Employee Benefits Awards 2011: Most effective use of a flexible benefits plan


Cisco, i-Benefit@Cisco entered by Thomson Online Benefits

Cisco was the outright winner in this category because of its input from top leadership, the speed at which the new package was delivered to staff, its focus on aligning its employee profile and business brand, and the impressive savings worth more than £1 million.

This entrant’s focus on flexible benefits came straight from the top and the judges recognised the real sense of ownership from the technology firm’s senior staff. When Charlie Johnston joined as HR director, an employee engagement survey had found that one-third of staff did not understand benefits or where to find information. He tackled the problem head-on, with the objectives of improving the efficiency of benefits provision, engaging employees, maximising value to employees by offering choice and innovation, and delivering savings of about £800,000 that could be used to improve the benefits on offer.

The new strategy followed a number of avenues in just three months, including: the pensions administration went paperless; implementation was designed to support other currencies and countries (Cisco has 67,000 staff globally); online portals were aligned with its high-tech culture; and salary sacrifice was introduced to generate national insurance (NI) savings, which the firm put back into the benefits budget.

Cisco has also focused on its employee profile, including technology additions for its techsavvy staff. Because IT employees can be very pragmatic and a little cynical, it delivered the new scheme in clear, appropriate language to ensure staff understood the full breadth of the package. Its communication was very successful, because 94% of staff logged in during the selection period and over one-third of the workforce made an active benefit selection during the December 2010 window, compared to previous levels of below 10%.

In its entry, Cisco admitted that its most ambitious objective was to deliver savings worth £800,000. Yearly, the firm has saved: £510,000 using pensions salary sacrifice; £500,000 in long-term sickness absence costs; £270,000 on broking; plus substantial savings in its HR workload. It far surpassed its goals, calculating savings of £1.3 million in its first year.


BNP Paribas, Spectrum entered by Towers Watson
Significant cost savings from its new flex scheme allowed this entrant to reinvest in its wider benefits, enhancing its maternity and paternity pay, increasing its holiday provision, and focusing on health and wellbeing initiatives in 2011.

Boehringer-Ingelheim entered byEdenred
After the pharmaceutical firm relaunched its scheme, 99% of staff logged into the portal, takeup of the pension scheme rose to over 80%, and take-up of critical illness cover almost trebled.

Lloyds Banking Group, Flex2011
When Lloyds TSB and HBOS merged in 2009, they had two flex schemes. The harmonised flex scheme, available to 113,000 staff, resulted in some changes, but also garnered a rise in take-up rates.†

Punch Taverns, The Benefits Barentered by Vebnet
Using the distinctive theme of a Benefits Bar to reinforce its identity as a pub group, Punch has seen a big improvement in employee engagement and awareness of what benefits are available. Three, Just Rewards entered by Bluefin The evolution of Three’s online flex portal included a two-step process for joining the pension plan, a
net pay calculator, two online videos on investment and tax issues, and a pension transfer service.

Vinci Construction UK, Optionsentered by Personal Group
Vinci used three employee consultation committees to shape the options in its new flex scheme. During the scheme’s first enrolment period, 80% of staff logged into Options and made benefits choices.

Read more about the Award winners