Podcast: Central Co-op introduces new reward hub to enhance benefits offering

Listen: Retail co-operative society, Cental Co-op, has launched a new reward and benefits platform to offer a centralised benefits hub with essential support for employees during difficult financial times.

In this episode of the Employee Benefits podcast, Jen Roberts, senior reward and wellbeing manager at Central Co-op, explains more about why the society decided to introduced the platform, the Difference Maker hub, at the end of November 2022.

Roberts says that implementing the Reward Gateway platform is a personal career highlight. “This type of benefit transforms the way [employees] interact with benefits and provides an engaging experience which makes a significant difference,” she adds.

Roberts also explains how the society has put in a number of schemes to help support employees’ wellbeing including a focus in its weekly communications on topics such as mental health and financial wellbeing. To further support employees through the cost-of-living crisis, the society raised its hourly rate of pay to £10 in October 2022.

At a glance

Central Co-op is a retail society that operates 250 plus food stores, over 100 funeral homes, filling stations, Post Office branches, florists and more. It serves half a million members and customers each week.

Some of the typical job roles are customer services assistant in retail, funeral service  assistant, florist, warehouse operatives in distribution centres, and professional functions such as HR, technology, finance, operations, and commercial.

The society has around 7,600, with an average age of 40 to 45. The average length of service is 9.5 years.

Primary business objectives that impact benefits for the coming year:

  • Continuing to support employees’ wellbeing.
  • Continued development of employee engagement hub to include all benefits and a wellbeing centre in the new year.
  • To make sure it has the right benefits in place to continue to offer choice to current employees and to attract new talent into the society.

Career history

Jen Roberts joined Central Co-op in March 2022. Prior to this, she held a range of reward positions over the last 12 years, including head of reward and HR services, reward manager at Cromwell Tools, reward and benefits manager, reward analyst at Danwood (now Apogee), benefits advisor at Ashfield Healthcare, and MyChoice benefits coordinator at Eon.

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Roberts says: “Working with the local government campaigns team to promote national living wage (NLW) throughout the midlands as Danwood adopted NLW ahead of the deadline and for all colleagues regardless of age, was a fantastic opportunity to not only ensure colleagues received a fair rate of pay but to be able to support the campaign of NLW.” 

Roberts was also part of the Employee Benefits Awards judging panel in 2017. “It was a great opportunity to be part of a wider panel and judge the nominations for such brilliant awards in the reward industry,” she says.