Charlotte Frost, benefits and wellbeing manager, HR, Schroders

 

What topics will your Employee Benefits Connect session cover?

One of the biggest challenges that wellbeing programmes have is engaging with organisations globally. Some topics don’t lend themselves very easily to a consistent message and [this] can be due to cultural differences, including stigma, and also languages. In the past, I [have] done a cancer awareness [initiative] and within it, I directed people to go and see their GP. Everybody from the States and Asia said, ‘what’s a GP?’ I then had to learn that it was doctor. It’s just being mindful that not everywhere uses the same terminology and positioning.
“When [doing] a campaign, sometimes [we] can do it with [our] blinkers on, [creating it to be] suitable for the audience in the location that [we] sit in. HR professionals just have to be mindful of what the other challenges are when [sharing] it with other locations. So, for me for example, I’ve decided against doing nutrition as a global topic because having somebody here that says carbs are a no-no, if [we] were to take that to another culture or another country, that would be completely unreasonable for them. So, it’s about just being mindful of the topics and the themes.

Why do you feel these topic points are important to discuss?

Because you only get one time to get it right. I worked for a Canadian organisation and it ran three wellbeing campaigns across the year. The concept was absolutely spot on; [we] should be looking at what we can do and being more proactive. However, the head office was in Canada, most of the employee population was in Canada and I was in the UK and I was responsible for rolling it out in Europe. The way that the campaign came across, it just didn’t land very well here. It was the way [the organisation] approached topics, which was, I think, sometimes seen as very Americanised and almost a bit patronising, so nobody engaged with it. So, despite having all the best efforts and doing something which is morally the correct thing to do, because [the business] didn’t take the time to engage locally and find out what would be suitable for different audiences, the take up or the engagement with the campaigns [was] lower. It was a missed opportunity really.

What is the main takeaway message for delegates from your session?

Communication is key and take the time to get it right up front.

Why should HR and benefits professionals attend your session in particular?

I’ve got some good stories to tell and some real-life examples of what has worked, but also being honest about what hasn’t worked and how we’ve taken learning from that.

What does the future of reward look like to you?

There’s a lot more crossover behind various initiatives. With the gender pay gap coming into play and in solving that problem, it then drives [an organisation’s] benefits and it takes benefits in a certain steer; how do [we] support specific populations? The same with wellbeing and what [employers] concentrate on. There’s some challenges that businesses face now that are actually driving our reward strategies, or our wellbeing strategies, or our [diversity and inclusion] strategies and [we] can see how they are more intertwined now than ever. It’s not just [putting] a standalone benefits programme in place and tick a list of yes, we’ve got income protection, yes, we’ve got this. There’s a lot more thought behind it now and by putting a benefit in place, a wellbeing, engagement campaign, a [diversity and inclusion] group or trying to solve the challenge of the gender pay gap, [employers are] looking at things a lot more holistically and the impact of what [is] put in place rather than ‘have we ticked the box and put this benefit in place?’ Personally, I think that’s actually what makes working in this industry so interesting.

What are three hot trends in the industry for 2019?

There seems to be a lot about what [employers] are doing to improve their gender pay gap and looking for creative ways in doing that. They think to publicise that as well. I’m going to mention the ‘B’ word, which is Brexit. I don’t actually know what that means, I don’t think anybody does and maybe that’s just me being ignorant, but it is going to have an impact far beyond what we can comprehend. We’re all going to have to respond to it. Where we’ve spent so much time as benefits professionals or reward professionals moving from a state of being reactive to business needs to [being] proactive and thinking strategically, I think we’re going to have to, in this instance, we’re going to be reactive and it’ll be interesting to see how quick organisations are to react to those challenges. 

I still think wellbeing is a really important driver. The strain on the NHS, which obviously is always in the news, and how we can use what we’ve already got in place to really help employees when things outside of the organisation and the support [they] can get is dwindling or becoming more challenging; how [employers] can make sure people are making the most of what [businesses are] already offering them. I read something about a recession; if that is the case, how are we going to do more with less?