The flawless introduction of a flexible benefits scheme is no easy feat. However, one company that has found success is Millward Brown
One employer that has successfully implemented a flexible benefits solution is Millward Brown, one of the top 10 market research organisations in the world. The scheme was introduced on 1 July 2002, and offers the company's 739 employees a choice of seven benefits including holidays, medical insurance, flexibility in pension contributions and critical illness insurance.
The company, part of media giant WPP, believes it is the first major research organisation in the UK to offer a flexible benefits solution. It also intends to add more benefits to further increase employee choice.
According to Sue Thompson, HR manager at Millward Brown, the decision to implement a 'flex' scheme was taken to help give the company a competitive advantage when recruiting key high-calibre staff and when looking to retain administrative staff in Warwickshire, an area of extremely low unemployment.
In order to succeed, the company considered it vital that the flexible benefits scheme showed employees the total value of their remuneration package, as well as giving them the flexibility to create a benefits package which fitted their own personal and family needs. It also had to offer them the most value and be able to adapt to changing circumstances.
A key tool for encouraging take-up of the scheme was a 'web-modeller' application developed by a benefits consultancy. This allows the employees at Millward Brown to model and compare different combinations of benefits to use their own computers to find their 'greatest personal value' choices. Because this tool is accessed via the internet, employees were able to work on the scheme at home, with the involvement of their partners.
Equally important was the process of communicating the new scheme to employees across the company. Group briefings were held with all staff, who were introduced to the 'web-modeller'. Follow-up one-to-one detailed discussions were offered where needed.
The scheme was designed to work with the company's existing integrated payroll and HR system. Christine Jones, payroll manager, worked with the benefits consultancy to ensure information on benefits choices could be easily added to this system.
She found that the technology works well, although the systems are not totally integrated