Improved communications leads to reward disappointment.

Duncan BrownDuncan Brown: In judging this year’s Employee Benefits Awards there were once again some fantastic examples of highly-creative reward packages. Reward brands involving extensive employee communications are clearly in vogue and illustrate the increasing influence of marketing advisers on reward management.

But just how representative are the leading organisations of UK plc as a whole and once you open up the glitzy wrapper, just how rewarding on the inside is the experience of average workers?

Some of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s recent research suggests there is a gap on both counts, with employment experiences often appearing to be closer to divorce than the rewarding relationships depicted in benefits brochures. Just 37% of UK employees feel they get the opportunity to air their views and opinions; just 35% are satisfied with their pay and over a quarter are dissatisfied in their job, with 44% feeling under excessive pressure at work; and only a third of employees report feeling regularly engaged in their work.

The improvement in the design and communications of pay and benefits packages seems to be outstripping the ability of many employers to actually deliver the employment brand promise.

But my faith in the true power of pay and benefits to reinforce business performance through employee engagement was restored when I heard Tim Fevyer, senior manager compensation and benefits at Lloyds TSB and a former award winner, outlining its rewards strategy. Yes, it has its jelly-bean branded flexible benefits package, but, as Fevyer said, this was one of the means, not the end of the reward work. It has evolved a total rewards approach involving: an initial focus on better pay management before addressing all aspects of reward; high investment in involving and training line managers in better reward management; a progressive move from uniform, centralised communication to employee involvement and tailoring the marketing of rewards to suit the needs of five employee groups.

And the results are evident in the relationships between staff engagement, customer satisfaction and financial performance.

Duncan Brown is a director in the HRS consulting practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers and former assistant director general at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development