Hays highlights importance of wellbeing through benefits proposition

Global recruitment firm Hays has taken steps to ensure its benefits proposition is valued by, and appeals to, all employees.

Hays operates across 33 countries around the world. In the UK and Ireland, it has over 100 offices and around 3,500 employees. For Rosemary Lemon, group head of reward, it is key that benefits are properly communicated and effectively presented to employees in order that they can be a win-win for both employer and staff.

Following staff feedback in 2015, Hays revamped its approach to communication by continually promoting and communicating the package, as opposed to carrying out a once-a-year exercise to ensure benefits stay at the forefront of employees’ minds. Its strategy now includes highlighting a different aspect of the package at different times, for example, featuring details of a particular benefit on noticeboards around the offices each month.

“It’s really easy for benefits to be looked on as purely market practice,” says Lemon. “They’re expensive so it’s important that they work for the [organisation]. And to do that, they’ve got to be valued by employees.

“That’s why I think it’s really important to tell stories about benefits, but make them become real to people. That’s where the whole concept of employee wellbeing plays an interesting role.”

A holistic wellbeing approach

Hays uses the concept of wellbeing to demonstrate to employees how benefits can help support them in every aspect of their lives. “I think it’s important because [organisations] want employees who are fit, engaged and, if they feel good about themselves, feel better able to cope with the day-to-day pressures of life.”

Each area of benefits is categorised under a different aspect related to wellbeing, which itself is divided into five blocks. First, there is everything to do with physical and emotional health. “[Employees] get coughs and colds, they get good days and bad days, but this is about more than that; it’s about all the things that fall under the disability act, for example, good mental health and making reasonable adjustments,” says Lemon. “It’s making sure employees are able to support their health in a way that makes them fit and concentrate at work.”

Second, there are the benefits that fall under the banner of money. This does not just include salary and bonuses, but also schemes that help employees become financially confident in order to combat stress caused by money worries. “[Employers] are playing a bigger role, not in giving advice, but in giving people enough information that they can make informed decisions,” says Lemon. “Finances are getting more complicated, with pension regulations for example, and there’s limited information provided by the government or in schools, and I think employees look to employers more and more for that sort of support.”

To reflect this, Hays introduced an employee loan scheme in June 2016. Through the scheme, the loan is deducted through payroll and can be used for whatever an employee needs, for example, a rental deposit, debt consolidation, a wedding or holidays. “We felt [the scheme] really complemented some of the other financial benefits that we’ve got,” says Lemon. “For example, we’ve got benefits that save money on a day-to-day basis through retail discounts, then we have medium-term savings through share schemes, long-term savings through pensions, and further along the line we have life assurance, because it’s important to protect the people you care about in the event of something happening.”

Hays’ third building block is work-life balance. “That could embrace the whole aspect of flexible working, [and] buying and selling holidays, but I also think it’s giving employees the opportunity to support what’s important to them, either in their communities or through charities. [For example] events that help them put something back into society.”

Next is the working environment, which is about having a pleasant working environment, a supportive manager, and the ability for employees to be themselves, says Lemon. This will also include a focus on diversity, equality and inclusion.

The final block is focused around learning and development, for example, Hays offers training and international working opportunities. The ability to learn on the job or training plans to develop at work are important in helping employees feel fulfilled in their jobs, explains Lemon.

“Everybody feels that different things are important to them, but if they get the right balance for themselves individually, they will have a better sense of personal wellbeing and can cope better with the day-to-day pressures of life. If they do that, they are more likely to be concentrating and productive at work. Hence win-win,” says Lemon.

Benefits reshape

Hays has offered its flexible benefits scheme, You Choose, for a number of years. In 2016, it reorganised the plan in order to give employees a better understanding of what the package includes and how it can support their wellbeing at all stages of their lives and careers. The benefits have been organised under the banners of My Health, My Money and My Life. This has been one of the main challenges for the reward team at Hays.

“The biggest focus has been trying to reposition benefits so they tell a good story,” says Lemon. “We do a ‘talk back’ employee engagement survey each year and one of the areas of feedback was that [employees] were aware of the benefits they have, but weren’t sure how they were of use to them. We felt that we’d appeal more and be able to help employees understand that they’re there for different stages of life and career.”

The revamped flex scheme opened its annual enrolment window in November for employees to select their benefits. Hays also introduced two new benefits; Tastecards and gadget insurance.

Overall, one of the most popular benefits among employees is the ability to buy and sell holiday, says Lemon.

Employee communication

Hays uses a variety of methods to ensure that employees are kept up to date and informed about their benefits packages. Important notifications are sent out via email in addition to messages on the intranet. With important notices such as new pension legislation, the team always follow up messages with face-to-face communications.

The organisation holds benefits presentations and HR business partners and managers are given briefings, all the while ensuring that the wellbeing concept is highlighted in order to show employees how benefits can be of value. “When we roll out You Choose, we talk to all managers and introduce the concept of wellbeing to try to get people to think differently about benefits. We’ve got a lot of good things, we just want to make them come alive for people,” says Lemon.

Hays at a glance

Hays is a global recruitment business with a presence in 33 countries and around 9,500 employees worldwide, of which more than 2,000 are based in the UK and Ireland. It covers around 20 specialisms, including financial services, construction, property and IT. Job roles are divided into consultants and support functions. There is broadly a 50:50 gender split across the globe. In the UK, employees range in age from 18 to nearly 70.

Career history

Rosemary Lemon, group head of reward, joined Hays in February 2015 from Legal and General, where she worked as head of reward for nearly seven years. Prior to that, she held similar positions in Burberry, P&O Nedlloyd and Texaco.

Before moving into HR at Texaco, Lemon worked in the business in roles that included manager of budgets and strategic projects, and manager of retail budgets and administration, for eight years. “I think it’s really important when you work in HR that you’ve had some experience on the front line,” she says. “You can have the best HR policy in the world but if you can’t add value to the business, it’s no good.”

Business objectives

  • To be the best recruiter.
  • To continue to deliver the best service to clients across the world.

Benefits on offer at Hays

Pension and group risk
  • Group personal pension (GPP) with varying contribution and employer-matching levels depending on job grade.
  • Life assurance
  • Critical illness insurance

Healthcare and wellbeing

  • Private medical insurance
  • Dental insurance
  • Eyecare vouchers
  • Gym and fitness centre discounted membership
  • Employee assistance programme

Work-life balance

  • Childcare vouchers
  • Holiday

Other benefits

  • Sharesave (save as you earn (SAYE)) scheme
  • Employee loan scheme
  • Bikes for work
  • Travel insurance
  • Gadget insurance
  • Dining cards
  • Voluntary benefits retail discount scheme