Not many teams can launch a flexible benefits scheme two years early. Samsung did. Owain Thomas reveals why the team is Savings and Benefits Team of the Year 2014.
At a Glance
- Samsung needed to engage its employees and improve retention as headhunting became fierce
- A flex scheme was added to better address the range of roles, locations and people at the firm
- Feedback has been excellent along with tax and NI savings increasing for staff and the business
Samsung’s reward team may only be small but their work, according to the WSB Awards 2014 judges, is beautiful. The two-woman team – head of reward for UK and Ireland Joanna Bean and reward co-ordinator Aimee Miller – is charged with taking care of the UK arm of a global company, and that includes applying its ethos to the UK workspace.
The organisation had been seeing the battle for talent grow increasingly fierce with headhunting rife in the technology sector. As a result, Samsung adopted a new mission: to attract and retain talented people. And it realised that a culture where people were highly engaged and felt truly valued was crucial to do this. So in 2013 employee benefits was put at the top of the agenda.
As Bean explains, buy-in from the top was vital for this approach to be taken seriously.
“It was critical to our success that we received senior management support,” she says. “The president of Samsung Electronics UK and Ireland has been supportive of the launch of our flexible benefits offering and the support we have received from all internal stakeholders has been positive.”
Bean kicked off the project with thorough research among the business’ 1,480 staff, based across eight UK offices. “We didn’t simply impose what we thought our people needed; we listened and analysed how they wanted it communicated and delivered,” she adds.
To meet the needs of a highly diverse workforce spanning several generations and all forms of job roles, it was decided to replace the existing paper-based system with an online universal reward and benefits system for every employee. Alongside this, targets were set to encourage more than 80% of staff to log in, more than 60% to use flexible benefits, and to increase pension take-up to more than 75% of the workforce.
This task was complicated by the programme needing to fit the four payrolls and meet the needs of five HR departments. The team enlisted the help of Thomsons Online Benefits and started tackling the eye-opening research results which highlighted some stark differences between the perceived and actual value of benefits already offered.
Nine new benefits under health, wealth and lifestyle headings were introduced to the Highlights scheme, while the £30 gym allowance was replaced with £50 to spend on benefits of their choice. Family-friendly benefits were also a major desire in the survey, so the option to include family members to certain benefits was introduced.
A multi-channel communication campaign – including webinars, face-to-face sessions, letters and emails before the launch of the portal – aimed at the widespread workforce followed.
“At Samsung, we ensure that we are measured by the feedback from our employees. We carry out an annual employee survey which has been in place for the past seven years. We measure our retention factors and are constantly looking at new two-way communication channels to make sure that staff have all the information at their fingertips,” says Bean.
“One of the new channels opened following our annual window in 2014 was employee focus groups and these discussed not just benefits but also our health and wellbeing activities.”
The results obtained through all these measures were impressive, meeting the goals and reflecting the opportunity given for staff feedback. The new scheme was rated 27.8% higher than the old one, with four of the five most popular benefits being new ones. Almost 70% flexed their benefits in the past year, 71% (1,052) are now pension scheme members (almost double the 2012 level), and 87% logged in to view their plan (up from 72% in 2012) – an average of five times.
There was a 10% jump in employees agreeing that the flexible benefits scheme enhanced their reward package, a 20 percentage-point increase in staff saying the company values their wellbeing, while an overwhelming 86% of employees said they were proud to be a part of the company.
But that was not all – the financial windfall to both employees and the business was impressive. Employee tax savings more than doubled from £87,000 to £208,000 per year while there was also a 30% increase in employee National Insurance (NI) savings (£94,000 to £122,000).
Meanwhile, staff turnover fell noticeably, again providing a cash saving alongside a 23% increase in employer NI savings.
“We have been able to deliver some amazing contributions to our benefits offering and communication on our pension scheme – we are both passionate about employees saving for their futures,” Bean concludes. “We strive to offer innovative and informative communications, while taking on board what our employees say and acting on this as much as possible.”