Confessions of a benefits manager: Candid rebrokes employee discounts


This year, like everyone, we are faced with a big challenge. We have made quite a lot of redundancies, and the people who are left are having to do more work for less money, we are not giving any pay rises, and we cannot add any new benefits. So, how do we keep employees happy?

Big Bad Boss thinks we can just throw a few piddly discounts around. I do not agree. Apart from the existing company programme, most people are already getting discounts from all sides, recently some even subsidised by the government. My own bank is constantly pestering me about its cashback rewards on my spending. My regular stores offer me loyalty programme discounts and special apps, and my supermarket sends me little cards for a few pence off my regular purchases. Is it just me, or are they all too insignificant to be worth the bother of redeeming? I just do not see how an updated employee discount scheme could offer much more than we have already. A well-known money saving site says the same: if you are buying a costly gadget, chances are you can get it cheaper just by shopping around, than by using a discount site.

I also lack motivation to change because I only looked at our perks less than a year ago, and at that time we launched an upgrade on the existing Smarmy Consulting platform. One thing I find really difficult about working in reward is you end up doing the same thing over and over until you want to slam your head against the desk with the tedium. It is not so bad when you can take the experience to a new organisation gaining kudos for the repeat performance; doing the same thing over and over in the same organisation is thankless. You see, if even if the new version is an improvement on what I did last time, that just says I did not do a good enough job in the first place. Doing stuff again is so bad for my self-esteem, because surprising as it may seem, I do like to feel like I am doing a good job.

Conducting a beauty parade

Still, when Big Bad Boss has an idea in his head, he will hang on terrier-like and just will not let it go. It looks like I’m going to have to do a beauty parade of employee discount providers yet again. Yawn.  At least there are a few more players in the market now, so I decide to create a longer list of contenders. And, if nothing else, I look busy while they are deciding who to add to the next staff cull.

This time, we get all the providers to present online. I ask Smarmy Consulting if it has anything new to show, but it does not. I ask it to present anyway, because we need a benchmark; I can be sure Big Bad Boss will have forgotten all the details anyway. He casually suggests I add another name to the list. A bit too casually, I think.

First up is our existing provider, Smarmy Consulting. I would quite like it to come across well, because changing providers inevitably creates additional workload for me. Sadly, the online presentation is awful. I do not want to sound ageist, but the guy presenting is more boomer than zoomer; he does not know how to put his audio up, nor how to switch between video and slides. I think we only heard half the presentation and that bit wasn’t very impressive.

Next up is Discountbox. I like the look of the platform, but the presenter tris a bit too hard. First of all, they spend a lot of time trying to convince us that offering employee discounts is a good idea, and presents all kinds of irrelevant stats like ‘70% of employees would choose one employer over another based on their benefits package’. Well. Maybe. But only if is a super-generous pension contribution or an exceptional holiday entitlement. I hardly think people are going to choose us based on a few percent off at their local fast food restaurant.

Then, rather than telling us about the discounts we have asked about, they spend seemingly hours talking about their wellbeing platform and their engagement surveys. Well, we already have those, and we did not ask about them, and while it is always nice to have everything in one place when it saves time or makes things easier, I cannot see that being the case.

A slick presentation

After a couple more, rather indifferent, presentations from other providers, the firm that Big Bad Boss suggested, Door to Reward, takes the stage online. To my mind, its platform offers little more than we have already, but its presentation is slick and to the point. Big Bad Boss is clearly smitten.

I sigh to myself, knowing full well what it will take to get it up and running; I will have to work with IT to get access for employees and HR, and I will need to put together a communication plan to tell everyone about it, answer questions, and on and on. Looking on the bright side, maybe employees will be taken in by this new wrapper on a regifted present. Perhaps because it is a new provider with a new front end, it will actually appear like they are getting something new. I hope so, because that would make it worth all the extra work.

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Big Bad Boss copies me in when he writes to tell Door to Reward the good news. My instincts are still telling me there is something fishy about all this. Sure enough, its account manager writes back to say they have another golf event next month if Big Bad Boss would like to join once more. Just as I thought, the deal was already done on the links.

Next time… Candid has problems with a colleague.