· 4 min read · Features

Reaping the benefits


Employers should give special attention to employee benefits so they can meet the needs of their workforce while improving retention levels and reputation. HR directors tell KATIE JACOBS about the innovative reward schemes they offer staff, and the one benefit they wish they could provide.

Adria Alpert Romm

Senior executive VP HR and global diversity, Discovery Communications

The most important benefit we offer staff is: Our wellness programme is crucial and is inextricably linked to engagement and our performance-related culture. We are a
global company, so we design our benefits programme based on the individual country.
In the UK, we provide private medical insurance, which helps employees expand their healthcare opportunities. We offer flu shots and skin cancer screening. Fitness is
important and we take part in the Global Corporate Challenge, which helps create a competitive team feeling across the world. Investing in wellbeing helps with engagement and retention, and in the US we have seen our insurance costs decline.

The one benefit I wish we could offer is: In the US we offer on-site wellness centres, and I would love to expand this internationally. We offer access to an on-site GP and nurses, psychological services such as counselling, and nutritional advice. In our Maryland office, 1,500 of our 2,000 employees use the centre. It helps with absenteeism and lateness as employees can visit a GP at work.


Kathy Allison
Head of HR, boohoo.com

The most important benefit we offer staff is: Our pension scheme, and this is partly because of the ‘how’ as well as the ‘what’. Offering the scheme gives people a sense of
security. The feedback we get is that even if people haven’t enrolled yet (and of course auto-enrolment will bring changes), they like to know it is there. We also work very closely with our chosen advisers, who are on site regularly and provide consistent, personalised updates and support to our employees. This may sound a little old fashioned for an online company, but being able to sit with an expert and ask questions really works for us as we are very much a business that is all about teamwork and relationships.

The one benefit I wish I could offer is: A couple of extra hours squeezed into the day! We have a fantastically dedicated team who live and breathe boohoo but we’re
growing so rapidly that the days sometimes just don’t seem long enough to cram everything in. The team don’t ever clock-watch and we know everyone would love to be able to have a bit more time to get through all the exciting stuff we are delivering at team boohoo.


Teresa Lamy
Head of HR, TMF Group

The most important benefit we offer staff is: It’s the contribution to their pension. This isn’t mandatory in all the countries in which we operate, but I believe it is key that we, as a responsible employer, ensure our people receive at least some contribution towards their retirement plan. People don’t make enough provision and we need to help them think about it. 

The one benefit I wish we could offer is: I wish I could offer a business-wide, generous leave purchase scheme that allows staff to take extra days both for those special occasions, but also for no reason at all other than they’d like more holiday. Unfortunately, in a business where time is money and our business model is based on how much we can invoice clients, it’s not viable. But I don’t think the best employee is one who works eight days a week and doesn’t have a life, it’s the person who has a lot going on in their life – I think they make better decisions.


James Watts
VP HR, KFC UK & Ireland

The most important benefit we offer staff is: Performance-related pay. Across all roles within KFC we have some form of ‘skin in the game’, and employees can see a direct correlation between their efforts and cash rewards. In the competitive world of customer service, this is an important way of ensuring people feel rewarded for the right behaviours. Our parent company, Yum Brands, is growing significantly, and we’ve had the opportunity to share this success with many of our employees – including our
restaurant managers – through share-related plans.

The one benefit I wish I could offer is: We are making great strides in our wellbeing programmes with EAPs, online health assessments, a gym at our head office, insurance and healthy eating education and options. In future, it would be amazing if we could have an individualised health and wellbeing plan for each employee. If we could partner with experts to help our employees manage their and their families’ wellbeing for the long term, it would help us invest in the current and next generation. That would make us immensely proud of the small but important impact we could have on society.


Thomas Humphris
Head of? ce HR & UK reward director, Informa

The most important benefit we offer staff is: Gym membership has had significant uptake – around 30-40% of staff use it. We offer reduced rates at three chains, and provide subsidies. A couple of years ago, we introduced it to partners as well, which means people can go together at weekends. As well as the three chains we work with, if people go elsewhere to exercise we’ll give them an annual cash amount. It sits nicely with our wellbeing strategy, and having a healthy workforce supports attendance. We make sure we choose gyms near the office so people can go at lunch or after
work. People definitely appreciate it and understand the value.

The one benefit I wish we could offer is: In the past 12 months, we’ve seen a definite shift towards employees saving for their futures. A lot of that is being driven by auto-enrolment. We've offered some workshops, and I'd love to be able to offer a full independent financial adviser (IFA) review for all staff. I'd like to offer two a year. The first one would be about fact-finding. Each employee would bring in their ‘shoebox of shame’, full of ISAs and investments, pensions and mortgages, and the IFA would do a kind of ‘MOT report’ and suggest options to save money. Then at the end of a year, they’d meet with employees again to discuss their progress.


Isabelle Minneci
HR director, L’Oréal UK

The most important benefit we offer staff is: Our wellbeing programme. It’s something we’ve pushed over the past few years and it helps us leverage commitment and engagement. We offer a full health benefits package, which includes things like a subsidised gym membership, yoga classes in the office, free health screenings, cycle to work schemes and healthy meal options. And it’s not just about the body, but about the soul, so we have a choir, we run ‘lunch and learn’ sessions, and we subsidise things like ballet and music lessons. L’Oréal is all about creativity, so we want to encourage those skills. Employees can also suggest things, so we now have Zumba classes taught by a member of staff.

The one benefit I wish I could offer is: When we did our staff survey, reward and benefits was a big subject. We asked people to create a wishlist for benefits and one thing that scored highly was offering a flexible benefits scheme. People want to be able to do things like buy and sell holiday and choose their own benefits. We have a diverse workforce so not everyone wants the same kind of things. We’re currently working on it with a view to launching something next year.