Jane Richards, reward manager at BDO Stoy Hayward, has had a varied career, but reward has sparked her enthusiasm more than any other role
Many benefits professionals have entered the industry through unlikely means, but Jane Richards, reward manager at BDO Stoy Hayward, has had a more varied career than most, with previous roles ranging from teaching art history classes to working in IT, and even running a guest house in the south of France. “Even though it doesn’t look like there is a common thread in my career history, the thread is analysis. In art history and IT, you have to be highly analytical, and the same is true in reward,” she explains.
But Richards cites her greatest achievement as seizing the opportunity to work in a job she loves, in the area of reward. “It’s great. I have always been open to new suggestions and my life has taken me in so many directions. I never expected this to happen, but I have no intention of leaving reward. I love it and am really interested in it,” she says.
Since Richards entered HR in 2000, she has seen major developments in the field. “Reward is now much more of a specialism. It is now normal to have a reward manager with a deep general knowledge [alongside] specialists, for example in pensions.”
An increasing challenge for reward professionals is justifying the cost of benefits and ensuring a positive return on their investment, says Richards. “One of the challenges is that companies already invest in people so much in terms of pay and benefits. The costs are so proportionately high that it is difficult to persuade the business that we actually need a little bit of our own budget to manage benefits and keep developing them.
“Reward is one of the few areas of HR that actually has control over cost and we have the ability to make an impact on cost. We have to try to find resources and budgets for ourselves, so when we introduce a new programme, it has to pay for itself and that forces us to be innovative and creative.”
She views her career as a continuous learning curve and places importance on keeping up to speed with such a fast-paced industry. “I am curious and enthusiastic. I like to know what’s going on and what other people are doing so I can spark ideas myself.”
To this end, Richards is a member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), and values the opportunity to attend as many industry events as possible in order to network with like-minded individuals and come up with new ideas. “I attend lots of talks and seminars. I network and listen to what experts are saying. The serious side is that reward professionals have got to be outward-looking. I love HR theory, but there is no substitute for doing,” she says.
Richards was able to put her networking and research skills into practice last year, when she was involved in making changes to BDO Stoy Hayward’s pension scheme. Staff who use their flex allowance to make pension contributions and additional voluntary contributions through salary sacrifice now receive an extra 10 percent special contribution funded by the firm’s savings on its national insurance contributions.
BDO Stoy Hayward has a well-established flexible benefits scheme and Richards’ continuing task is to communicate all the benefits to staff and increase take-up. As a result, her typical week involves a lot of communication. “We have plenty of meetings with staff, providers and clients,” she explains.
After a career that has seen many twists and turns, Richards is showing no sign of slowing down. “Reward means you need to touch as many areas as you can. I have always turned my hand to anything that is new. My ambition is to keep doing interesting work that makes a difference and to keep on learning,” she says.
2006 BDO Stoy Hayward, reward manager
2004-2006 Accenture, senior reward specialist
2002-2003 Cable and Wireless, HR reward and policy specialist
2001-2002 Cable and Wireless, sales compensation consultant
2000-2001 Cable and Wireless, sales compensation analyst
1993-1999 Chambre d’hÙte guest house (France), owner/manager
1990-1993 Hampshire County Council, IT consultant
1987-1990 Somerset College of Art, lecturer in history of art and design
- What is your biggest challenge? In the current climate, a challenge is making the most of the benefits we have already got. This forces me to be quite creative with communication. I want to help our staff see the value of their reward package. That is our challenge and it is achievable.
- What is your favourite benefit? It has to be a pension scheme with additional voluntary contributions from staff. I think a pension is under-rated because it has become a hygiene factor, but it is expensive for employers. However, it is a fantastic benefit because it can be tax efficient and save money for the employer and employee.
- What tips would you pass on? Just get involved. Get involved in projects and things that are new. I think reward is cyclical, so you have to be interested in constantly improving things.