Continuing to invest in employee reward is just as important during difficult times to help businesses recover, although they may come under public scrutiny for doing so, said Jim Cowan, senior consultant, remuneration and benefits at Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS).
Speaking in an open forum at the Employee Benefits Summit in Monte Carlo, Cowan said the bank has strong business reasons for continuing to invest in its employees after being bailed out:†“[We need to] continue to invest in the workforce that we need to help the bank recover. There is an opportunity to make fairly drastic short-term cutbacks, but I think everyone in the room would suffer if it [hampered] long-term recovery,” he said.
Cowan added honesty and fairness to employees are vital if the bank is to retain trust in its benefits programmes at a time when its credibility has been damaged. “Some employees, very sadly, have seen their future wealth planning decimated by the crash of the share price. As we communicate with our employees, we have to be very honest,” he said.
RBS is currently planning to take a back-to-basics approach to benefits and communication, particularly around its flexible benefits scheme. This will explain, for example, how employees can make use of existing perks, such as retail vouchers, to help their money go further in a recession.
“There are a lot of things in our benefits programmes that carry real added value for employees,” said Cowan.