Kantar Worldpanel aims for fun culture

Case study: Generous pension gives value

Marketa Kozlova, client executive at Kantar Worldpanel, joined the organisation in 2007. She is the main point of contact for Marks and Spencer (M&S), one of Kantar’s clients.

The 27-year-old works with the retailer’s team that is involved in strategic and commercial decisions, relaying data that Kantar Worldpanel holds on what sort of consumers are buying specific products. Kozlova can then advise M&S on how to boost sales of products that are not selling as well as others.

Kozlova values Kantar’s pension scheme, which receives matched employer contributions. “I really like the pension scheme,” she says. “We are getting really good value from the company. We are putting money in but they put in even more than we do, and I think it is quite vital for people to start at quite an early age and do not leave it too late.”

Kozlova has also used Kantar’s pensions modelling tool to calculate her projected income at retirement.

Market researcher Kantar Worldpanel has created a fun and open culture for its young workforce, says Nicola Sullivan

Marketing research firm Kantar Worldpanel, owned by communication services organisation WPP, not only has an insight into what drives consumers to buy products, but is also up to date on what motivates its young workforce.

Kantar Worldpanel was previously known as TNS Worldpanel until its owner, TNS UK, was bought by WPP in 2008. Following the acquisition, the HR team had to move away from its previous shared services structure and get to grips with a new employee demographic. Its workforce is spread across more than 50 countries, with the biggest sites in the UK and Ireland, where the company has 521 staff with an average age of just 33.

Hema Patel, compensation and benefits manager at Kantar Worldpanel, says that under TNS UK, the benefits package was traditional and geared towards older employees. “We have now started to change our benefits so they are more tailored towards Kantar Worldpanel and its population,” she says.

One of Patel’s biggest challenges from a reward perspective was to relaunch all the firm’s benefits on a new platform, provided by JLT Benefit Solutions. The previous package was only taken up by a small proportion of staff, so Patel had to construct the new package in accordance with staff feedback.

Patel says: “Most of our employees felt the previous [package] was not value for money, it did not meet their needs, or the benefits selections were too traditional. There was low engagement with the [benefits] and only 37% of our employees actually participated in it. This was a scheme that the business was spending a lot of money on but no one was really interested in it. It was really poor for differentiating ourselves externally.”

New benefits platform

The company went live with a new platform, called Compliments, in March, through which employees can access all their benefits in one place. Core benefits offered through the scheme include a group personal pension (GPP), private medical insurance, life cover, income protection and holidays. Many voluntary benefits are also available, including bikes for work, childcare vouchers, gym membership and health screening.

To ensure the scheme was a success, Patel and her team had to communicate it in a creative and engaging way.

Compliments was endorsed by senior managers, including chief executive Josep Montserrat, in podcasts and blogs, which were posted on the scheme’s website. Staff were invited to bring their laptops and other internet-enabling devices to live demonstrations of how the new benefits portal worked. Booklets outlining the benefits offered through the scheme were distributed and promotional messages were flashed up on plasma screens around the firm’s head office in Hanger Lane, London.

“The biggest challenge is to get employees to understand what we have,” says Patel. “Once they have done that, it gets easier to introduce other benefits.”

Another way in which Kantar Worldpanel increased understanding of its package was to roll out total reward statements showing the value of each employee’s entitlement. These are made available online, as well on leaflets slotted into branded plastic travel card wallets. Statements are also sent out with new joiners’ employment contracts.

Although much of the firm’s focus has been on relaunching its entire package, it has also taken steps to ensure staff value individual benefits, especially big-ticket items such as the GPP. This year, Kantar saw 120 more employees join the scheme after it introduced a pensions modelling tool. Accessed online and via iPhones, the tool, provided by JLT Benefit Solutions, enables employees to see what impact their pension investment choices will have on their retirement income.

Preparing for pension reforms

Like many organisations, Kantar Worldpanel is getting ready for the 2012 pension reforms, which will include auto-enrolling employees into an occupational pension scheme. As part of a two-year strategy to meet the requirements by its staging date, the firm is looking to change its age-related contribution structure. Currently, employees aged under 35 can contribute 2% and receive a 4% employer contribution, while those aged between 35 and 49 contribute 3% and get 6%, and staff over the age of 50 contribute 4% and receive an 8% employer contribution.

From 2013, when Kantar Worldpanel must comply with the reforms, it is planning to offer revised arrangements, with employees either able to contribute 1% and receive a 2% employer contribution, or contribute 2% and receive a 4% employer contribution. Meanwhile, staff who contribute 4% will receive an 8% contribution from the company.

From 2016, it will use only the two highest contribution levels as required by the reforms, which stipulate the phasing in of contributions. Patel says: “We have done research into why people do not join the pension and one of the main reasons is because of their age: they cannot afford the 2% and 4% arrangement. So we are going to introduce a lower tier, 1% and 2%, which would encourage our existing employees to join.
“Our population is very young and graduates tend not to join because they do not know whether they are going to be with us for long, or cannot afford it because they have just moved out of home. One of the ways we can encourage them to join the scheme is to lower the minimum requirement to get employer contributions.”

Health and wellbeing focus

Health and wellbeing is another key focus for Kantar. To coincide with national No Smoking Day in March, it invited employees to take part in health screening. NHS representatives conducted tests for cholesterol and diabetes, as well as body mass index and lung function. The firm is now looking to introduce onsite subsidised massage sessions.

Kantar has also combined health and wellbeing with raising money for charity by setting its staff the challenge of walking the equivalent distance of going round the world five times. “We used champions to collate the data and provide pedometers,” says Patel. “For every participant, we donated £5 to a charity of their choice. We collected £2,600.”

Most of the fundraising money was split between the employee-nominated charities Cancer Research, the Halo Trust and the Headway charity in north-west London. The £1 employees were charged for a pedometer went to the organisation’s charity, Unicef. Employees are also given two days off a year to do volunteer work with a charity.

Kantar Worldpanel’s offering goes beyond the tangible benefits accessed by staff, however. The HR team has worked hard to create a fun and open culture, which is based on trust. It achieves this by not enforcing a formal dress code, so staff can wear what they like to work, and allowing individual teams to organise their annual leave.

“We are very much a trust environment,” says Patel. “We took the idea of having HR or a manager managing holidays out of the question. We left it to the employees to be trustworthy and book their own holidays.”

All staff, including managing director Tim Kidd, sit in an open-plan office, large sections of which have been decorated by staff as part of a competition. Employees kitted out their area of the office to tie in with the products offered by the clients they work for and the winning team had a day out at the races.

Kantar encourages further networking in its business areas by providing a free cooked breakfast in its canteen every Thursday. “Everything is underpinned by our desire to provide unique benefits,” says Patel.

All the hard work to make its package as engaging as possible has earned Kantar Worldpanel a place in this year’s Sunday Times’ 100 Best Companies to Work For.

Career history: Hema Patel

Hema Patel, compensation and benefits manager at Kantar Worldpanel, has worked for the firm since it was rebranded in 2008. She joined TNS UK earlier that year shortly before it was taken over by WPP. Prior to that, Patel worked for Taylor Nelson Sofres as a compensation and benefits executive, after spending two years as a compensation and benefits adviser at Gate Gourmet. From 2005 to 2006, Patel was on a graduate programme at travel firm Go Ahead.

“Whenever I introduce a benefit or look at a benefit, it is always about what will the employee think or feel about it,” she says. “When I introduce something, it is about putting myself in the employee’s shoes and then going forward with the business case. There is no point putting forward a grand idea which none of our employees are going to really use.

Kantar Worldpanel at a glance

Kantar Worldpanel is owned by WPP, which specialises in offering communication services in various disciplines, including advertising, public relations, branding and identity, as well as consumer insight. Kantar is part of the consumer insight side of the business, and sheds light on what attracts people to use certain products. One way the firm does this is by analysing the buying behaviour of large panels of consumers. The organisation then feeds back the information and any relevant marketing advice, such as introducing a two-for-one offer, to its clients, which include Marks and Spencer, Carlsberg and Sainsbury’s.

The Kantar Worldpanel brand in its current form was created after its previous owner, TNS UK, a market and marketing research company, was acquired by WPP in 2008. Kantar Worldpanel now operates in more than 50 countries and has 2,500 employees. For the six months ending 30 June 2011, WPP reported an increase of 26.7% in operating profit to £431.2 million, compared with £340.2 million the previous year.

The benefits


  • Group personal pension with age-related contributions available to all staff.

Group risk

  • Income protection of 75% of salary.
  • Critical illness insurance offered as a voluntary benefit.

Health and wellbeing

  • Private medical insurance available to certain levels of staff.
  • Health and wellbeing events.
  • Discounted gym membership.
  • Employee counselling.
  • Eye care (vouchers, free eye tests).
  • Dental.

Work-life balance and family friendly

  • Flexible working arranged on an ad-hoc basis.
  • Childcare vouchers.


  • 25 days, increasing to 27 days after five years and to 30 days after 10 years of service. Every tenth year, employees are given an additional five days for that year.


  • Canteen and catering.
  • Sport/social club.
  • Incentive/performance-related pay.
  • Recognition scheme.
  • Vouchers.
  • Interest-free loans.

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