EXCLUSIVE: Brunel University details cost-effective benefits

EXCLUSIVE: Brunel University details cost-effective benefits

Employee Benefits Insights 2021: Hazel Robinson, associate director, human resources, HR reward and wellbeing at Brunel University, London, discussed ‘How to make benefits rewarding and engaging without costing the earth’ at the virtual event yesterday (17 March).

Robinson acknowledged that the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic had caused many people to become disengaged and insisted it was “essential” for employers to adapt.

The HR leader cited a Reward Gateway survey of 1,510 employees which found that more than half were looking to move jobs. The study also showed that 30% of workers felt a lack of recognition and appreciation, 26% believed support was missing and 23% felt disconnected from their company.

Robsinson said: “As you can see from these figures, many employees are disengaged at the moment and looking for work elsewhere. The impact on engagement is critical, and I would encourage this as the driver to pull up our socks, dusting off our hero cape and getting ready for the new future.”

Existing reward and benefits packages could be utilised and adapted, she explained, referencing Brunel’s wellbeing champions scheme as an example that has extended its reach during the pandemic. The initiative was implemented two years ago as part of the unversity’s mental health and wellbeing strategy and has more than 20 wellbeing champions, but only costs the time to network and support colleagues in delivering messages.

Brunel’s plans for a menopause support strategy, which was due to launch as a chat café on campus and encourage women to meet and spend time together, had to be put on hold but has since migrated online.

“We carried on with our network meetings on [Microsoft] Teams so people could still grab a coffee and come and have a chat,” Robinson said. “What we found was that more people were able to attend as they didn’t need to get to the café to engage. They didn’t need to move.

“We have now broadened these virtual cafes with a plan to have two a month on various wellbeing topics [such as mental health, financial wellbeing and anxiety management] supported and promoted by our wellbeing champions.”

Robsinson explained the four themes of employee engagement, recognition, support and wellbeing and being prepared for the future had not shifted over the past year and encouraged employers to consider how they applied to the new world.

“You can harness this to build engagement,” she said. “Offering an avenue to enable peer to peer recognition is simple, it can be done by email even, but sharing it is invaluable.

“Employees love to be recognised and appreciated especially by their colleagues and people will repeat behaviour that has been positively recognised. Also, it can have a huge positive influence on other colleagues who will strive to demonstrate the same behaviour.

“Use free forums, virtual all staff briefings, team online meetings to spread the word of what good activities are taking place – both how the company is performing and those within it.”

Robinson also encouraged employers to “let go of what doesn’t work anymore”, become creative, communicate and not be afraid of copying implementation strategies.

One delegate pointed out that not everyone is keen on change, which Robinson acknowledged.

”Absolutely. Change does create discomfort, however I would suggest adaption is more iterative, a gradual shift – and as long as you take people with you, and really outline the benefits of the shifts and how these improvements help people, they will come along with you.”

The full agenda for the week-long Employee Benefits Insights Series can be found here. All sessions will be made available on-demand once the series has finished for those who cannot attend the real-time slots.

Participants can register right up until the event starts and can attend as many sessions as they desire.