Secrets of success: Neil McCawley, group head of reward at Ferguson Plc
Neil McCawley, group head of reward at Ferguson Plc, sees reward challenges for both low and high earners.
Which is the main reward issue facing your company and how is it being tackled?
The key challenge for our UK business is making sure that we match the living wage. It is a fairly substantial raise every year at a time when you can’t really pass costs onto the customer, and the UK market is facing tough conditions. It makes it hard to continue to maintain a differential, which is what the UK business has done.
Our business has matched the living wage since it was introduced and has paid it to every employee regardless of age. It is a challenge we face every year, to make sure we maintain that.
To continue to maintain the living wage has required an in-depth look at other benefits that we provide. It’s included reviewing pension contributions and flexible benefits which the UK business has withdrawn.
If you could introduce or remove one piece of legislation around reward what would it be?
I would raise the pensions annual allowance to a more realistic level and I would scrap the lifetime allowance.
All I think it has done is to discourage higher earners from paying into pensions. Consequently they lose interest, which isn’t good for the rest of the workforce. If senior management are interested in pensions, everyone else benefits.
What would be your advice to someone considering a career in reward?
It is 80 per cent common sense and 20 per cent understanding how reward works. You need to be good at analysis - I think if you can handle numbers you are probably going to stand out.
It’s also helps to focus your career. Do you want to be a reward generalist, or focus on benefits? Taking qualifications through the CIPD is also essential if you want to progress, and you need to be able to manage stakeholders.
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