Sam Kirk: What impact do employee benefits have on engagement at TalkTalk?

sam kirk

I will be honest, I often wrestle with the term ‘employee engagement‘ and wonder whether it has just become a buzz phrase we use in HR in order to encourage our stakeholders to focus on what we should be doing anyway.

As HR practitioners, we are all familiar with the concept of employee engagement being the common measure, which surfaces levels of motivation, satisfaction, organisational commitment and work effort. We also know that greater engagement has a positive knock-on effect on business performance. For me, though, everything that we do as practitioners to encourage and support our management teams to move the dial on engagement is actually as simple as following through on the expectations that an employee has when they choose us as an employer in the first place.

Our people are at the heart of what TalkTalk does and from our 2016 Great Place to Work survey, we know that 80% of our people feel they can be themselves at work, which we believe gives us competitive advantage. In the same year, TalkTalk also scored 90% against the survey’s diversity metrics around fair treatment of our people, but this does not mean that we can afford to be complacent. In order to attract the best talent to work for us, we need to continually evolve and do our best for our people.

For us, engagement is so much more than a call to action once a year to tell us how great we are. It is about continuously striving to deliver the best to our people, whether that is in terms of benefits, employee wellbeing or learning and development.

Our mission statement as a business, is to deliver affordable, reliable, simple and fair services for everyone and this flows through into our reward strategy.

Simple and fair: For me, it is really important that we get the basics right, which means from a reward perspective we have a clear and transparent approach to our terms and benefits. We have five broad bands and everyone in a band has the same entitlement as everyone else.

Affordable: We are never going to be a Google or a Facebook in terms of what we pay for our employees but we offer a wide range of benefits and discounts, which allows them to select the benefits that suit their individual lifestyle. We negotiate rates on benefits that we truly believe will make peoples’ day-to-day lives a bit easier, whether it is offering flexible critical Illness cover, a holiday fund, will writing or discounted rates on our Beer Club; who knew that would be the most talked about new benefit of 2017?

Reliable: We have single sign-on to our benefits provider through our intranet, to make the employee experience really clean and simple, which means that they can access their benefits wherever they are.

To support all of this, we regularly communicate information about our benefits, through blogs on our intranet, the ’12 days of benefits’ in December will become a thing much to my team’s dismay; using video content on our people system and through roadshows and webex sessions.  With our focus on wellbeing this year, we have categorised all of our benefits under one of our four wellbeing pillars; financial, physical, mental or lifestyle.

But how do we know whether all of this makes a difference to what people think about working for us?  We gather feedback from our employees both on our intranet, employee forums and from their ratings of our benefits package on Glassdoor, and through our employee engagement scores.

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At TalkTalk, we measure employee engagement through participation of the Great Place to Work survey and a huge amount of time and resources go into our annual submission. While we are more than happy shout about the great things that we do, I think that it is really important to remember that the things that make us proud to work here are the things that we take for granted and are part of our DNA. It is not about just focusing on engaging our employees once a year to tick a box or hit a target, it is about doing what we say we will do and doing it well.

Sam Kirk is reward director at TalkTalk