Avison Young recognises the importance of providing a reward strategy that, while supporting its overall business strategy, absolutely has its employees at the centre. The philosophy behind the property organisation’s reward strategy is that it provides benefits that align with the needs of its employees and upholds its talent management goals. Pav Powar, reward and employee benefits consultant, says: “As a people-centric business, we fully understand that there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to employee benefits. So there is absolutely no point in just creating a wealth of benefits that don’t relate with our employees.
“We tailor our employee benefit initiatives to engage employee interest throughout their journey with us, right from the talent attraction and retention through to recognition and reward, in line with our overall strategy.”
Agile approach to reward
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Rapid change in the industry and the war for talent means that Avison Young takes an agile approach to employee reward in order to ensure that its staff always have easy access to the benefits that are most valuable and appropriate to their lives. “The technology curve is making the way we work faster and more efficient, while competition for the talent that we are after, the highly skilled, is fierce,” explains Powar. “Coupled with that, there are now several generations of employees working alongside one another, all with different workplace approaches, perspectives; [we are] trying to align our benefit offering to that.”
To meet these challenges, the employer invested in a flexible benefits platform, My Rewards, which is a one-stop-shop for all employees’ rewards needs. The platform, which is managed by Avison Young’s in-house reward team, gives employees specific information related to their own status, and enables them to make benefits selection, access and view payslips and any other documents relevant to themselves. “We have invested heavily in innovative technology to help manage the benefits experience, and continuously develop our diverse benefits package to fit a multi-generational workforce,” says Powar. “We offer traditional health benefits, such as private medical or health screening which often precede disruptive health measures, complemented by proactive physiologist-led health programmes, which are more geared and designed to educating and encouraging employees on how they can manage and change their behaviours related to that.”
Focus on mental health
Prior to the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic, Avison Young had a comprehensive health and wellbeing programme in place which was largely focused on the physical health and financial wellbeing of employees, and mostly delivered onsite in its offices. Of course, with the immense changes the pandemic has caused to business operations and working lives, the organisation had to quickly adapt its offering, both in terms of the type of support available and how employees could access it.
“What the pandemic has done is catapulted the importance of mental health, so it’s not only shifted our strategy and refocused this discussion of mental health but also affected how we deliver it,” explains Powar. “Mental health has been one of the main priorities, I would say, in 2020. Not only being able to create or source the content, but then also deliver it to our workforce who have predominantly been at home.”
At the beginning of the pandemic, the employer created a health and wellbeing hub on its intranet to provide access to online services, regular webinars, online content, articles, and a monthly newsletter. The newsletter is to help employees look after their mental health and signposts them to the assistance that is available beyond their colleagues or managers. It also created a virtual one-to-one 30-minute wellbeing consultation, which looks at a wide range of health indicators, but focuses on mental health resilience and stresses.
Avison Young also provided mental health first aid courses for employers before the pandemic, which took place in the offices. But it now works with Mental Health First Aid England to deliver these course virtually, as well as providing refresher courses for the existing mental health first aiders within Avison Young.
The employer has also been promoting the use of its employee assistance programme (EAP) and the support it offers. Powar says: “We’ve highlighted and reinforced that this is available to immediate family members, I think it’s really important. One thing that has come out of the pandemic is understanding that it is not only employees that make up the family at Avison Young, it’s the employees’ families [too].”
The EAP is supported by the organisation’s group income protection (GIP) scheme. This acts as a first port of call to ensure that employees’ initial concerns don’t result in longer-term absences. The GIP scheme can also point employees to additional counselling services.
Flexible access to benefits
Providing a suite of benefits to employees to employees that is truly flexible is key factor in Avison Young’s reward strategy. Powar explains that the flexible benefits scheme offers anytime enrolment windows, meaning that employees can access and choose the benefits that are best suited to them at any point. “The flexibility of our benefits package and the various benefits available, which are then tailored by our employees to suit them at any given point in their life [is very important],” she says. “We provide anytime flexible benefits to really enable employees to tailor their benefits to suit their needs and lifestyle. That’s not restricted to an annual enrolment window: we have monthly selection windows, we have lifestyle events, which can trigger windows, all relevant to that employee and not only their professional journey, but also their personal journey.”
Avison Young has always encouraged open lines of communication and feedback from employees, and that hasn’t changed over the past year. Constant communication helps to inform the reward strategy, says Powar. “Communication channels have remained quite consistent. We encourage open dialogue and regular feedback throughout the year, but that feedback and continuous dialogue feeds into the review of benefits, or potential implementation of new benefits. So if there’s enough feedback, or enough noise about a new benefit, we will then look to review that.
“We also engage with our employees to understand their engagement with benefits. For example, recently a new starter requested additional information at induction stage, and on the flip of that, we’ve incorporated an FAQ document at induction to ensure that that engagement piece is not missed.”
With a diverse workforce that spans multiple demographics, Avison Young’s flexible approach to reward ensures that its employees are provided with the most relevant benefits that suit their lifestyles, wherever they are in their career journey.
At a glance
Avison Young is a property firm with 1,600 employees in the UK. The organisation has a range of professional job roles including qualified commercial surveyors, planners, project managers, building surveyors, and support functions.
The average age is 42, and the workforce is 59% male and 41% female. The average length of services is six years.
Primary business objectives that impact employee benefits
Avison Young has a strategic pillar that highlights the importance of employee health and wellbeing at the organisation.
Pav Powar joined Avison Young in 2007 within the business partner team as a business support adviser. She then moved across to the in-house recruitment team.
In 2008 the organisation developed its reward and benefits team, where Powar is the reward and employee benefits consultant.
Prior to joining Avison Young, the majority of Powar’s experience was in in-house recruitment. She says: “I think it’s fair to say I love working with people delivering for our clients – and clients for myself in this role is our employees, our people – and to see that they have what they need to enjoy their careers.”