Confessions of a benefits manager: Candid tries to educate the talent team


We have a bit of a problem with the talent team. A misnomer if ever there was one. It might be different in other organisations but our recruiters are not a very talented bunch. I’m pretty sure that the criteria for hiring them is a dubious certificate in media studies and a bad attitude.

There have been several scary stories coming out of our onboarding survey, which show something is amiss. We hear candidates have been interviewed for a job they did not apply for, they’ve been sent the wrong job description, and quoted the wrong bonus in the interview.

Candidates say that their questions on the benefits were not answered sufficiently, to the point that one candidate said they were pleasantly surprised to discover there was a company pension scheme once they joined.

We cannot go on like this; in the so-called war for talent we need to use all the arsenal in our package to attract employees.

The truth is we do not pay that well for the industry, but our benefits, though I say so myself, are excellent. There is not any excuse for our internal recruiter’s lack of knowledge; everything is documented and available on a shared HR site.

Reward education programme

Big Bad Boss wants me to put together a reward education programme to back this up. I am happy enough. This is the kind of project I can get quite enthusiastic about. Beats benefits survey participation anyway. I have a think about what needs to be included.

First up is the car policy. Geez, the number of dumb questions we get about cars. We have a clear cut-off for status cars and a mileage requirement for job-need cars, but there is always some candidate who would not qualify for either, yet they have car benefits with their current employer.

Talent keeps telling us the car policy is wrong. Well, it is not wrong; it is different. Market data for cars is very variable, particularly in the UK where eligibility at some levels is roughly 50/50, meaning 50% of employers offer it and 50% do not. So, we must draw the line somewhere. I hope that, if I cover a couple of slides on how we decide the policy levels, it might get them off our backs.

However, before I get into cars, I need to explain the job architecture and how certain benefits are across the board and others vary by grade. Luckily, it is not down to the talent team to decide on the grade, or everyone would be executives. But it is down to them to communicate what someone gets at a certain grade.

It is not difficult; you look up the grade and read across on a table. I mean even my colleague Lazy Susan could manage that. Well, probably.

Still, the talent team seems to get it wrong often enough. I cannot even think of a way of spelling this out any further. I display a chart with the car allowances by grade and I show with a red circle and a big red arrow pointing to the correct amount for an example job.

International mobility

Although it is not strictly benefits, I also want to do a bit on international mobility. We are a global firm and the talent team often operates across multiple countries, particularly at the executive level.

This is where we get the same kind of stupid comments about the pay ranges being wrong. A recruiter will convert a salary from, say, dollars to a given local currency and expect the local pay ranges to be similar.

They are not similar for a good reason, several reasons in fact: cost of living, expectation of standard of living, social taxes, and local benefits. Still, it is complicated, and I do not expect someone recently graduated in media studies to get it. I show a chart of country differences and see if that gets the message across.

I think about trying to articulate the tax benefits of salary sacrifice on flexible benefits. I can just imagine the glazed look if I was to cover that.

No, perhaps it is enough to list the benefits that can be selected for in that way, in the countries where it applies. What is super annoying is that we have a pretty good candidate benefits brochure for each country.

It is meant to be sent during their interview process; I can see from the survey results that the information is not getting out there. As part of the training, I rearticulate the process for communicating benefits to candidates.

Certain things are meant to be covered in the advert, such as bonus percentages and broad categories of benefits offered in that country. Further details on benefits should be shared in the first interview, and then the nitty gritty of enrolment is communicated in a new starter’s first week.

Or it should be. I have also found that some people are getting their link to enrol in benefits without the proper back-up. Still, that bit is not down to talent acquisition, it is down to local HR. Perhaps I need to hold training for them too.

I run several meetings to cover different time zones. Only a handful of requested participants are on the calls. I can tell by the lack of questions logged in the chat that the few who there did not pay too much attention.

I try to engage them by asking for the problems they have on hiring. I am met with silence. Sigh. Still, next time someone tells me the car policy is wrong, I can just send them the deck and recording of the training.

Next time… Candid reviews voluntary benefits.