Find out what your staff really want

Ken%20HorrocksConsulting with employees will produce an appealing array of voluntary benefits, says Heinz UK’s Ken Horrocks

Most companies acknowledge that benefit schemes can make all the difference when it comes to engaging and retaining the best staff. Where employers are planning to review their perks in the future in order to achieve this goal they should think about delivering innovative and appropriate benefits, as we have done at Heinz.

The first task for any reward team is to create a working brief, outlining ways in which to deliver outstanding benefits to attract and retain outstanding people. By taking an open-minded approach, employers can look beyond offering standard voluntary benefits packages and come up with proposals for something really different that will appeal to exceptional staff.

Employers should also engage their staff in a consultation process on proposals and plans they have for their benefits package. At Heinz, for example, we consulted employees at many of our sites in the UK and Ireland on our plans to improve our voluntary benefits provision. We kept employees informed throughout the implementation of the changes, and acted on their feedback where appropriate.

One of our global corporate aims is to enhance the social and economic wellness of our employees so we needed to make sure our benefits scheme delivered this. We looked at what would enhance life as a Heinz employee. Some conclusions were obvious. For example, discount schemes for a large number of popular shops are a benefit often offered by large companies. Other ideas and proposals can come out of the consultation that benefit both employer and employee. At Heinz a car-sharing scheme was introduced to help employees travel between company sites. This eased the burden of travel for all employees, who would otherwise have to make several separate trips.

A positive side-effect of this scheme was that employees were able to identify which of their colleagues they shared commuter routes with, allowing them to also share lifts to and from work.

We also came up with ideas to help Heinz develop benefits in a cost-effective way. These include a smart pension exchange scheme, which will see Heinz introduce a salary-sacrifice arrangement to allow staff to make national insurance savings on their pension contributions. Any national insurance savings we make as an employer can be put into the pension scheme or enhance other benefits.

During the consultation we also found out what employees did not want. Staff were quick to tell us about overlaps between their benefits and those of their spouses. For example, private health insurance that included cover for a partner whose own employer already provided the perk was obviously not considered as a benefit.

We also discovered a number of common misconceptions. We realised some employees only focused on salary and did not factor in benefits when making decisions about their future with Heinz. In order to remedy this we decided to produce an overall statement of salary and benefits. Total reward statements will be given to each employee, so they could appreciate the total value of what the company is offering them.

Such an ambitious voluntary benefits programme is only made possible if a state-of-the-art software system is implemented across the company. At Heinz, which operates on 11 sites in the UK and Ireland with some workers on varied shift patterns, we found that web-based packages were the only viable option to efficiently manage all of our benefits. When all benefits are rolled out Heinz will have a fully-flexible employee system which allows staff to tailor the perks they receive to suit their present and future needs.

Paper-based systems are not flexible enough for all the permutations open to staff. Whereas a self-service approach underlines the message we want to send out to staff – that the benefits are truly adaptable to the individual.

Ken Horrocks is head of reward at Heinz UK and Ireland

  • Talk to employees to find out what they actually want.
  • Make the most of existing benefits.
  • Take the opportunity to streamline and update benefits systems.
  • Communicate benefits in a way that is relevant to all sections of the workforce.