Employee Benefits Awards winners 2008

Asda, O2, Danone, Lloyds TSB, Norwich Union and GlaxoSmithKline were among the many winners at the Employee Benefits Awards 2008 which was held at the Park Lane Hilton Hotel, London on 18 June. For a full list of winners and finalists, click here. In order obtain full details of the winning entries and finalists, as well as the judging panel, click on the links below.

Photographs from the Employee Benefits Awards 2008

Winners and finalists
Grand Prix
Compensation and benefits professional of the year
Most successful new benefits launch
Benefits team of the year
Most effective benefits strategy
for organisations with 1,000 or fewer employees
Most effective benefits strategy
for organisations with more than 1,000 employees
Most effective employer and adviser partnership
Most effective use of a flexible benefits plan
Most effective healthcare amd wellbeing strategy
Most effective company car strategy
Most effective voluntary benefits plan
Most effective pensions strategy
Communications strategy of the year
for organisations with fewer than 5,000 employees
Communications strategy of the year
for organisations with 5,000 employees or more
Most effective sickness absence management strategy
Most effective motivation or incentive strategy
Most effective application of tax-efficient benefits
Most effective use of reward
as part of a corporate social responsibility strategy
Most effective all-employee share scheme strategy
Most effective benefits strategy for working parents and carers
Most effective use of financial education in the workplace
Most effective use of online media
Judging panel

Associate Sponsor:

Associate Sponsor



Charity partner:

Charity partner

Grand Prix
Sponsored by Watson Wyatt Worldwide

Grimsby Institute of Further & Higher Education

Pictured left: Grimsby Institute of Further & Higher Education (left to right): Howard Scott, health and safety manager, Phyliss Downs, personnel and payroll manager and Peter Barnard, registrar.
Peter Barnard, registrar at Grimsby Institute of Further & Higher Education, said: “It is fantastic to get the recognition by our peers for what we do for our employees and our students.”

Grimsby Institute of Further & Higher Education was voted winner of the Grand Prix award because of the way it used its health and wellbeing strategy as a key pillar within its programme to change its organisational culture. In 2001, it was an average-performing college with 1,000 staff, a turnover of £17m and 10,000 lost working days per annum.

To overcome this, it took a comprehensive, but hard-nosed approach to tackling the reasons behind absence and implemented solutions to increase both employee engagement and wellbeing. The judges consider that this was ‘outstanding’. The institute now has a turnover of £40m, 1,350 staff and just 4,266 days lost to absence.

The institute has a clear objective of providing customers with the best possible service. To achieve this, staff need to be able to perform at their best every day, which they can only do if they are at work. Therefore the institute has worked hard to keep its staff fit and healthy.

It has achieved this by bringing together a multi-disciplinary team from across the organisation and pooling information, knowledge and expertise. The team works with external agencies to promote health and wellbeing, and to monitor the management of long and short-term absence.

Because the institute has very limited budgets, interventions have to be self-funding. For example, the £8,000 cost of a physiotherapist was offset by the £10,000 saving due to reduced absenteeism from musculo-skeletal problems.

Compensation and benefits professional of the year
Sponsored by Personal Group

Chris Wilson former benefits director Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), Oracle Corporation

Pictured left: Grimsby Institute of Further & Higher Education (left to right): Chris Wilson, director at Rewarding People and former benefits director for Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and Oracle Corporation.
Chris Wilson said: “It’s very good to be recognised by people in the industry. It’s tremendous. I’m speechless.”

The judges felt that Chris Wilson has made a significant contribution to compensation and benefits during his time in the industry. He has frequently implemented new and leading-edge ideas where there was a demonstrable advantage to a business and/or its employees, showing a willingness to try new approaches to, and techniques in, reward. Chris has consistently strived to keep the organisations in which he worked at the forefront of benefits provision to help achieve business objectives, to maximise both the real and perceived value of perks for staff, and to boost employee engagement levels.

Chris was an early adopter of flexible benefits, launching his first scheme while at Syntegra, the systems integration business of BT, in 1994. His launch of Oracle’s flex plan four years later continued to break new ground with the inclusion of perks, such as the ability for staff to buy up to 43 days holiday a year.

During his time with Oracle, Chris continued to break new ground. The firm’s online total remuneration and pension statements in Ireland, for example, were the first of its kind. The closure of the company’s final salary pension scheme to future service in 2004, meanwhile, was a step ahead of the actions of other employers at the time, many of which were simply closing schemes to new employees.

After serving as compensation and benefits director for Oracle in the UK, Chris took on responsibility for 63 countries and 17,000 employees across the EMEA region.


Peter Barnard – registrar and clerk, Grimsby
Institute of Further & Higher Education

Peter Barnard is responsible for implementing Grimsby Institute’s first strategies for health and wellbeing, employee benefits and internal communications. Since joining the organisation in 1999, he has introduced a wide range of initiatives in these areas.

Neal Blackshire – benefits and compensation manager, McDonald’s Restaurants

Neal Blackshire constantly strives to deliver an increasing range of benefits, that engage employees and meet the needs of the business. This often involves devising alternative arrangements to traditional schemes to best meet the needs of its workforce.

Dr Graham Brown – head of people support services, Barnardo’s

The judges were impressed by Graham Brown’s commitment to pensions communication. His dedication frequently sees him touring around the UK to deliver presentations to employees.

Euan Hutchinson – EMEA rewards director, Hewlett Packard

Since taking on his current role three years ago, Euan has introduced a new approach to managing benefits across the EMEA region, putting in place policies on a pan-EMEA rather than country-specific basis.

Jane Vivier – reward adviser, Kent County Council

Over the past two years, Jane Vivier has transformed Kent County Council’s benefits package from a small list of local benefits to a comprehensive voluntary benefits scheme, incorporating salary sacrifice perks. She has also worked to target previously-overlooked employee groups.

Most successful new benefits launch

Credit Suisse MyBenefits (entered by Hewitt Associates)

Pictured left: David Cleall, pensions and benefits manager at Credit Suisse.

The judges were highly impressed with Credit Suisse’s launch of a new benefits package at a time when the organisation faced considerable challenges, not least a major global costcutting exercise, which meant the communications campaign was executed on a limited budget. The objectives behind the firm’s new package, which incorporated core, flexible and voluntary benefits, included harmonising benefits for staff where possible, adding flexibility, boosting low levels of understanding and reinforcing the competitiveness of perks.

Credit Suisse’s new package included both good and bad news for staff. Due to a harmonisation of its holiday arrangements, nearly 2,000 employees were given an extra two-to-four days holiday a year. However, its free health screening perk for staff aged over 40 years was removed to comply with age discrimination legislation. The firm, therefore, was keen to ensure not all the changes were perceived negatively by staff.

To overcome this, Credit Suisse’s benefits team issued personalised transition statements, showing each employee their current benefits entitlement, along with the default package they would receive if they didn’t actively log on to the flex website and enrol. This was supported by a comprehensive communications campaign.

As a result, 83% of staff logged on to the flex website, with three in every four actively selecting perks. The launch also means that the benefits staff are now personally recognised in the workplace.


BAA – The BAA Bonus Saver Plan (entered by Yorkshire Building Society)

BAA’s innovative bonus saver plan enables staff to save between £10 and £250 a month from net pay for a period of three years. When the scheme matures, each employee will receive a bonus from BAA, the amount of which will depend on the company’s performance.

iris Nation – Mr Benn

iris Nation took a creative approach to the launch of its new benefits package, using the children’s character Mr Benn as a central figure in its communication materials. Both the scheme and communication strategy were designed with staff input, which helped boost engagement.

Kent County Council – KentRewards (entered by Asperity Employee Benefits)

Kent County Council was praised for introducing a selffunding voluntary benefits plan, which was essential as a public sector organisation. Its communications around the launch were tailored to suit each section of its workforce, which contributed to a higher take-up than anticipated.

McDonald’s Restaurants – On YOUR Bike!

The judges liked McDonald’s clear, focused approach to the launch of its discounted cycle scheme, which was introduced as an alternative to a salary sacrifice-based bikes-for-work scheme that is unsuitable for a number of its workforce. Olympic gold medallist James Cracknell endorsed the fast food chain’s campaign to help engage staff with the benefit.

Nottingham City Council – greentravel2work (entered by P&MM)

The judges were impressed by the new approach to providing staff with tax-free bus travel offered to employees at Nottingham City Council. Staff have the option to pay for an annual bas pass on their chosen route straight from salary, so saving on tax and national insurance.

Benefits team of the year

Towry Law Reward Team

Pictured left: Towry Law (left to right): Mark McLeod, risk benefits manager and Richard Higginson, reward manager.

This team of two, Richard Higginson, reward manager, and Mark McLeod, risk benefits manager, demonstrated their experience and in-depth knowledge of benefits in order to conduct a wide-ranging benefits review that is on course to deliver a six-figure saving by mid-2008. The changes included: a new pension plan, a new self-invested personal pension, the merging of five legacy private medical insurance plans, the re-tendering and re-broking of all risk benefits, a flexible benefits scheme review, the outsourcing of long-term disability claims, and the integration of benefits and wellbeing strategies.

The judges acknowledged Towry Law has an advantage when it comes to in-house benefits expertise. But this team demonstrated how it leveraged its own benefits knowledge and strategic thinking to the maximum, which benefits teams in other firms do not do. In particular, the judges were impressed by the amount of change that was achieved in such a short time following a series of mergers and acquisitions in 2007 which had left Towry Law with different benefits schemes. They said: “You really need to know your stuff to achieve this, it is a lot harder than it looks.”

In the 2007 employee engagement survey, 55% of employees rated pay and benefits positively, in the latest survey this increased by 40%. The pension plan has a 99.9% take up, while over 70% of staff made at least one change to their flexible benefits scheme. A key part of this team’s work has been involving staff in the benefits review using feedback, surveys and focus groups.


AEGON UK – Selection

Although this entrant has the advantage of being a benefits provider, it made best use of the teams and expertise available to deliver a well-communicated, first-rate benefits package for staff.


This children’s charity established a large cross-functional, disparate team to deal with the changes to its pensions strategy. The team met weekly for seven months, during which time it maximised its multi-disciplinary talents, and moved resources around to cope with pressure points.

Grimsby Institute of Further & Higher & Education – The Health and Wellbeing Team

The institute’s benefits team is made up of a range of parttime service providers who come onsite one or more days a week, with the core team meeting weekly. Its strategies have resulted in cost savings that outstrip the team’s salaries. It is a model even the most cash-strapped employer could use.


This small team consists of just one full-time and one part-time employee. However, they managed to re-broker all benefits (except risk benefits, which were tendered to a broker) in-house resulting in a £50,000 saving. By using internal employee expertise for its communications, the media company saved a further £15,000.

Kent County Council – Reward Team

This team works hard to ensure that the council is “ahead of the game” by enhancing benefits. It is highly responsive to staff and appears to be emerging as a leader in the development and delivery of reward in the public sector.

O2 – Your Total Reward (entered by Towers Perrin, Caburn Hope and ExcellerateHRO)

The O2 team not only had to ensure its own teamwork was up to scratch, it also needed to manage a much broader ‘team’ of third-party advisers. The judges felt the team ran a well-managed and structured project with weekly reporting and conference calls so that each group of advisers could operate in its own way but still deliver the required final results.

Most effective benefits strategy
for organisations with 1,000 or fewer employees

iris Nation Mr Benn

Pictured left: Karen Simpson, account manager
Karen Simpson, said: “It’s brilliant for Iris. We had to do something really good around benefits and Mr Benn was the perfect idea.”

This is a benefits strategy very clearly driven by the need to attract the most talented people in the marketing industry. Iris Nation has been growing by 50% each year since 1999, so recruiting and retaining talented employees is an ongoing challenge for the organisation.

Prior to the launch of its Mr Benn strategy, the firm offered a small range of voluntary benefits with relatively low take up for a supposedly engaged workforce. Its challenge therefore was to communicate perks effectively and add new ones.

Employees designed and implemented the new benefits available, which included £100 Holiday Money, sessions with an independent financial adviser (IFA) and iris Academy.

These are all bespoke to the agency’s culture and staff needs. By negotiating a 10% reduction on private medical insurance premiums, iris Nation could afford to offer new benefits, such as critical illness cover and yoga sessions. But the judges were most impressed by the benefits handbook, which was designed to look, feel and read like a children’s book, with the TV character Mr Benn as the central figure. On each page, Mr Benn has a different adventure relating to a specific benefit. In addition, there is a box on each page with ‘grown up’ information on the perk.

All the judges became totally engrossed in the storyline and found it hard to put the book down, so it is not surprising that the firm’s healthcare benefits now have a 100% take up, while its the lifestyle benefits have an average 40% take up.


IRI – Maximising benefits awareness; enhancing employee appreciation (entered by Secondsight)

IRI replaced two group personal pensions with a new one. As a result, it engaged in a financial awareness programme that included getting staff who felt they couldn’t afford it now, to commit to a two, three or fiveyear plan to either start contributing, or to increase contributions, in line with future pay increases. 65% are now on target to meet retirement goals, compared with 10% previously.

Prodrive – Prodrive’s Benefits Scheme

This international motor sport firm tapped into its competitive sporting culture to come up with a long list of benefits, ranging from wellness perks to champagne celebrations. It offers an annual five-month long tournament for staff to compete against each other at various events to encourage networking and employee engagement, while its flexible working policies are used by key French and German staff to enable them to travel home for longer weekends.

Towry Law – Total Lifestyle

This comprehensive entry incorporated many new benefits strategies which delivered impressive results. The judges felt that the firm’s benefits team needed in-depth knowledge and expertise to achieve this. They said: “[It] may have had big budgets [compared to other entrants in this category], but these were well targeted and it was not just a case of ‘spray and pay’.”

Most effective benefits strategy
for organisations with more than 1,000 employees

O2 Your Total Reward (entered by Towers Perrin, Caburn Hope and ExcellerateHRO)

Pictured left: Tina Clayton, head of compensation and benefits at Telefonica, owner of O2.
Tina Clayton said: “I have a great team as we have won so many awards [today].”

This winning entry demonstrated how employers can effectively use a flexible benefits plan within a total reward strategy, which, in turn, has a strong alignment to company objectives and the corporate brand.

The total reward strategy includes learning, career development, cash pay and incentive elements. The judges particularly liked the inclusion of a learning fund for low-paid staff as this provided an effective reward solution for those who could not be part of the flexible benefits scheme.

The firm, along with its team of different providers, produced a leading-edge communication strategy. It included an online portal for new recruits, which was part of a solution to meet its objective of improving recruitment.

The online flex system defaults employees to the most appropriate benefits for their individual profile, and also allows them to make changes if they wish. O2 believes that this is the first time this has been achieved.

The results show an even take up of the scheme across all sections of the workforce, including in call centres and among retail staff, demonstrating the effective delivery of the scheme. With 90% of enrolments now being made online, the organisation achieved its objective of driving employee self service.

The entire process saved this winning entrant £1.8m (against a target of £1m) in national insurance contributions.


IBM – You* Flexible Benefits Scheme

IBM’s very detailed reward strategy is clear, coherent and well thought out. It is directly linked to business objectives and provides a model for other employers to emulate which is why it made it into our list of finalists. But without stated results, the judges could not see how effective the strategy was in meeting its objectives. The judges particularly liked the ‘vacation marketplace’ that allowed staff to trade leave days.

ICI (now part of AkzoNobel) – my choice (entered by Watson Wyatt Worldwide)

This entrant set out to harmonise a range of legacy benefits across several business in order to remove disparities. This was its first cross-business benefits project, and involved moving from a culture of paternalism to employee empowerment. Key objectives were to retain staff, and better facilitate the movement of employees within ICI. Half of all staff made changes to their benefits as a result of the new flexible benefits scheme. Results of the broader objectives are not yet available.

Informa – informmybenefits

This entrant completed a total benefits review over six months, a key element of which was to integrate career development with reward. An ingenious use of the virtual world Second Life has been made to promote career development opportunities. The site will also be used later this year to provide staff with information on benefits. The judges felt that this demonstrated a good use of online tools for Informa’s young, media-savvy workforce. All benefits were re-brokered, resulting in a £50,000 annual saving for both staff and the company.

Most effective employer and adviser partnership

Henderson Global Investors and Hargreaves Lansdown

Pictured left: (left to right) Boorman, director of human resources at Henderson Group, and Nic Nicolaou, head of corporate solutions at Hargreaves Lansdown.
Andy Boorman, director of human resources at Henderson Group, said: “We are very pleased.”

In this category, the judges were looking for a partnership where an employer and their consultant or adviser were able to break new ground together and if either party was not prepared to try something new, the strategy would never have been implemented.

In this entry we found such an example. This partnership maximised the rules introduced on 6 April 2007 that allow employees to transfer shares from a share scheme into a self-invested personal pension. In this case, Henderson Global Investors also gave staff the option to transfer shares into other savings models such as an individual savings account (ISA).

This is a relatively new practice as employers have only been able to offer staff the option if they have a share scheme which has matured since the rules were introduced last year. The judges felt that this workforce would generally have had a sophisticated level of financial understanding and would appreciate this easy method of maximising tax breaks while spreading their investments.

The panel also felt that this specific exercise could not have been achieved without a close working partnership between employer and adviser.


O2 and Caburn Hope

This employer/adviser team worked together across a number of benefits strategies over long period of time. They demonstrated a joined-up approach to all aspects of benefits communication. The close partnership enabled Caburn Hope to understand and devise tailored communications and applications for different target groups of staff.


BMC Software and Secondsight – Complete Benefits Communication

At BMC, Secondsight took over the running of the benefits scheme after staff cuts left BMC with just one HR employee. Secondsight ran the scheme and improved communications for the same cost as previous providers.

The results can be seen in relation to the firm’s pension scheme into which 64% of staff now pay more than the 5% minimum to receive the 10% employer contribution.

Kent County Council and Asperity Employee Benefits – KentRewards powered by Reward Gateway

By working together, Kent County Council and Asperity Employee Benefits developed a voluntary benefits programme, Reward Gateway. KCC now plans to sell this package of national and local voluntary benefits to other local public sector organisations.

Reed Smith Richards Butler and PIFC Consulting – Vitality Scheme

It is unusual to see a law firm take health and wellbeing so seriously that it works with an adviser to provide an holistic health and productivity management solution that even includes group presentations on the benefits of healthcare. Its £80k saving from rebroking private medical insurance and income protection perks was impressive.

RPM and Foster Denovo – RPM Benefits Scheme

This small experimental marketing agency with just 70 employees dramatically increased: pension take up, contribution rates and staff appreciation of the value of the pension by working with Foster Denovo to deliver an effective communications exercise. Staff are able to see their pensions (both past and present) online in real time and linked with payslips.

Most effective use of a flexible benefits plan

O2 Your Total Reward (entered by Towers Perrin, Caburn Hope and ExcellerateHRO)

Pictured left: Tina Clayton, head of compensation and benefits at Telefonica, owner of O2.
Tina Clayton said: “I’m really pleased with the team.”

O2 captured the attention of judges by setting out to make sure its flexible benefits scheme was just as suitable for low earners as those in receipt of large salaries.

Before introducing its flex plan, the mobile phone company launched a total rewards portal to help employees better understand their package and to assess what they might change. Once implemented, the flex scheme included perks such as bikes for work, childcare vouchers, critical illness cover for staff and their partners, holiday trading, retail vouchers, a wine club, dental cover, a health cash plan, pension and travel insurance. Staff can access details of the scheme online at home or at work.

However, a significant proportion of O2’s workforce receives a relatively low income, which makes it inappropriate for them to participate in any salary sacrifice arrangements. As O2 wanted all staff to be able to make choices through the online flex plan, web tools have been set up to default employees to the most appropriate benefits options based on their individual circumstances. Staff are also given the opportunity to change their pre-selected benefits if they wish.

In order to further help low-income employees, O2 has developed a learning fund with the company matching employee contributions towards a range of personal development opportunities.

In its initial stages, the scheme produced £1.8m in national insurance savings helping O2 to fund the initiative.


CPM UK – Flex2Fit

The judges were particularly impressed with the field marketing agency’s strategy of retaining and recruiting talent by offering a flexible benefits scheme that supported individual needs and was cost neutral. The agency involved staff in its development and made savings by reviewing income protection provision and introducing employee pension contributions via salary sacrifice.


HBOS – HBOS Flex 2008

The financial services company radically changed the communication