Flexible choices online

Case study: Poplar Housing and Regeneration Community Association

About the organisation

Poplar Housing and Regeneration Community Association (Harca)
manages about 5,000 homes in Poplar, in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. It
is a registered charity and was the first housing company set up to run former
local authority housing in an urban area. It has a diverse workforce of more
than 200 employees, from housing managers to environmental and community

The project

A survey revealed that staff wanted more choice and flexibility when it came
to benefits. An external company was employed to create and deliver an online
flexible benefits scheme. It had a number of objectives: to aid recruitment
with flexible working differentiating it from other public sector employers; to
improve retention; to re-communicate and raise understanding and appreciation
of the benefits package; and to align the benefits structure to the business
strategy and assist in promoting culture change.

System supplier

Thomson Online Benefits, part of the Thomson Group plc and the second
largest financial adviser in the UK,
was founded in 2000 with a view to changing the way benefits are administrated
and communicated.

The approach

Thomson carried out a survey and set up focus groups, involving a wide range
of staff, to decide which benefits should be included.

"We ran a competition for staff to vote on the branding of the scheme,
and Poplar Benefits was chosen," says Mustapha Jobe,
manager of HR at Poplar Harca. "Consultation was
the key to developing a scheme that staff really wanted. Staff and
representatives from the unions were involved from the beginning."

The solution

Poplar Benefits runs on Poplar Harca’s intranet,
which can also be accessed by employees at home. The benefits package agreed
includes buying and selling holidays, private medical insurance, annual health
checks, dental insurance, tax-free PCs and a range of voluntary benefits. Some
employees have been trained as ‘flex champions’. Those workers who don’t
normally have access to a PC can sit down with a flex champion to access the

Thomson helped Poplar Harca market the scheme
internally via articles in the newsletter, posters, postcards and even roadshows. "Our experience is that this greatly
increases the take-up and interest in the scheme," claims Chris Bruce,
director of Thomson Online Benefits.


No figures on take-up are available yet, as Poplar Harca
is about to re-open the scheme in September, but it is reportedly high and has
received good feedback from staff. Thomson will be running further focus groups
to see what flex choices staff would like to see added.

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