Inspired Villages develops benefits programme in line with organisational values


Inspired Villages, which develops and operates luxury retirement villages, recently launched a reward and recognition programme for its 210 employees nationwide, to boost engagement and align staff to brand new organisational values.

The programme, provided by Reward Gateway, went live on 23 April 2019 and combines both top-down and peer-to-peer recognition, as well as monetary and non-financial rewards; this consists of e-cards sent by employees to one another, known as Shout Outs, as well as monetary rewards allocated by managers, called The Shine Awards.

The Shine Awards enable line managers, village managers and directors to instantly recognise staff for exceptional work by awarding between £10 and £150 for the individual to spend via the benefits platform, Inspired World, which also includes retail discounts. Leaders receive a quarterly budget for Shine Awards to allocate as they see fit.

Shout Outs, meanwhile, are displayed on an online recognition wall on Inspired World, where colleagues can like and comment on the posts.

Lawrence Cramer, HR director at Inspired Villages, says: “It’s so, so powerful when people get that instant recognition from their own peer group, and we want that to work upwards, sideways and downwards, in every direction.”

To emphasise this, Cramer notes that the organisation’s board, including its chief executive officer Jamie Bunce, will be actively allocating both Shine Awards and Shout Outs every month. “We will role model those behaviours that we expect others to follow,” he explains.

Rewarding values

The launch of the reward and recognition programme provides a springboard to promote Inspired Villages’ new organisational values, introduced in May 2019. For example, the e-cards have been specifically designed to reflect each value.

Inspired Villages’ newly established brand centres around courage, straightforward and respectful talking, being stronger together, delivering on promises, being inspired about work and making a difference to others. “We [want] these to be our DNA,” Cramer says. “We want them to be unique to us; that’s what we stand for, that’s what we stand by.”

For Cramer, it is important that the new values are firmly interwoven with Shout Outs and Shine Awards, in order to drive both high performance and engagement: “If people feel connected to an organisation then employee engagement levels remain high. People will always go that extra mile without ever being asked.”

Employee input

Feedback was crucial when launching the new values; Cramer conducted workshops with around 60 employees over two days in April 2019, sharing the leadership team’s vision and gauging whether staff agreed.

“We’re not arrogant enough to think that we’ve got it right. We want our people to tell us [it is] right. If it is, then they will become our values that people will live by every day and [staff] will be rewarded and recognised against those values. We’ll recruit against [the values], we’ll promote against them and we’ll reward against them,” Cramer emphasises.

More regular feedback is obtained via a ‘Have Your Say’ section on Inspired World that employees can access at any time. Furthermore, the business plans to complete The Sunday Times Top 100 Best Companies to Work For survey in October this year; typically, organisations need 250 employees to participate, but Inspired Villages has negotiated a test run for 2019, with the aim of formally entering in 2020 once its headcount has grown.


The Inspired World platform has been a mainstay for all benefits and reward activity since it was implemented in August 2018; this is demonstrated by a 91% engagement level with the site, as at April 2019.

As well as housing the online shopping portal, where employees have spent £80,000 since the launch, Inspired World contains information on benefits, details about the pension scheme and HR policies, a link to the employee assistance programme (EAP) and outlines on how employees can utilise their volunteering leave, which is provided in addition to annual leave.

Employees are also able to access a learning portal via Inspired World; this was implemented in November 2018 and is operated by Flow. The portal provides e-learning and facilitates face-to-face coaching. In quarter one of 2019, there were 954 training days undertaken by Inspired Villages staff.

Cramer says: “Everything’s in one place so [employees] don’t have to go searching in different folders and different files.”


Ensuring that staff are aware of the expanding benefits offering is also important; Cramer and his team began work on the organisation’s internal communications in April 2019.

The primary method consists of emails to employees’ work and personal addresses; these often include visual screenshots of Inspired World and links to videos by the chief executive officer. The HR team also plans to conduct a weekly webinar as part of the onboarding process, ensuring that all new starters know about Inspired World and the available benefits.

When communicating the reward and recognition programme, teaser emails and banners were sent prior to the launch and a video from the chief executive officer encouraged staff to log on and nominate once the scheme was live.

Differentiated by wellbeing

Inspired World also directs staff to the organisation’s wellbeing centre, which provides information on physical, mental and financial wellness, as well as nutrition. This was introduced in September 2018.

“We saw wellbeing as a way of being different in the market, genuinely showing to people that we care about [them] as [individuals],” Cramer says. “If people feel more valued at work, more cared for at work and invested in, then they’re going to take less time out.”

After implementing the wellbeing centre, Inspired Villages partnered with Hero in October 2018 to conduct a survey across 156 employees to collect base line data on staff health and wellbeing. As a result, the organisation is running a series of relevant training programmes in May and June this year.

This includes a training programme for 20 managers, held on 8 May 2019, to ensure understanding of wellbeing, what to look out for and how to manage employees while still safeguarding their wellness. The organisation also hosted a session for 20 staff members on 2 May 2019, to train them as internal wellbeing champions, while a further programme will take place on 6 and 7 June 2019 to train 10 employees on mental health first aid at work.

Inspired Villages also plans to introduce health checks at each of its locations, as well as at its head office, for up to 40 individuals, to monitor measures such as blood pressure.

From employee to consumer

The organisation will also be launching Hero’s Navigator platform in the summer 2019, encouraging employees using wearable devices to track their activity around sleep, nutrition, health and wellbeing.

Cramer hopes to build on this with events such as step challenges, as well as using the programme to influence village residents to maintain their own healthy lifestyles: “If we look after our people with the wellbeing programmes that we’re putting in place, they will naturally transfer that to looking after the residents, and the residents will engage with that as well.”

An example of this targeted link between employee and resident health is demonstrated in a 1,000 mile cycling challenge event the organisation held for mental health charity Mind in May 2019. A dozen employees participated in a week-long, 500-mile bike ride between all of Inspired Villages’ sites; at the same time, static bikes were placed in each village so that residents, with an average age of 76, could cycle their own 500 miles.

Foundations for growth

Evidently, the last year has been a busy one in terms of benefits implementation at Inspired Villages, with plenty still on the agenda, including a new HR and payroll system launching in June 2019.

According to Cramer, building a solid HR and benefits structure is an important step in supporting the organisation’s growth plan for the next four years.

Inspired Villages aims to have 50 UK-based retirement villages in its portfolio by 2023, compared to the seven it operates currently; this will align with an expansion in employee numbers. As at April 2019, the business employs 210 staff. This will increase to 300 employees by the end of 2019, 700 by 2021 and 1,200 by 2023.

Building for the future

Inspired Villages as a business is still in its infancy, having been founded only two and a half years ago. Its ambitious growth plans are structured around finding and retaining diverse talent, such as parents returning to the workforce and utilising the organisation’s flexible approach, or former Armed Forces staff transitioning into a new career and taking advantage of Inspired Villages’ mentoring scheme, where residents share their business acumen.

“For us, it’s about treating people as adults,” Cramer concludes. “There’s no point in recruiting highly intelligent and skilled people and then dictating what they do and how they do it. We trust people that join us that they’ve got the right skill set and the right values and behaviours that we subscribe to.

“For someone to come and join us, it’s not just about the job; it’s about what they get from it and what we give to them as well.”

At a glance

Inspired Villages develops, builds and operates retirement homes for individuals aged 65 and over, providing communities that encourage retirees to live happy and healthy lives. Currently, the business employs 210 staff and runs villages in Cheshire, Devon, Hampshire, Kent and West Sussex, plus two sites in Warwickshire.

Typical job roles at Inspired Villages include land and development functions, such as quantity surveyors, as well as operational posts such as village manager and the housekeeping division. The organisation also has central teams for areas such as sales, marketing, finance, IT and HR.

The gender split of Inspired Villages’ staff is 60% female to 40% male and the average age is between 35 and 40. The business has been operating for two and a half years, so has an estimated average tenure of 18 months and a turnover rate of 1%.

Business objectives

  • To sell all houses, known internally as units, within each retirement village.
  • To run all retirement villages efficiently and effectively, providing excellent customer service.
  • To continually challenge business norms.
  • To complete projects, such as village development and recruitment, on time.

Lawrence-CramerCareer history

Lawrence Cramer, HR director, joined Inspired Villages in March 2018.

Over the course of his career, Cramer has covered a broad spectrum of HR specialities at numerous organisations, working in roles such as HR director, non-executive director, head of learning and development and head of resourcing.

His proudest career achievement refers to a year-long culture change project he led at an organisation with around 3,000 employees; this included developing and implementing a leadership programme for 250 senior managers to help drive changes in behaviour and leadership style. This led to the introduction of a coaching programme for 2,500 customer service staff.

“It was [a] very institutionalised organisation; we wanted to take it from one paradigm to the next,” he explains. “At the end of the programme, we achieved all of the objectives that we said we would achieve.”

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