` Better together – why employers need to embrace open and collaborative leadership | Reward and Employee Benefits Association (REBA)
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22 Aug 2019
by Nick Burns

Better together – why employers need to embrace open and collaborative leadership

Businesses have never been laid so bare, and for many this is proving a tough challenge. Boardrooms of the past were often places of mystery and wonder to the rest of the organisation, not to mention the outside world. Now, in order to ‘bring out their better’ the C-suite has to connect more strongly with their people and the communities where they live and work. Senior executives must also help drive collaboration across all parts of the business, ensuring alignment of priorities, resources and goals.


Evidence of the need for a more collective and connected mind-set in competing for and managing employees is hard to ignore. The perception of excessive salaries and bonuses at the top and a ‘nose to the grindstone’ mentality for everyone else has created an undercurrent of dismay. An emphasis on the individual continues to blur work-life boundaries, and employees won’t – and indeed don’t – stick around if they feel uninspired or dissatisfied with their lot. The glue provided by defined benefit (DB) pension schemes has long since dried up. And an inflexible 9-to-5 mentality represents one sure-fire way to put off new recruits.

The beating heart of successful business

Even the lucky few organisations that can boast sound recruitment and retention may suffer lacklustre productivity. This is primarily due to one of the most pervasive issues in today’s workplace: presenteeism. In short, UK business faces some big challenges. Whilst all organisations are different, there’s a singular solution that focuses on what they have in common. This one constant – the beating heart of a successful business – is happy, healthy and engaged employees.

Gallagher’s integrated approach to compensation, benefits, retirement and employee communication, called Gallagher Better WorksSM, helps organisations truly bring out their better.

By addressing the interconnected nature of health, engagement and culture, they can face their futures with confidence. From a holistic point of view, they’re able to more readily see and assess the effects of this relationship on productivity and turnover, and find opportunities for improvement.

This approach is about innovation and optimisation. In a practical sense, that means making better use of existing resources and other assets to help resolve challenges and promote the growth of the entire organisation.

Taking control of the employer value proposition

Employers that move ahead identify what needs to be done better. And those that have got this nailed ensure their brand experience – in terms of attraction and retention – is as relevant to recruits and their employees as it is to their customers.

Employees’ thoughts and feelings about their organisation now define the brand as much as the impressions of outsiders do. To have any influence over brand perception whatsoever, it’s essential to have a strong employer value proposition (EVP): ‘this is how we want to be seen’. And with that comes the knock-on effect on productivity and turnover.

Taking control requires a shift of mind-set to a much more concerted focus on communication. But this is about listening – not telling. Employee insight is crucial to advising decision-making at the board level and ensuring key stakeholders and leaders are aligned. Only then can the organisation nurture an effective culture: one that demonstrates respect for employees and earns their trust.

An example of applying employees’ preferences to culture and benefits is placing a higher priority on work-life balance and corporate social responsibility (CSR) – supported by an investment of time and resources in local communities. In turn, this leads to potential gains in productivity, motivation and brand loyalty.

Making total rewards communication meaningful

Employee benefits represent a considerable spend for most organisations. Although pay increases were better than expected in the UK in 2018, they were mostly limited to a few technology sectors where skilled individuals are in short supply.

Communicating total rewards is an affordable essential, not a nice-to-have. But in order to unlock return on investment (ROI), communication must be meaningful. Just providing a list of available benefits each year won’t capture anyone’s attention – at least not for long. Employees need to understand the daily value of their benefits in protecting and supporting them and their families.

Better businesses are those that make sure employee benefits can deliver on their promises. Closed DB schemes are a case in point. They’ve brought savings to many organisations but they come with risk, too.

It’s important to stay on top of aspects such as early retirement liabilities associated with ill health – past, present and potential future. Some organisations are managing to do this in a way that completely removes the liability from the balance sheet. But at the same time, they’re able to create or further shape their organisational wellbeing.

Empowering employees through financial education

Financial education at all levels is essential. It’s as much about helping someone on an average salary ‘get by’ and retire when they want to, as it is about encouraging higher earners to maximise their retirement income, and take advantage of other tax-efficient savings vehicles.

There’s no onus on employers to do this. But more are now choosing to get involved. Why? Because there are big gains to be had with regard to organisational wellbeing. When a focus on financial education improves employees’ health and wealth, increased productivity and a stronger corporate reputation often follow.

Again, it needn’t break the bank. The organisations doing this well are making good use of free resources – there’s a lot of great educational material out there. Plus, making better use of the compensation and career benefits they already have, as well as communications, offers an example of what ‘good’ looks like when it comes to finances at key life stages.

The global economy is tough and ever changing. The winners will be organisations that truly embrace open and collaborative leadership. They’re the ones getting out in front of this strategic shift, and keeping their ears to the ground so they know what needs to be done better. At the same time, they’re putting the support in place to utilise these insights, driving progress towards better talent attraction and retention outcomes by promoting innovative, optimised programmes. For these organisations, being laid bare is an opportunity, not a threat.

For more insights, read Gallagher’s 2019 Organisational Wellbeing & Talent Insights Report.

The author is Nick Burns, CEO at Gallagher Benefit Services, UK

This is a sponsored article from Gallagher Benefit Services, UK

In partnership with Gallagher

Consultancy services including organisational wellbeing, culture change and internal communications.

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