Exclusive: Central Co-op prioritises communicating benefits choice and creativity

Central Co-op benefits budgetsEmployee Benefits Live 2023: Being creative with benefits budgets and communicating these to workforces is key for employers, according to Jennifer Roberts (pictured), senior reward and wellbeing manager at Central Co-op.

Roberts’ presentation, Making your benefits budgets work harder to support your reward strategy, took place on Tuesday 3 October at Employee Benefits Live 2023.

During the session, she explained that Central Co-op’s culture focuses around the idea that employees are the heart of the business and that due to the current battle for talent, the organisation prioritises wellbeing, development opportunities and a fair deal in terms of reward. In order to do this, Roberts uses three points, dubbed ABC.

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The first, titled Ask your colleagues, focuses on finding out what employees want using feedback from surveys and listening groups to balance investment in reward against colleague value.

The second, titled Budgets, looks at external and internal benchmarking, using data to respond and adjust what is on offer and getting creative, because sometimes benefits budgets can be small or nothing at all.

The third, titled Choice and communications, explores the importance of choice, offering something different for employees from different generations and creating an agile communications plan to respond to feedback and economic conditions.

Roberts said: “By listening to colleagues, we were able to give them new office chairs, create a hybrid work policy and a golden hour every day away from emails and calls where they can have some down time, and a four-day week. These help to improve engagement, attraction and retention.”

She also explained that it is worth looking for added extras from providers employers may already be working with, offering the example of Central Co-op’s employee assistance programme recording its education sessions for the organisation to post online for its employees.

Roberts added: “Make sure what you’re offering is valuable. If you don’t communicate your benefits, staff won’t know they’re there. It’s also worth surveying staff throughout the process of setting up new benefits to make sure that they understand them and to find out what is and isn’t working.”