Secrets of success; Rosemary Lemon, group head of reward, Hays

What have been your biggest reward successes?

In a previous role when the company listed on the stock exchange we did a share gift and rolled that out to 10,500 employees in 52 countries in seven weeks. 

It was received very well because the company was very geographically dispersed and by giving everybody the same amount of shares regardless of their income it united the company across all these different countries.

Extraordinarily, everybody kept their shares. They could have sold them immediately, but didn’t and I think it shows the way in which shares can be used to unite an organisation.

The second success I am very proud of is here at Hays. When we looked at our demographics and the social trends that are impacting our employees, we saw that traditional benefits weren’t always meeting their needs. So, we are trying to bring in different benefits that will have an impact and really help people.

We have thought outside the box and introduced an employee loan plan and also given employees the ability to rent flats cheaply in London.

The loans have been really successful. We originally had the idea that it would allow people to borrow enough money to put down a rental deposit and help young people leave home, but actually half of the loans have been used to consolidate debt. We have had some really powerful stories including single parents who have been able to go on holiday for the first time.

How do you decide on the balance between benefits and cash?

We organise our benefits under five pillars: health, money, work/life balance, working environment, and learning and development. That means we can tell stories around them and what they are going to be used for.

Some of the benefits are given by the company; some are voluntary, but it all helps to focus people. That’s not necessarily about being paternalistic – it’s about giving people relevant choices and making good use of the purchasing power that a company has.

In comparison, an amount of cash spread over 13 pay periods is quite small. It gets swallowed up and it doesn’t help people to really improve their lifestyle or health or money issues.

What do you see as the biggest future challenge in reward?

I think it is the future of the world of work. People are living longer, therefore, they are going to have to work longer.

There was a move away from having the same job in the same company for a life to having the same job but through several companies throughout a working life. I think the next stage will be people will have different jobs with different companies and also periods of break, so they will have a portfolio career.

They might start off in one role, take a break to go travelling and then come back to a completely different role, so the challenge will be how do you retain that talent and how you can offer benefits that are going to suit that sort of lifestyle?

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