Employee Benefits Awards 2009: Communications strategy of the year for organisations with fewer than 5,000 employees

Grant Thornton UK Your Benefits, Your Choice

The judges felt that although this communication strategy was conventional (in a good way), it was absolutely right for this organisation and clearly delivered results.

In 2007, Grant Thornton and RSM Robson Rhodes were involved in the largest merger in the financial sector for a decade. This meant a reward strategy had to be developed to harmonise employees’ terms and conditions. A comprehensive communication strategy was developed to help staff understand their new packages before and after the launch of Grant Thornton’s flexible benefits plan. This also highlighted any changes arising from harmonisation.

Employees were first sent a newsletter, then a total reward statement. To encourage staff to visit the dedicated benefits website, the firm launched a voluntary benefits package.

Communication media included further newsletters, intranet news items, a benefits booklet, targeted emails, a microsite on the intranet, two more total reward statements and a DVD presentation. The DVD, introduced in all business units, ensured consistent information was given to all staff and enabled initial queries to be dealt with face-to-face. An email and telephone call centre dealt with more than 600 emails and 2,000 phone calls during the enrolment period.

More than 99% of the 4,200 staff joined the scheme, thus accepting the contractual changes, in the first enrolment period. Three-quarters took part in the second, optional enrolment, and the rest defaulted to last year’s benefits. The project was delivered on budget (3-5% of salary costs) and return on investment should be achieved within three years.

Pictured left: Jenny Balme, national HR director at Grant Thornton. Balme said: “Our communications strategy followed a merger, so it was very hard work. We had to use every channel of communication including things like DVDs. Our view is that you can’t over-communicate.”




  • City & Guilds Your Benefits (entered by Benefex)
    The judges felt this was a particularly strong entry because it used a clever image to convey flexible benefits. Its Mr Potato Head theme captured the imagination of our panel, who felt the campaign gave a strong call to action with a brand that was “fun and innovative”. As a result of the campaign, 67% of staff remodelled their benefits.


  • Bombardier Transportation Preference (entered by Thomsons Online Benefits)
    Focus groups talked about the sense of belonging and pride they felt in the engineering company, so real staff were used in the communications campaign. Although few of the company’s staff use computers, the flexible benefits programme was put online and 81% flexed their choices.
  • Live Nation Live Nation (entered by Foster Denovo)
    This entry demonstrated good practice in a comprehensive, traditional communication programme where staff were educated about their benefits in one-toone meetings. Pensions take-up increased from 49% to 87% and there was a 53% rise in contributions.
  • Roche My Total Roche (entered by Deloitte)
    This healthcare firm wanted to improve its total reward through its flexible benefits. The judges liked the way it added a green angle to communications by putting messages on reusable mugs and cloth bags. The launch resulted in 95% of staff selecting at least one benefit.
  • Stewart Milne Group My Benefits “What’s In It For Me”
    This firm drove benefits communications on a benefits bus to staff at its sites. It offered a free lunch on board, along with a financial adviser. This clever communication programme was run over three months, but as a construction company, the final take-up was adversely affected by the recession.