he says. “When you are looking at lines of music, you see patterns, you do not see the notes. It is the same now when we look at data to do with demographics or retention rates you can see patterns emerging from groups of data.”
After spending seven years as a staff representative around pay and regulations while working as a night shift manager at Tesco, Butcher took what he describes as a big jump, taking a secondment to work with Tesco’s employee relations director.
Before long, he was asked to set up a reward team for the distribution department. “I jumped at the opportunity,” he says. “Having started as a warehouse operative, it became easy to identify what makes the staff there tick. If you do not know who your staff are and do not know what makes them happy, you are dead in the water as a reward manager.
“I would suggest anyone getting into this job goes and works in the operation first. The most effective HR people I have seen have been from an industry background, not straight from school to university then straight into HR management.”
At Ceva, Butcher is responsible for pay and benefits across 120 UK sites employing 5,653 staff, plus 120 employees in Ireland and the Nordic region.
He says his biggest achievement in reward was building and launching a defined contribution (DC) pension scheme at Ceva. The contract-based group personal pension plan was launched in May, replacing a trust-based DC scheme. The change resulted in a 30% increase in take-up.
“We got out and educated staff on why a company pension scheme is important,” he says. “It has massively increased the membership and engagement of people planning for their retirement. It lifted our reputation with staff.”
Butcher’s goal now at Ceva is to bring in flexible benefits and total reward within five years. “That is one of the reasons I came here,” he says. “There is a willingness to go ahead and do it. I cannot see how it can fail here and I would not leave until it is done.”
Curriculum vitae: Nik Butcher
2010-present senior general manager reward, UK, Ireland and Nordic, Ceva Logistics
2010 reward consultant, Home Retail Group
2008-2009 benefits manager, British Sugar
2003-2008 rewards manager, Tesco Distribution
1996-2003 night shift manager, Tesco Distribution
1989-1996 professional musician
1981-1989 military musician, Royal Marines
How would you describe yourself?
As an extrovert. I am apparently a bit different from most other people who have been in this position before, but
I do not see that as an issue.
What is your favourite benefit?
Company cars. I am a petrol head anyway and love playing with company car schemes. For me personally, it is essential because I drive 65 miles to work each day and without a company car and fuel card, it would cost me a fortune.
What are your hobbies outside work?
I am a massive rugby fan. I prefer club to international rugby and do not miss a Saints home game in Northampton. It is great fun and it is a great environment to take the kids to watch sport.
Read more about careers in reward and benefits
Hear Nik Butcher speak about increasing employee engagement through a total reward management strategy on 27 September at Employee Benefits Live 2011