Blog – Do your staff do this? Secretly selling benefits

I read the recent furore over United Airlines sacking their staff with mixed feelings and a grim smile.

I’ve come across a few cases in the past of staff “selling on” their benefits.  Sometimes they are more than aware that they are committing an offence, but on other occasions it’s not so obvious to them.  Selling airline vouchers or a company branded t-shirt on e-bay (especially a desirable brand) may seem like a quick and easy way to make a bit of extra cash, but if it’s been clearly explained to staff that it is not acceptable then they know the risk they are taking.

I wonder why the message doesn’t always get through?  Telling staff it won’t be tolerated seems clear enough.  So is it the message itself, or the way that it’s delivered?

I frequently discuss with my clients that nothing replaces good old-fashioned communication.  As a species we’ve been communicating verbally for far longer than we’ve been writing words down.   Verbal communication is probably far more likely to get your message through than a lengthy written missive.   Yet it seems we still prefer to communicate with staff using every media except the one that we are genetically programmed to hear.

I get that it’s important for a clear and precise message to be communicated, but are we not just taking the easy way out?  We can always use the excuse that by writing it down instead of saying it, we get exactly the same message to everyone.  But what if that message is not seen – or not understood?  How do we know it’s been effective, if we don’t communicate further?

I hate legislating for the wrong-doers, although of course that’s how most company policies work.  But to me this is a clear example where multiple communications methods are required.  Tell staff what they can and can’t do, then use other media to reinforce it.  Check your contracts are clear, and then maybe on-line communication and good benefits programming can help?  If the benefit is not transferrable – a brief reminder as you order it should suffice, or maybe the same type of approach as with concert tickets where you have named ticket holders?

Whatever your preferred method, check the message got through.  Test the understanding.   Look for feedback…… and repeat……

Jane Baalam
Pay & Reward Specialist

Email Jane or call 0117 325 0526

 

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Blog: Don’t get sunk by a bonus blunder!

Shortly before Christmas the thorny issue of excessive bonuses once again hit the headlines, this time as the head of a large housebuilder quit after questions about the size of his £75m bonus.  Enough to pay cash for a super-yacht!  Under bonus arrangements that were undoubtedly agreed at Remuneration Committee level, he got what he was promised – and he’s now left his job, and the organisation are still trying to clean up a publicity nightmare.  They would, of course, have had a different nightmare to deal with if they had refused to pay his bonus and he’d sued them: they really didn’t have a leg to stand on.  You may be aware that the PR nightmare has now resurfaced after it emerged that his promise to use a considerable chunk of his bonus to set up a charitable foundation has not happened.

The technical side of me, says “Well, he earned it”.  I know that may feel hard to digest, given the size of the bonus, but the company put in place certain targets and made the promise of a certain reward if he achieved them.  These targets were achieved and so why shouldn’t he get the promised reward?  We are a hungry species that likes to earn good bonuses, and the company obviously tapped into that.  I suspect the real issue is rather the proportionality of it, which no-one expected.

Have the decision-makers learned nothing?  In general, we are also a principled species – we don’t like it when we perceive people are getting excessive reward for what they do.  When we hear about it, we make our feelings plain and in some cases vote with our feet.   There has been sufficient expression of discontent, ever since the “fat cat” issues with British Gas in the 1990’s, that companies really need to be acting more cautiously.

The argument that to remain competitive we have to pay high bonuses does not necessarily ring true.  It’s a question of balance, and psychological studies often don’t provide any evidence base for the view.  Remuneration Committees, Boards and key decision-makers should all be thinking carefully about the balance between rewards for executives and those for their other employees.  It is a shame that the FRC has had to issue guidance on this.  Published CEO pay ratios will also help companies identify what is relevant/appropriate for their sector.

I’m fortunate to spend quite a lot of time working with one particular sector where often executives will take their own pay out of the picture to ensure that pay goes to the people on the ground, although no-one’s perfect and companies still sometimes get it wrong.  The difference is that generally they make sure their salaries and bonuses are proportionate.   It’s inherent in an environment where they are continually under scrutiny by the sector media and other stakeholders.  So they send clear messages about what the remuneration of their executives is about.   Behind the scenes though, it’s really all about sourcing robust market data, understand market trends, identifying the pros and cons of your proposals and ensuring that you are considering the stakeholders.

If you’re concerned that you’re offering bonuses that would buy a super yacht in an environment that warrants a rowing boat (metaphorically or otherwise) and would appreciate further information on ensuring you strike the balance right, do please contact me.

Jane Baalam
Pay & Reward Specialist

Email Jane or call 0117 325 0526

 

Can our Pay & Reward services help you?

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Blog: So, what’s the benefit?

I’ve been working as a Reward consultant for some years now, and before that I was in an in-house Reward role in a reasonable sized organisation.  One of the issues we struggled with then was budget, and how to spend it wisely in order to get the best benefits for our staff.

I discovered early on that some benefits were going to be costly, no matter what.   If it’s an insurance or other product that needs actuarial input, that costs money.  So let’s be clear.  Financial benefits such as insurance are great, but to see any value you need to ensure that your staff know how much it costs you to provide the benefit.  So make sure you tell them what they’re getting.

Then, there are the voluntary benefits, such as discount schemes and freebies.  Here staff have choice over their spending, and the employer simply provides a list of organisations who have agreed to provide discounts.  These have long been seen as a chance for staff to get maximum value from their earnings, but they often claim that they can get better options or bigger discounts elsewhere.  That’s naturally going to be the case at some point.  What you’re doing here is trying to give them more options.  Again, be clear and tell them that.

And now, I have noticed a new trend.  The providers who offered complex employee benefit platforms, with supported on-line websites and access to multiple benefit options, used to be really expensive.  Well out of the price range of many smaller, or less financially well off, organisations.  This meant that lots of companies were missing out because they couldn’t afford the provider’s annual fee, even if they recognised the value in having such a platform.  What is happening now though, is that technology has moved on and the platforms for driving these things are less resource-intensive to develop. This means that there are now some really good, cost-effective benefit platforms that can be used by smaller organisations to offer their staff the same sort of benefits as the larger companies do. Apps on mobile phones and laptop working make all of this so much more accessible these days.

I’ve viewed one recently that allows you to put all your benefits online, manage benefit choices and changes, and track take-up.  All of this in a well-presented interface that can be personalised to your organisation.  Even better, the cost wouldn’t have broken the bank.  So, get out there and get looking again folks, the chance is here!

And what’s the benefit? Well of course, an engaged workforce that is more committed and works harder for you.

If you want to know more about these benefit platforms or the one that I like the look of, I’d be delighted to help.  Just get in touch.

Jane Baalam
Pay & Reward Specialist

Email Jane or call 0117 325 0526

 

Can our Pay & Reward services help you?

Take a look at our range of Pay & Reward services for employers, including our  market-leading Gender Pay Gap and Equal Pay advice services.

 

Blog: Blimey, can you still get that?

Sometimes I feel Job Evaluation is a bit like my favourite tipple – Babycham – although I’ve been a fan of Babycham slightly longer than I have job evaluation (I was always a sucker for anything that came with a cherry on top – cherry bakewells for instance).

Like many, I started out on Babycham when I was allowed a tipple at family events.  I think many grown-ups thought that the cute little deer, and the fact it was served in small glasses, made it less potent than wine or other alcohols.  Most people are quite shocked when they learn that its 6% proof – that’s stronger than most beers.  Many people are also surprised to learn you can still buy it – hence the title for this blog.

I find I sometimes get a similar response from people when I talk about why you need job evaluation.  It fell out of favour for a while, for a variety of reasons, not least because it takes some work.  But I can see it is clearly coming back on trend, now that pay equality is hitting the top 10 issues for HR again.

Like Babycham, job evaluation is a lot more potent than you realise. It doesn’t just measure the size of your jobs.  A fully applied job evaluation scheme will help you understand your internal relativities, align your external relativities for benchmarking and then more.  For instance, you can use the outcomes to underpin your pay structure and support you during organisation changes.  From a legal risk management point of view, it is an exceptionally powerful tool in both spotting Equal Pay claims and defending against them.   You can also use it to underpin and articulate career structures and identify gaps in your succession planning. If you’ve gone to all the effort of sizing your jobs using job evaluation, you might as well then use it to its full extent.  And a bit like Babycham, the information is there; you just need to be just looking in the right place for it.

If you’d like to get beyond the bubbles and talk about job evaluation in more depth, I’d be delighted to help. Just get in touch.

Jane Baalam
Pay & Reward Specialist

Email Jane or call 0117 325 0526

Can our Gender Pay Gap and Equal Pay services help you?
Take a look at our range of market-leading, fixed-price Gender Pay Gap and Equal Pay advice services, from a quick sense-check of your GPG calculations through to a detailed Equal Pay audit and help with restructuring your pay policies.

jane balaam

Blog: Perhaps the ultimate car-related benefit?

I have recently been involved in a 4-car shunt, so I have every sympathy for anyone trying to sort their car insurance just now.  Being in the middle of the shunt and having missed the car in front twice before the 4th car hit us all so hard I finally hit it, I am fortunate enough to be in the middle of a no-blame claim.  My car is insured for business and personal use and the whole process has been relatively simple but oh so time-consuming.  It has all taken up far too many hours of my time.

This got me thinking about the best car-related benefits I have seen offered by my clients.  I’ve seen discounted roadside recovery and cheap car hire.  Discounted insurance policies are also frequently on the list.  But having been through this recently, I think I would give an award (and possibly my undying loyalty) to the company that offers me someone else to deal with the process of an insurance claim – the ability to make just one call at the very start and it’s then all sorted, from the faff of making insurance claim itself through to accident repair company, replacement vehicle delivery and pick up, solicitor conversations and calls with the other parties involved.  Failing that, unrestricted time in working hours to deal with the calls and issues that come up would in my view be a very nice alternative.

If you know anyone who provides that utopia, or provides any unusual car-related benefits, I would be very interested to hear.

But in the meantime, if you are interested in knowing how to tie your benefits into your pay and reward framework so that you have a holistic and strategic approach, just honk (or rather, email me!)

Jane Baalam
Pay & Reward Specialist

Email Jane or call 0117 325 0526

Can our Gender Pay Gap and Equal Pay services help you?
Take a look at our range of market-leading, fixed-price Gender Pay Gap and Equal Pay advice services, from a quick sense-check of your GPG calculations through to a detailed Equal Pay audit and help with restructuring your pay policies.

Blog: Stop mentoring, start sponsoring!

It’s been a busy year for mentorists (and I don’t mean the mind tricks chaps on the telly!) – those who are deemed the good and great of mentoring in every business are unusually busy at the moment, as companies rush to put in their next big thing – mentoring programmes for women.

There are schemes and programmes that have been around for a long time (Women in Business, Women Ahead, 30% Club, etc.) and such schemes have undoubtedly done a significant amount to improve the lot of women in business. I have been lucky to have had some great informal and formal mentors over the years. But now that gender pay mitigation is high on everyone’s to do list, I was wondering what had happened to all those mentoring schemes that companies were so proud of. Why have those schemes not done more to help get the gender pay gap down?

Tonight on the train on the way home, listening to pundits waxing lyrical about Gareth Southgate’s achievements in management, it dawned on me that the problem is that mentoring is not enough. It is not sponsoring and it seems to me, it’s sponsoring that is needed.

Sponsoring requires you to actively promote your candidate to all and sundry as part of you looking after their interests. There may be those who would argue that mentors are also supposed to do that, but to be honest I do not see much evidence of it! If the last few years has only taught me one thing about mentoring, it is that getting managers to actively sponsor you, to put their money where their mouth is (so to speak), is a lot harder than just getting them to mentor you. Sponsors risk their reputation by pushing you to the forefront and having faith that you will rise to the occasion. It’s a much more proactive undertaking. They encourage you to take risks and stand alongside you when you do, helping others to see the great in you and supporting you to achieve your goals. They also encourage others to sponsor you.

I’ve got a great sponsor now; when we are working together he pushes me to the front, and has faith that I will be good for his reputation. Because of him, the latest stage of my professional career has developed and grown so much faster than I imagined. I can’t help feeling that we have both benefited from this!

So my message is, in terms of promoting gender equality, don’t just be a mentor – be a sponsor. Don’t just find a mentor, find a sponsor.

Of course, please don’t rely on this approach alone to get your organisation’s GPG down. Dealing with the sort of cultural biases that have enabled the pay gap to remain despite 40+ years of legislation is going to take a much wider approach. But it’s definitely part of the answer and this is why a lot of larger UK businesses have embraced sponsorship in the last year – both formal schemes and informal.

As we develop our findings on GPG mitigation, I am sure we will be coming back to this subject. In the meantime, if you want to know more about these issues, join us on 17 October for an interactive session on Achieving Pay Equality then we’ll happily provide you with everything you need to know about claims, risks, strategies and solutions.

Jane Baalam
Pay & Reward Specialist

Email Jane or call 0117 325 0526

Can our Gender Pay Gap and Equal Pay services help you?
Take a look at our range of market-leading, fixed-price Gender Pay Gap and Equal Pay advice services, from a quick sense-check of your GPG calculations through to a detailed Equal Pay audit and help with restructuring your pay policies.

Blog: Riding high

Travelling by plane is an exciting experience for me. I doubt I will ever lose the thrill of take-off and landing. Even though I am technically minded enough to understand how the plane stays in the air, I still feel a bit of childish wonder.

My latest journey was brightened by the realisation that we had an all-female flight crew – both pilot and co-pilot were female and, of course, all the cabin staff. I might not have noticed when I got on the plane if we were not sitting at the front, but I think the friends we were travelling with would have pointed it out soon enough, given how much I harp on about equality.

It might have been better if we hadn’t got into the debate about whether it was as bad to have an all-female crew as it is to have mostly male pilots and mostly female flight attendants. After 14 days together and much debate over long drawn out dinners, wine and Tsipouro, we finally agreed that an all-female crew was a great advance in the current environment. We are all looking forward to the day when we don’t notice either way because the chances are that there will be equal distribution of the sexes in these roles.

The airline I travelled with has made an open commitment to addressing gender imbalance in their roles. I strongly believe that many of those organisations that are committing to this as a means for addressing their Gender Pay Gap will at least achieve a step change in thinking over the next few years. Maybe not because they reach their targets, but because it’s out in the open – a visible commitment – and we are culturally ready for it.

Oh, and by the way, our landing was better with the all-female crew – who says women can’t park!

Jane Baalam
Pay & Reward Specialist

Email Jane or call 0117 325 0526

Can our Gender Pay Gap and Equal Pay services help you?
Take a look at our range of market-leading, fixed-price Gender Pay Gap and Equal Pay advice services, from a quick sense-check of your GPG calculations through to a detailed Equal Pay audit and help with restructuring your pay policies.

Blog: Only 10,000 employers to go…

This morning I was rushing around pulling together a list of ingredients for dinner tonight – we have friends coming over and I’m cooking Greek (modern, not medieval, for a change). Admittedly yesterday I was busy doing other things, but I could have taken fifteen minutes out last night to check what I need and start my morning off without the rush.

Anyway, this got me to thinking about why I (and we, in general) leave things to the last minute and cause ourselves some major hassle. It’s not that we always do it on purpose, but I have noticed from discussions with clients that the GPG reporting seems to be the one time when many are deliberately waiting until the last possible moment to publish.

This may be because their numbers are not as great as they would like, or because they are waiting for sign off, or simply because they don’t want to be highly visible. Or maybe it’s because they do not want to have their numbers questioned by the press.

My concern is that everyone seems to have forgotten that we are all doing this for the first time. The calculations are not as straightforward as they could be, the regulations are not absolutely 100% clear about who and what to include/exclude, and the fear of being called out, or even ridiculed, for getting it wrong is strong. No organisation wants to have their name dragged through the mud because the press do not believe their numbers. We all understand that, and hands up anyone who did not feel at least a twinge of sympathy for the companies who published low or zero pay gaps recently, only to revisit them because the Financial Times pounced on them.

As I write, only 1,500 employers have reported their GPG figures and, with only 4 weeks left until the deadline, it is estimated that there another 10,000 employers left. Are you one of the 10,000?

If you have done your calculations, and you are confident in your numbers, then I say crack on and publish them now and get it over with. The worst thing that can happen is that someone will notice them – but then President Trump will post another tweet or there will be more dire Brexit warnings and everyone will forget what the fuss was all about.

And if you’d like us to double-check your figures, just get in touch. But quickly!

Jane Baalam
Pay & Reward Specialist

Can our Gender Pay Gap and Equal Pay services help you?
Take a look at our range of market-leading, fixed-price Gender Pay Gap and Equal Pay advice services, from a quick sense-check of your GPG calculations through to a detailed Equal Pay audit and help with restructuring your pay policies.