Aster Group ensures its benefits align with employees’ needs

Housing association Aster Group employs more than 1,900 people across a range of roles including development, planning, marketing, customer liaison and sales. The organisation uses focus groups, anonymous feedback and regular pulse surveys to ensure that its benefits scheme applies to everyone.

Lyndsay Nickerson, transformation director, people and communications, says: “While surveys are a great way of reaching lots of people, we know they don’t reach everyone easily and they only give us one lens to look through. We’ve adapted our survey approach to focus on specific milestones, such as when our colleagues start a new role or move teams.

“To support us in listening to colleagues and understanding the impact of decisions on them across all parts of the business, we use a restorative approach,” she adds. “Using restorative principles, such as fair process and personal accountability, we’ve made good progress in setting clear expectations and driving more transparency in the way we share and act on feedback.”

The organisation’s benefits offering is flexible and defined by three key themes: health, wealth and lifestyle. It provides access to a healthcare cash plan, an employee assistance programme and life insurance for up to three people. Additional voluntary benefits include private medical insurance, payroll giving, bikes-for-work, critical illness cover, a cash plan upgrade options and the choice of two pension schemes.

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Employees can provide formal feedback at any time during their employment journey through the employer’s intranet, which provides a channel for open communication between the benefits team and the wider organisation.

A recent example of changes made based on employee feedback was the implementation of a menopause support programme. “[Research published by the Fawcett Society in May 2022 found that] one in 10 women leave the workforce because of menopausal symptoms, meaning that a failure to address the issue will result in a drain of experienced talent from the sector, at a time when we need it most,” says Nickerson.