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Company of the week: Nationwide


Paul Bissell

Nationwide’s strapline is ‘Proud to be different’ and when it comes to benefits it certainly has lived up to its promise; offering flexibility and choice on top of the standard package. Annie Hayes spoke to Paul Bissell, Senior Reward Manager at Nationwide and the CIPD’s Vice President of Reward.

*Benefits stats*
Benefits offered:

  • pensions

  • healthcare

  • holiday trading

  • flexible working

  • career breaks

  • enhanced maternity/paternity pay

  • bikes for work

  • mobile phones

  • childcare vouchers etc

Most popular benefit: holiday trading

Most unpopular benefit: bikes for work

Benefits tip: Build flexibility into any package and allow for some choice. Start small and build up.

The company believes that because it does not have shareholders to satisfy, it can focus upon providing value to its customers and increasing employee satisfaction.

“The key to our benefits structure is having an holistic approach in place; it’s the ability to tailor it to the needs of employees. We bolt our flexible benefits structure onto our core package. It would be hard to find a gaping hole anywhere,” explains Bissell.

Flexible benefits are central to Nationwide’s strategy: “Over the last ten years flexible benefits have become increasingly more important and it’s amazing that more companies don’t see this.

“The 2006 CIPD reward management survey, which assessed the benefits structures in place of 535 companies, showed that the number of organisations offering flexible benefits is incredibly low. It’s less than ten per cent and the volume of benefits on offer is low too.”

Bussell says that providing such benefits gives the company a competitive advantage: “You can be 90% ahead of the pack simply by having a flexible benefits scheme in place.”

Many benefits, such as pension and holiday schemes, are products which the company itself provides, but it also
uses external suppliers for particular options: RAC for car breakdown cover, Nationwide’s Positive Care Plan is provided by AIG and Halfords is employed for the Bikes For Work Scheme.

Nationwide has assessed its benefits investment. Research conducted with the help of John Purcell of Bath University has evaluated the areas in which customer commitment meets with employee satisfaction.

They concluded that financial rewards are not the most common reason forresignation – relationships with the line and promotional opportunities beat monetary incentives hands down. However, an employee’s satisfaction with pay is one of a small number of areas which are most closely linked with achieving customer satisfaction and commitment and therefore improved business performance.

Holidays remain the most popular benefit, especially among female staff: “Employees can buy or sell holiday which shows that leisure time and work life balance are top priorities for staff.

“I used to think that if all you did was offer breakdown cover, holidays and assistance to buy a computer you’d have a popular benefits structure in place. And despite changes in the last budgets that affect PCs, this is largely still the case,” admits Bissell.

Offering bikes for work hasn’t proven quite as popular; although Bissell insists that those that participate are 100% committed. His top tip is to keep it simple.

“Flexibility is the key, you’ve got to allow for an element of choice. If you’re thinking about flexible benefits then start small and build up.”

Would you like to nominate your employer or business as a company of the week? Email the editor at [email protected]

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