Case study: Barbon boosts staff engagement through benefits

Insurance brokerage and services provider Barbon, which has 750 employees, emerged as a successful standalone business after its parent, a property company, collapsed in 2008. At the time of its parent’s demise, no benefits were offered to staff and turnover was high.

Retaining talent became a key objective for the new management team, which introduced a comprehensive package of group personal pension, life assurance, a flexible benefits plan, health cash plan, bikes for work, childcare vouchers and payroll giving. But participation rates remained stubbornly low, with barely a quarter of staff in the pension scheme and the cash plan under-utilised.

In 2010, Barbon initiated a big engagement push to increase participation rates in benefits, which included a‘pension wheel’ desk drop, a concertina leaflet for pensions and a new benefits booklet. The HR team also arranged for representatives from the Financial Services Authority’s free Moneymadeclear service to give presentations to staff at several company locations.

As a result, pension participation increased by 31% in a year, with health cash plan utilisation up 45%. Absence rates have also fallen from between 5% and 6% across various company locations to about 3%. In January, Barbon was accredited with one-to-watch status in the Sunday Times’ 100 Best companies to work for.

Richard Walden, HR director at Barbon (pictured), explains: “We think that everything is about employee engagement. It means better results for the company and, ultimately, better returns for shareholders.

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“It is not just a nice thing to do for people, but is a way of building a better business.”

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