In the first of our interview series we caught up with Lucy Mason, HR Performance Specialist at Highways England, to get her insights into the Employee Benefits industry. Here’s how the interview went:
Question 1. How have businesses and employees changed since you started working?
The world of work has changed significantly since I started my career – from a time when IT was limited and mobile phones were definitely not mobile! I am sure none of us could imagine our working day without access to a range of technology – laptops, tablets, mobile phones and social media have all become the norm. This progress has changed the world of work considerably by enabling many of us to work in a more agile way, and in turn, improving the balance between work and home life. It also gives us the opportunity to connect and engage all our employees more easily.
Not surprisingly the advances in technology have also impacted the speed at which we all expect to be contacted or communicated with. This gives businesses another challenge to keep one step ahead, so having IT infrastructure including intuitive employee platforms is a must to support that need for fast, easy to access information which is available 24/7.
It also feels like the expectations of employees have changed over time, with many recognising that the employment market is more competitive and using this to negotiate the best deals from prospective employers.
Question 2. Why do you feel R&R / Employee Benefits are so critical to the success of your role?
As an organisation we are responsible for operating, maintaining and improving England’s motorways and major A roads, and are responsible for delivering significant investment in the road network. To help us achieve this we need to attract and retain the right people and having a good package of benefits is a key element of this.
Having a platform which allows everyone across the organisation to recognise any of their colleagues in a transparent and visible way is also important in helping us to connect our dispersed workforce. It has also helped us to encourage cross-business working and collaboration – this now accounts for approximately 10% of all recognition given.
Question 3. What has been the biggest challenge you have faced in your career?
I could list several challenges not least being a working mum with five children and juggling that with the demands of work. If I look back I am not sure how I did manage everything, but I think at the time you just get on with it – it did however teach me the importance of planning. Fortunately, my children are all grown up now, so I think that has got easier!
The most significant challenge that I have faced has been a recent one and relates to the implementation of Extra Mile and High5. The main challenge was time. We only had three months to deliver two integrated platforms for benefits and recognition. This put pressure on everyone involved. In addition to this project, I was also working to embed a system-based approach to our performance management process at the same time.
For Extra Mile and High5, Xexec worked closely with myself and other key stakeholders to deal with our areas of concern particularly around making the IT work and maintaining data security. Having an open and honest relationship from the outset allowed us to work together to find solutions which met everyone’s needs. The experience not only showed the value of planning but also the importance of building a partnership with your suppliers. The successful implementation of the platform(s) resulted from a fantastic team effort.
Question 4. What has been your proudest success in your career to date?
My proudest moment was successfully implementing our employee recognition scheme, High5, back in October 2017. This moved our recognition from an off-line process which lacked transparency to a social recognition platform where anyone across the business can recognise a colleague/colleagues and everyone can see the recognition that’s been given. All recognition has to be linked to at least one of our values, and we have been able to showcase some fantastic examples of individual and team achievements which help to really bring our values to life.
Introducing the High5 platform also meant a change of focus from financial awards to recognising the power of giving recognition and saying thank you – financial awards have become a secondary consideration.
The way in which colleagues across the business embraced this change was phenomenal – we now get more recognitions each month than we used to across the whole year!
Question 5. How do you see R&R / Employee Benefits evolving over the next few years?
Anyone involved with benefits will be aware of the multi-generational workforce that organisations often have now, with more early talent (apprenticeships etc) and others choosing to work beyond what was traditional pension age. This brings a real test in the benefits space as finding benefits which meet the needs of the majority becomes a challenge, particularly where there may be limited budget and resources to consider as well. It’s an area that I am looking at for our organisation and getting feedback from teams across the business will be key to helping inform the future of our benefits package.
For recognition, there is a clear move away from everything being about a financial reward so I can see there being some real innovation in relation to the types of recognition that can be used to incentivise and engage employees. Using social recognition has had a huge impact on the way in which we recognise and thank colleagues in Highways England – it’s a really powerful tool if used in the right way.
I would also say that expectations continue to increase so it’s important that benefits and recognition keep pace with new technology over the next few years. However, with developments in technology, we are also likely to see more of a challenge in the cyber security space. We therefore need to have this at the forefront of changes.
Question 6. What is the one bit of advice you would give anyone looking to successfully implement a new Employee Benefit or Reward and Recognition platform?
For me it’s all about preparation but you also need to have a clear understanding of what you want to achieve. Think about your organisation’s needs, vision and aims. Part of that preparation is giving yourself plenty of lead in time – even the best planning won’t stop there being small teething problems.
It’s also worth remembering that the journey doesn’t end – keep looking for improvements and pushing the boundaries you will be surprised what can be achieved!
Question 7. If you were not in your role – what would be your ideal job and why?
I love my job, most of the time, so this has been the most difficult question to answer. It would have to be something where I felt that I was making a difference to people and using my skills so maybe a wedding planner? I have been complimented on my ability to manage projects, am used to working under pressure, have plenty of experience in finding creative solutions to problems and the best feeling is when you have made your customers happy!
Find out how Highways England improved workplace engagement with Xexec’s Employee Discount Scheme and Recognition platform in our case study.