Interview with Robert Drewell, head of reward and benefits at Hermes Europe

Robert Drewell, head of reward and benefits at Hermes Europe, joined the parcel delivery firm in March after an out-of-the-blue approach from a friend. With long experience in the reward and benefits industry, Drewell quickly set about shaping a new total reward strategy for Hermes.

Drewell-Robert-Hermes-2014

The move came as Drewell was nearing the end of an interim role as senior reward consultant at Brakes Group. He was approached by a friend of his, Caroline Foster, HR director at Hermes, to help her establish a new team.

“I knew of Hermes’ business and was aware Caroline had recently joined as HR director,” he says.

“She shared her new vision with me and described the ‘great place to work’ strategy that she had developed for the organisation, and told me about the scale of the challenge at Hermes.

“She spoke with great passion, drive and energy, which sold it to me. She described the organisation’s long-term strategic vision and the vital role that reward and benefits would need to play within the new great place to work framework and that is where I came in.”

Drewell’s reward and benefits journey began at the Royal Mail Group, where he spent 16 years, from 1988 to 2003, working in areas such as functional management, operational management and project management. The varied experience he gained there helped to develop his skillset and career, he says.

“The experience [at Royal Mail] gave me rich, invaluable exposure and developed my experience, capability and knowledge of reward,” he says. “It was a good grounding, which laid the foundations of my career.”

Since 2003, Drewell has worked for organisations in various industry sectors, including roles at HSBC, Molson Coors Brewing and United Utilities. “The experience at Royal Mail has stayed with me throughout and I have developed my experience in a number of different areas and sectors,” he says.

“I feel that if you have a good level of experience and have that depth of knowledge to know what is good and what isn’t, it stands you in good stead, and that is all thanks to my time at Royal Mail.”

That experience means that although he has not been at Hermes long, Drewell has already made an impact by helping to set out plans to reinvigorate the organisation’s total reward strategy, which had become out of date.

“Our current framework no longer represents Hermes’ needs,” he says. “I have developed and shared a ‘logical argument’ total reward strategy. It is a proposal for the board, which will inform debate and generate lively discussion at a future planned roundtable.

“The intent is to use the session with a clear purpose and intent to better shape the total reward strategy and framework for the organisation.”

The total reward strategy will fit into Hermes’ 2016/17 business plans. To implement it successfully, Drewell says he will need all the skills he has learned over the past 26 years.

These include his knowledge of reward and benefits, as well as analytical and organisational skills. “These are the key fundamentals of any reward and benefits job, but this role requires strategic visionary skills,” he says.

“It is that ability to build something from scratch, which is what I have done with the total reward strategy.

“Now it is about moving it forward rapidly, as it is a sustainable total reward strategy aligned to the 2016/17 longer-term business strategy and the business that Hermes will grow to be in the future. I need to be very adaptable, very flexible and very resilient to make it successful.”

Drewell says the employee benefits landscape has changed over the years, which he attributes to changing business climates and business challenges.

“I have been fortunate to be able to develop with these changes through exposure to different types of organisation,” he says. “Despite the challenges, it is about making sure the benefits on offer to employees, current or future, are really strong.” 

Q&A

What has been the biggest focus in your role?
I am new to the role, but creating a new total reward strategy has been my main focus. The strategy was built based on my past experiences, and will start to shape the organisation.

What one tip would you give someone looking to get into your current role?
I think they need to develop the core basics first and develop an understanding of reward and benefits. For example, what it looks like, what the responsibilities are, the need to build knowledge and experience. But it all comes with time.

What would you like your next career move to be?
I think there is a great opportunity here at Hermes and it is still very early days. I want to focus on the challenge here, but if there was a chance in the future to help raise the profile of the organisation, to share our results in HR and deliver them elsewhere, I would love to get involved.

Curriculum vitae

March 2014-present head of reward and benefits, Hermes  

August 2013-February 2014 senior reward consultant, Brakes Group

April 2011-July 2013 total rewards director, Molson Coors Brewing

July 2010-January 2011 heard of reward, United Utilities

September 2009-March 2010 head of reward, Northern Rock

January 2008-September 2009 senior HR business partner, HSBC

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December 2003-December 2007 head of reward, Redcats PPR Group

January 1988-December 2003 senior HR operations manager, Royal Mail Group