Giving Suffolk County Council's staff more - wherever they work - with cost-effective benefits

The story so far

The county council of Suffolk, who pride themselves on offering local government services and information in a way that is simpler, clearer and faster, came to us to develop an employee benefits programme that would really make their staff glow.

We spoke to Tim Jermyn, HR Operations Manager at Suffolk County Council about the drive behind implementing employee benefits and how the scheme is working. We’ll let Tim take it from here…

What's the problem?

“Suffolk County Council employs approximately 5,500 people across the county. With staff scattered all over the county, we had to be smart about how we would reach people with employee benefits. We had to ensure we had a presence beyond a website, as although a large number of staff are based at the Head Office in Ipswich, there are also lots of other work spaces across the county, from country parks to hospitals

“Employee benefits are something we’re able to add on as part of a reward programme – they encourage people to stay, they nurture wellbeing, and the employee assistance programme has the power to really help people.

“Our contract came to an end with our current provider, so we went out to market to see what was there. We wanted to ensure we could guarantee benefits like childcare and cycle schemes. But we wanted to see what else we could offer cost-effectively. We had core benefits in mind which helped with flexible work arrangements, and a wellbeing programme, but we hoped to offer something different too.”

What we did

“When we started looking for a new provider, we did it through a framework – and found that Sodexo really ticked all the boxes. They’ve just impressed us, and since working together they’ve shown themselves to be far better than our previous provider.

“Now we have a wide range of reloadable vouchers and general staff benefits. We had to think carefully about what people would really want to use when first rolling out the programme, so the fact Sodexo had access to so many high-street brands was really positive. With other schemes we looked at, the levels of discount were good, but with companies people wouldn’t have heard of.

“We have an online presence, and we encourage people to register by visiting the benefits page themselves, then we contact them directly through there. We try and do a spread of online and offline comms – as well as our planned online comms from Sodexo, we also have Z cards which mention the employee assistance programme and the staff benefit schem,e so there’s something extra for people to refer to. We hold events too, and Nicky, our Sodexo Account Manager, comes and visits staff to talk about the scheme. With a significant number of staff working offline throughout the day, we are always thinking of different ways to reach people.”

Working with Sodexo

“Our account manager Nicky is excellent – we have a great relationship and she’s very responsive. The account management has been a very positive experience for us, and we’re really happy with what Sodexo does for us.

“Sodexo have been great at helping us reach different touch points. We wanted an online presence, but needed to supplement it, as we have numerous sites away from the head office.  Every year we run lots of wellbeing events – where different representatives will come and help promote health and wellness.

“Among other activities, we have local bike shops discussing the latest bikes, health professionals advising on how to quit smoking, and Sodexo will always come along to help explain the relevant employee benefits. They are there to explain everything, including salary sacrifice and the employee assistance programme (EAP) – and they normally offer a prize for getting involved.

“The EAP has actually far exceeded expectations, and between 1 April 2016 and 24 March 2017 there were 568 cases of it being used, something that we know has been really valuable to our staff.

“The events are fantastic opportunities to show people what they have available, and to use benefits such as cycling to promote extra activities – like our ‘Greenest County’ campaign. It’s essential to have a strong offline and online presence, and our account manager has worked with her marketing team to deliver a comprehensive comms plans that worked for us. Sodexo help support us with our internal comms too, sending us Sodexo banners for our weekly newsletters, which we pop into the footers of our comms. All of this helps to increase visibility of the platform, and keeps it fresh in people’s minds.

“We find providing employee benefits to be a really, cost-effective way to give people more – and it fits in well with our reward strategy. Sodexo reports back on the scheme regularly. We don’t monitor retention as such, but we have seen a significant uptake from the previous supplier to Sodexo. We don’t test it to see it’s delivering ROI – we just check its being used and growing.

“We can see that, between April 2016 and May 2017, staff spent a total of £421,247 on vouchers, eCodes and reloadable cards – and in doing so saved a massive £42,000! We can see how cost-effective working with Sodexo has been for the council so far too – we’ve been able to save £40,696 since 2014 on the cycle scheme, and £308,553 since April 2016 on the NI savings on childcare vouchers. These are huge savings which enable to council to work more effectively in other areas.

“People expect extra benefits these days, and it’s wonderful to see more and more people using them year on year.”

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