Secrets of success: Joanne Rees, head of reward M&S

Joanne Rees, head of reward at M&S, says reward professionals need to focus on the complete employee experience, not just pay.

Joanne Rees M&S

How is the reward industry changing?

Anyone considering a career in reward now needs to think beyond the numbers. We need to be aware of the whole experience of what being at work means for an individual, rather than just about their pay or a component part of the reward package.

The industry is much more holistic than when I began my career as a graduate 20 years ago. My opening steps into reward were very pay orientated – the sorts of questions I dealt with were very much about, “is that base pay, or total cash?” rather than the total reward focus which has built up in the benefits space now. That’s reflected in my team which now encompasses recognition, performance and wellbeing alongside compensation and benefits.

Also for us, the business investment and the interest is there to make sure that when we reward people, we can talk about their whole experience at work rather than just asking if we are getting their pay right.

Have employees embraced a more rounded reward offering?

I think they are embracing it more, especially at the moment where we have got such low inflation and where the economy has been so testing.  That has combined to encourage people to appreciate the whole experience of going to work.

In our workplace culture, people are much more aware of their wellbeing and conscious of the impact of work on their mental and physical health. They are focusing more on that side of the reward offering.

What is the biggest challenge you currently face?

For us, as a big retailer, it is around wellbeing. It is being able to get a full suite of wellbeing experiences and approaches into every store as well as for head office employees.

It’s a challenge where some elements have quite a high cost-per-head, but we see providers being much more creative in what they are willing to offer. 

Technology is really helping and we are starting to see a lot more digital products we can use.  As a business we are introducing more digital based access to all aspects of the business. That ranges from being able to arrange shift patterns, to managing reward information. It is a big change for the company and so a big challenge, but it will benefit our staff across all the different store formats.

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