‘We’re in a perfect storm’ is how Mary Robertson opened our most recent webinar on ‘How to make Reward sustainable and relevant to the here and now’. She used this phrase to describe how all organisations, employees and their families right now are trying to save money. Companies are looking at overheads and where they can pull back on budget, at the same time staff are looking at their employers for financial support. 
Mary’s message was to keep calm and carry on: 
‘Focus on the today and think about the tomorrow’ – knee jerk reactions that solve a problem today may well create problems in the future, Mary is seeing this in some of the businesses she works with. 
‘Don’t Follow the Herd’ – be aware that some organisations are introducing initiatives because they need to compete for staff with others in the same sector. If you’re not competing with these organisations think twice before ‘following the herd’. 
‘Don’t Make Assumptions’ – making assumptions about your staffs’ situation, generalising, and categorising staff groups, and creating an offer for them, may actually create a negative vibe within your organisation. 
“…implementing a pile of initiatives that cost money generally means you can only do them as a one-off. Once that money is spent, it is spent, but how do you know you’ve directed it into the right areas?” 
So, what can you do? Mary is a big believer in looking at what you’ve got and maybe doing more of that. Whether it’s increasing existing staff discounts, or finding more funds to subsidise food purchases, take a look at what are you already doing. Can you do more of it? 
Introduce or increase allowing staff to buy holiday – decreasing an individual’s income at this time may sound bizarre but offset that against childcare or carer costs and it may make financial sense for your employees to take up this offer. There are also tax benefits if done using salary sacrifice. 
“Think about talent, think about who you’re in danger of losing, that you don’t want to lose. Think about the real hardcore of employees who maybe haven’t got the “hot” skills, but you’re dependent on them for getting you through the next year.” 
Control out of cycle increases – an annual review pay rise of +3%, can increase to a lot more over a 12-month period if you don’t manage ad-hoc reviews carefully. 
Think like your employees, not your own age demographic – think about your organisation’s demographics, what’s going to appeal to different people and different life stages? 
Communicate, communicate, communicate – think about what you want to tell them. Reinforce what you’re already doing. Lots of people won’t know about what you’re doing, so remind them. 
Here are some ideas you might like to consider: 
More frequent salary reviews 
Unconsolidated bonuses – you do need to think about a starting point, the ending point and whether or not you can afford it. 
Discounted benefits – discounts on utilities and supermarkets are hugely relevant to everyone right now. 
Increasing/Offering Staff Discounts 
Childcare /Carer Support – in the form of extra days off funded by the organisation. 
Reduced hours of work for the same salary – reducing the hours (rather than increasing the salary), to align with a decrease in company workload can be win/win for everyone. 
More holiday and/or ability to buy or sell or subsidised travel or fuel – important note – be clear in your communication of these – they are the sort of thing that once you start them, they are quite difficult to stop. 
Increased use of employee equity scheme, e.g., exceptional award of free shares – it won’t cost you anything and it will keep employees locked into your organisation and brings goodwill. 
Hardship funds – this comes with a warning – use appropriately and carefully! 
Company Food Banks 
Sustainability/Green Energy Support – offering charging points or loans for employees to get solar panels put on their homes. 
“Don’t underestimate your working environment” particularly if you are encouraging people to come back into work. 
In a recent Reward Gateway survey, the top five employee ‘must-haves’ were: 
Fair pay 
A caring manager 
Flexible working 
Trusted leadership 
Wellbeing support 
As Mary says ‘give people a reason to enjoy coming to work. They want to be recognised; you can recognise them in a non-financial way’. 
Neil Tune, Chief People & Culture Officer at Transparity shared his own experiences with us during the webinar. 
Transparity are a high growth business, in a high growth sector. There’s a skills scarcity, in terms of finding, and keeping, the right talent. This means there’s real salary pressure in their working environment right now. He says that Transparity’s company culture is a critical success factor in managing this skill scarcity. 
Neil values his company culture at £10,000 per person per annum in terms of salary. He says he can probably get people to accept an offer with them that is £10K less than they might have been offered by a competitor. Neil also thinks if somebody offered an existing member of staff a salary to leave them below £10,000, that they wouldn’t typically go unless there were some other drivers to leave. 
There’s real tangible benefit in terms of culture and, as Mary mentioned, around leadership in that environment, this really stands out for Transparity. 
An employee and artist who creatively depicted the company’s values which are now displayed in the hub. 
Here are some of the things they are doing for their working environment and company culture: 
Calling their office, a hub 
Quarterly staff awards aligned with their company values; Transformation; Partnership; Clarity 
On the walls of their boardroom, they also have pictures of the first winners of these awards. Meetings are carried out ‘under the watchful eye of their staff!’ 
Focusing on ESG (environmental, social and governance practice) – they have partnered with a client, Woodland Trust. For all Transparity’s billable work that the staff do from home, they put money into the Woodland Trust’s emergency tree fund. 
Fully Remote Staff Force – they have even developed their own trademark around ‘winning from anywhere’, which has now become a real competitive advantage for them. 
This gives you an idea of the kind of organisation Transparity are creating. They talk about having a culture that differentiates them. Some of that is the work around their values and awards but they also focus on real life for the employees, specifically right now, cost of living. Neil describes these as the ‘moments of truth’ and he says this is the ‘time when your culture really gets tested’. 
“It’s easy to have a great culture when everything’s fine. But when times are tough, do you really live your values and do all the right things?” 
So, what are Transparity doing in response to the cost-of-living crisis? 
Neil echoes Mary’s advice to ‘think about your employees, not from your own age’. 
Transparity reassured staff on 3 things; 
They were building a business for the long term, from Start up to Grown up company, a sustainable long-term business. 
They want their staff to know they have that job security, they can trust them as an employer. 
They can have a long-term career with them, and there is no need to panic in the short term. 
Neil also agrees with Mary about communicating – Transparity tell their staff every month and every quarter how fast they are growing, that they have a ‘sensible balance sheet’. 
Transparity have done a lot of work with Mary around building out their reward framework and bandings. Here’s a summary of the things they have implemented; 
Clear about their position in the salary marketplace – mid-point and competitive 
Employee assistance programme 
Benefits of ‘Winning From Anywhere’ including the WFA allowance 
Annual Review – based on affordability, performance, market benchmarking, etc. 
One-off expense allowance – to support setting up their WFH environment 
Partnering with ‘Money Coach’ an organisation to help people manage and budget better, or plan for retirement or saving for property. 
Benefits platform – helping people make their existing money go further 
One-off payment to staff 
Incentive scheme – currently being assessed 
Neil’s final words are aligned with Mary’s ‘keep the bigger picture in mind. Where are you trying to get to as a business in the long term? Don’t make decisions now that stop that happening or jeopardise that.’ 
Here's Mary and Neil’s full Trapeze HR Webinar 
Please enter your details in the box below if you’d like to hear more about upcoming webinars. 
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