Publicise savings to help workers feed off bargains

Nottingham City Council has used employee focus groups to gather feedback on its voluntary benefits scheme, and has internally publicised it to boost take up

Nottingham City Council launched its Works Perks employee benefits scheme, delivering voluntary and several salary sacrifice benefits to 13,200 employees, in October 2005.

In doing so, we aimed to retain existing employees, while progressing our corporate priorities of sustainability, and health and wellbeing, and become the ’employer of choice’ in Nottingham, recruiting more local people to join our workforce.

We wanted to deliver our best-in-town benefits package free to our diverse workforce at a reasonable cost to the organisation and to make it accessible to all. We selected P&MM as our partner to provide professional assistance and worked hard to get our internal partners on board including procurement, payroll, finance, legal teams, and marketing and communications.

We were inspired to launch with “something spectacular” which would exceed employees’ expectations, offering something for everyone, following the Employee Benefits Conference in October 2004. Promotion of our work-life balance and flexible working options was a must and is considered a perk in itself by many. We were thrilled to win five national awards for our benefits package during 2006, including the Employee Benefits Grand Prix award.

Since launching our voluntary benefits scheme, we have achieved our original aims, but are still moving forward, using communications to increase take up, including publicising savings and ‘happy customer’ stories in our employee magazine and on the intranet. We refreshed our benefits package in January 2007, returning to our employee focus group for feedback. It told us that staff wanted more local offers and an increased emphasis on health, environmental and ethical issues.

A series of roadshows at many locations were used to communicate new benefits, doubling as photo opportunities to help employees transfer to our new Employee Citycard, which serves as a library, leisure and Works Perks membership card.

We filmed the last Works Perks roadshow, which was opened by our chief executive, on to DVD, which all our employees will be encouraged to show to their families. One manager at a recent conference said: “My wife will love this – she loves a bargain”.

The highlight of our efforts to offer our staff the best benefits package while progressing our sustainability agenda, has been the launch of a tax-free Greentravel2work scheme, in August 2007. This allows employees to travel on buses using a discounted annual bus pass or season ticket for commuting, business and leisure travel, paid for through a salary sacrifice arrangement. Greentravel2work is the first public sector scheme in the UK. Staff using Nottingham City Transport can also carry the value of their travel on to their Employee Citycard, another first for Nottingham.

Two years after launching the scheme, we are still celebrating delivery on our corporate priorities. Some 23% of staff have taken up at least one of the benefits including health and leisure activities, and many more are using the local and high street discount options.

The first year following the launch of Works Perks, coincided with a 6% drop in employee turnover. Nottingham city residents now account for 53% of our workforce, an increase of over 20% in the last three years. Some 98% of new starters over the last 12 months, meanwhile, said they valued Works Perks’ benefits and will use them.

One of our employees recently commented: “Works Perks makes you feel valued, and I’m sure it encourages people to stay with the organisation. The discounts are better than those offered by many other employers. I’d have to be attracted by something equal or better to consider another employer now.”

Achieving what we have so far has been an enjoyable journey and one which we are looking forward to continuing.

Helen Humphries is HR consultant at Nottingham City Council

Best practice tips

  • Communicate in varied ways so you reach and engage every employee.
  • Be accountable for benefits delivery – your employees expect quality.
  • Understand your provider’s profitability model – it drives the promotion of your benefits.

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