Debi O’Donovan, editor of Employee Benefits: Industry leaders prepare for better times ahead

This month, the 11th annual Employee Benefits Live exhibition and conference takes place in London. This huge gathering of reward professionals promises to be the biggest in the event’s history, demonstrating how crucial reward and benefits practices are today.

Over the years, I have been regularly asked about trends in the industry, but in 2009 this has become an almost weekly enquiry as both employers and advisers try to gauge whether what they are doing is similar to others, more innovative or a bit extreme (for better or for worse).

On 8 September, we invited 26 key benefits managers from a range of industries based in different parts of the UK into the Employee Benefits offices. Between their photographic sessions and interviews, I managed to grab a few words with most of them.

New strategies

Overall, they had all been extremely busy setting up new strategies, reviewing benefits and coming up with innovative ideas to help drive their businesses’ agendas. Not one seemed to have hunkered down and waited for the storm clouds to pass. In fact, there seemed to be a stronger drive than ever to hold on to key benefits while reviewing costs and keeping an eye on the long-term business impact of any changes on staff motivation and productivity.

All reward strategies being put in place are preparing these leading employers for the upturn. Of course, there is no single ‘correct’ answer in benefits, and I am sure that during the two days of Employee Benefits Live, we will hear of myriad solutions to a variety of problems – from cost cutting and staff motivation to setting senior-level bonuses and managing pay freezes.

Recruitment

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On the recruitment side, there is also a vibrant market. Many readers have moved jobs in recent months, and others are about to. Our sister publication, Recruiter, reports that of all HR jobs, it is experienced compensation and benefits managers that are hardest to find.

This bodes well for those working in this niche, but vital area. Your skills are in demand, your job is becoming increasingly business-focused and challenging. So I expect to see lots of networking and headhunting going on in the exhibition hall on 29 and 30 September.