Kristian Brunt-Seymour reveals how building a benefits strategy while dealing with austerity earned Nottingham City Council the WSB Award for Savings and Benefits Team of the Year.
- The council saved £1.7m in salary and National Insurance Contributions in three years
- An internal recruitment programme saw a 62% year-on-year reduction in advertising spend
- Being innovative and experimental is essential when introducing benefits in the public sector
Nottingham City Council made record savings of over £730,000 in funding through its Works Perks salary sacrifice strategy that included a range of measures and perks designed to cut costs and safeguard jobs.
Benefits as part of the programme involved a holiday purchase scheme, a reduced working hours salary sacrifice scheme, and 50% discount at council leisure centres.
Through this, the council saved £1.7m in salary and national insurance contributions over three years, including £666,000 in 2014 alone.
The programme also had a 74% increase in staff sign-up over two years from 2,440 employees in October 2012 to 4,601 employees by the end of February 2015.
Furthermore, 41% of the council's 7,000-strong workforce opted in for their internal recruitment programme, People Plus, which resulted in a 62% year-on-year reduction in advertising spend.
Works Perks won the WSB Award for Savings and Benefits Team of the Year, something Nottingham City Council resourcing and reward consultant Lynn Griffin-Pearce said was a testament to the team's ability to be innovative, creative and experimental when introducing benefits and competing with the private sector.
Griffin-Pearce said the next step was to look at how schemes fitted in with the council's multigenerational workforce, a large female working population, part-timers, and older workers.
This involved experimenting with computer workshops, health screening and health scans, which will hopefully reduce sickness absence in the workforce.
"We were very surprised to be winners for the award, particularly given the others on the shortlist," Griffin-Pearce said. "We didn't think we'd stand a chance against our private sector competitors so the win is a great reflection of what we've done at the council and with our partners.
"It's also the case of seeing what's new and trendy out there when trying to introduce new benefits into the mix. This is why we introduced the car scheme back in January, because we know that a car lease scheme is one of the most valuable benefits to staff, so we thought we'd introduced that and see what the uptake was like. So far it seems to be going well.
"We like to be innovative and try new things, give it a go and if it doesn't work then we will try something else. Being innovative can be scary and with things like a car scheme you have to dive through a lot of hoops, but you take the risk and give the scheme a go," she added.
Indeed pushing the boundaries and trying new schemes is one of the things Griffin-Pearce is most proud of.
"There is a risk attached but we give it a go; it's also about being creative and innovative," she continued.
"Benefits are there for the employees but also for the council as well because it allows us to generate more income, save on National Insurance Contributions and help protect jobs. That's what's really important to me.
"This is a smarter way of the council working, protecting front-line services and giving something back to employees in a climate where there are no bonuses. We try to do things differently and give something back," she added.
The approach has allowed the council to compete with its private sector rivals in a time of significant cost constraint.
"It shows what you can do when you are creative. We are trying to do things differently. We haven't got much money so it's about thinking outside the box. This award shows you can do that and it's something that we should be very proud of," she concluded.
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