Southern Water creates benefits generalists to support the business

Janine Sparks, head of reward and performance at Southern Water, is in the process of transforming the organisation’s reward professionals into broader benefits specialists to better support the needs of the business.

Southern water

“Having staff with a broad understanding of reward rather than a narrow understanding of a specialist area is, in my view, a win-win [situation],” she says. “It is good for the employee because it gives them more choices in terms of career development; it is good for the organisation because it does not have all the knowledge of one specialist area vested in one person; and it is good for the line manager in terms of teamwork and collaboration.”

Each team member has a development plan, which is based on 70% learning at work, 20% coaching from others and 10% formal training.

“We build it into the work we are doing to develop the reward strategy, so we learn by doing, while buddying up with someone who is already an expert in that element of reward,” says Sparks.

Southern Water also offers internal programmes to develop employees’ personal skills. 

Sparks explains she cherry-picks external training based in London because of the employer’s location in Worthing on the south coast of England. “Employee Benefits Live is really good value to learn from others,” she adds. “We had a session when we shared learnings from the seminars we all attended at Employee Benefits Live in September.”

She believes she is helping her team members to create greater career choices with more flexibility by expanding their skillsets, and would encourage other reward and benefits managers to do the same. “A lot of research has been done about different generations, and learning and career development is what generation Y wants in particular,” she says.

Aspiring reward and benefits professionals should also seek to broaden their knowledge, says Sparks. “Once people get the learning bug, there is normally no stopping them,” she adds.