Employee benefits - 'Your Choices' plan

Your Choices plan
Your Choices plan

FTSE outfit Wolseley introduced its ‘Your Choices’ flexible benefits plan last year. It includes options such as a healthcare cash plan, accident and critical illness insurance, dental insurance, life assurance for partners, a bikes for work scheme, dining card and car breakdown cover.

Other roles came with company car, management bonuses and private medical insurance.

Neil McCawley, head of reward, benefits and policy at Wolseley UK, says: “The flexible scheme has been effective since the start of 2014. It is a traditional flexible scheme with insurance based products and critical illness. We felt it was time to give our employees more choices with their work benefits. None of our immediate rivals had these schemes at the time and we were aware of the advantage it would bring us in recruitment and retention. It is very difficult to measure whether that has happened but we have had very positive feedback about the package from new employees. In fact in our bi-annual employee surveys it is clear that our core and voluntary benefits are hitting the mark with them. We keep an eye on what our rivals are offering to make sure that we don’t fall behind as well as what is going on in the wider market.”

FTSE 250 car dealer Lookers has recently launched its new "NICER Rewards" to staff. The package includes over 8,000 retail discounts at well-known high street retailers - such as Argos, Asda, Sainsbury's and House of Fraser - and a range of simple insurance products including Voluntary Group Income Protection ("VGIP"), a hospital cash plan and death benefit. Lookers also has plans going forward to incorporate an Employee Assistance Programme ("EAP"), salary sacrifice, home technology and a holiday purchase scheme.

Sarah Williams, Group HR Manager, says: “Our original benefits offer was basic so in our last employee survey we asked what benefit options staff would like and the retail discounts came out on top.”

Paul Bentley, commercial director, at the group adds: “We were reviewing our customer satisfaction scores which we felt were good but could be better. Customers were telling us that a car showroom was very similar no matter who ran it but the main difference was the employees. We looked at the values that our customers liked to see from our employees and employees from each other. We felt that if you could get happy employees then you would get happy customers. So we felt let’s make Lookers a nicer environment for staff. Not only that - when we recruited people we thought okay they have the right skills but are they also nice people? We looked at the behavioural side, how they treated people, how they responded to a problem.”

He says the reloadable cards have been the most successful part of the NICER Rewards scheme to date and the overall take-up rate he describes as good.

“Engagement has improved with over 50 per cent unique visits to the NICER web page and through staff surveys we can see that they are happy we have listened to their concerns over lack of benefits,” he says. “Customer satisfaction rates have also improved since NICER’s introduction from 93.7 per cent of people who would recommend us in 2014 to 94.7 per cent in 2015.”

In the next instalment of our benefits and rewards article industry expert Jean Martin explains why improving employee benefits matters so much in this current economic climate...