CIPD reward graduates

Jamin Robertson speaks to specialists who have earned the CIPD’s Advanced Certificate in Reward Management

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A select group of nine reward professionals has just completed the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development’s (CIPD) new Advanced Certificate in Reward Management.

The qualification forms part of the postgraduate CIPD Professional Development Scheme, and represents an extension of the existing short-course reward management modules. Candidates have up to two years to complete the in-depth programme.

Robert Bennison, business manager of CIPD training, hopes the qualification will come to be seen as a rite of passage for reward managers. About 68 candidates are enrolled on the current course.

"This is about raising the profile of reward management and putting it centre stage. We’ve always provided reward management modules, but there was a groundswell of opinion we should be doing more, and this was our response. The bottom line was to address the perceived shortage of future skills and ability [of] reward [professionals]."

The CIPD course is not the only reward qualification available. The Pensions Management Institute offers the Diploma in International Employee Benefits, while the Institute of Payroll and Pensions Management (IPPM) also offers a range of options to rewards professionals who are looking for widely-recognised training courses.

Such qualifications have been developed in response to market needs. Chui Ma, head of HR and internal communication at the Competition Commission, who has just completed the CIPD course, says: "It was very useful, very practical and now it is very in-depth. I think this is in line with market demand for reward specialists."

The courses are also an invaluable opportunity to meet and network with other benefits practitioners, particularly when it comes to griping about problem areas. Michelle Edgell, senior consultant (HR) at Axa Technology Services UK, explains that she has found equal pay reviews to be a particular challenge, so it was reassuring to know that others had had similar experiences. "The end result is a fabulous aim, but the practicalities for achieving it are quite difficult. People get quite agitated about their pay and it’s nice to know that everyone else has these problems."

Shared experiences can also help to shape everyday roles. Emma Johnson, reward consultant at Craegmoor Healthcare, for example, found that the CIPD qualification helped her to build a new reward framework. She faced the challenge of consolidating a piecemeal reward function following a series of acquisitions.

She has set about improving the package, and has since added childcare vouchers. "I enjoy researching new projects. I was able to see [the scheme through] from research to design, and implementation and the marketing. That was a most challenging and enjoyable part of the job."

Five of the CIPD graduates set out their experiences here in more detail and give an insight into what the future holds for them.

Julie Deadman

Head of HR Contour Housing Group

Not-for-profit social housing organisation Contour Housing Group is intending to use flexible benefits to assist the merger of its Manchester and Salford offices. Julie Deadman, head of HR, says: "We’re starting that process in April. It won’t be a full roll-out straightaway, we’re going to start off with total reward statements and drip feed benefits in during the year, with the aim of moving to full flex over the next 18-24 months."

With 12 years’ experience, Deadman is an HR generalist although she has sole charge over the reward function. The course allowed her to network with other reward professionals. "We’re a not-for-profit [organisation], so it was nice to see how it is done in the private sector," she says.

Contour Housing employs 320 staff and the reward team must work hard to retain talent.

A defined benefit pension is the ace in its pack. "If you’ve got a final salary scheme it’s just great. I think we need to do more about letting people know how much it’s worth."

I think the challenge is finding something different to offer people, because everyone does healthcare and a gym membership. We [offer] part-time hours, flexitime, compressed working, and job-share arrangements. We have about 65 different jobs [and] people in our call centres want different things from people in housing," she adds.

Michelle Edgell

Senior consultant (HR) Axa Technology Services UK

Axa Technology Services backs parent company Axa with global IT know-how. Edgell manages a team of 350 staff, and is looking to add to its primarily compensation-driven reward offer.

"My boss in compensation and benefits is [based] in the USA. That actually makes it quite hard from a development point of view. This was a chance for me to have a look at some of the more theoretical side of the current thinking in UK reward without burdening my boss in the States. Some of the gurus out there teach on this course. They are the names that you recognise on the front of books."

Back at Axa Technology, she is proposing to introduce a flexible benefits scheme.

The employees are likely to respond best to a suitably upscale platform. "This is an organisation of techies. They don’t want pieces of paper, they want it online. For us to do flexible benefits, it’s got to be whizzy and electronic."

Ten years ago, Edgell gave up a career in accounting to return to study, completing a post-graduate HR qualification. "I wasn’t getting what I wanted out of accountancy. Reward is about numbers and people."

With her financial acumen, Edgell was charged with payroll and pensions management in earlier HR roles, and says her current position is "half reward, half overseeing the HR admin".

Emma Johnson

Reward consultant Craegmoor Healthcare

Like many reward practitioners, the remit for the benefits function is Johnson’s alone, so she enjoyed the opportunity to press the flesh with other reward managers.

"The field of reward is shrouded in mystery really. People in HR don’t seem to necessarily have a grip of what it is or they think it’s particularly complex. The tutors were all people that have expertise in the area of reward and work as consultants or in reward design for private companies so that was useful," she says.

Johnson moved into reward from a generalist HR background. "The position at Craegmoor was originally resourcing and reward officer. Then we had a new HR director and she wanted me to move solely into reward because there was a lot to be done in that area."

Her HR director, Denise Keating, has been a respected mentor. "She’s well known and respected in HR and I’ve learned a lot from her. She’s a shrewd businesswoman."

Earlier in her career, Johnson realised aspects of a more generalist role did not appeal. "I didn’t like the discipline and grievance [work], I was much more interested in policy and initiative development." Moving forward, she has proposed a relaunch of the company’s voluntary benefits scheme, as discounts might enable care staff to stretch their pay further.

Chui Ma

Head of HR and internal communication, Competition Commission

Four years ago, Ma underwent a sea change, moving from the Far East to the UK, and from the private to public sector.

A native of Hong Kong, Ma had previously worked in HR on a contract basis. In one of those roles – for American Standard Inc – she had to help set up 35 Asian subsidiaries in three years.

Ma joined the Competition Commission in September 2003, where she co-ordinates reward for 150 employees.

The CIPD course reinforced her understanding of reward structures in the UK across both the public and private sectors. "It’s totally different. If you work for a private sector, everyone is concerned about profit, best practice and you have the budget to spend. [At the Competition Commission], there’s work-life balance with family-friendly and flexible policies. The private sector may not allow a lot of flexibility in your work, but we can."

Ma adds the private sector in Asia is a climate of rapid change. "It is fast moving. Today they decide, and tomorrow they implement. You didn’t consult so if you received a lot of complaints [you knew] it didn’t work. Here you must communicate, and consult. You must be diplomatic."

At the Competition Commission, Ma has implemented a new pay strategy, with the non-departmental public body moving away from structures aligned to the Department of Trade and Industry.

Paul Martin

HR specialist, reward NFU Mutual

Martin welcomes the introduction of the CIPD reward management qualification, despite having to juggle its demands with major changes to his firm’s reward policy.

"It’s a busy time. At the end of 2004, we announced a major review of how we reward our people, so since then we’ve been looking systematically from one bit of the reward jigsaw to the next," he explains.

He joined accountancy firm Arthur Andersen as a graduate and became interested in reward through his work on share schemes. Martin joined NFU Mutual two years ago, and is busy overhauling reward for 3,500 employees. "We’re kind of mid major project. We’re rolling out a new pay progression model, and throughout the rest of the year we’re reviewing our benefit and bonus arrangements with a view to establishing those [changes] in 2007."

Currently, benefits at NFU Mutual are restricted compared with other financial firms. "As a mutual, we don’t have share schemes, so base salary is the foundation," he says. NFU Mutual also offers flexitime, beyond core hours.

Martin enjoys the variety of the reward role, which he says commands respect from the boardroom. "As an organisation, they have decided they want to change the way they reward people and everything’s up for debate."