In response to the Covid 19 Health and Developing Economic Crisis FWB Park Brown (FWB PB) is working closely with the Scottish HR Leadership Group to provide constructive support which also includes discussion forums and Q & As.
On Tuesday 7th April, Alix Meekison (Director, FWB Park Brown and Secretary, The Scottish HR Leadership Group) hosted our first specialist HR forum focused on Reward. Bringing together a number of cross-sector HR professionals, Alison Kidd, Head of Reward and Pensions at Virgin Money provided her expertise and guidance relating to the challenges and opportunities associated with reward in the current circumstances. The forum encouraged an open and varied discussion and sharing of experiences across a range of topics:
Ongoing Review of Policies
The majority of businesses represented in the forum were undertaking a review of their key reward policies, including but not limited to – healthcare benefits, bereavement, flexible working practices, annual leave and pensions. Many agreed that there is still work to be done to ascertain the impact of Covid-19 may have on healthcare benefits specifically and businesses are working alongside insurance providers to try and understand this quickly.
Most participants had already taken steps to address other key benefits in their respective workplaces. With respect to flexible working practices, it was highlighted that working with employees directly to find practical solutions and adjustments was proving effective. Solutions included flexing the working day to prevent childcare issues and offering employees the opportunity to sell back extra holiday allowance they may no longer require for example.
Many businesses had also requested that employees take the majority of their annual leave allowance before Q4, minimising the impact on operations further down the line. Unpaid leave was often being used as a last resort, for example, where an employee was unable to be redeployed into another role however, some organisations had found this mechanism useful so far. A handful of employees wanted to access this benefit for a number of reasons, including minimising challenges faced around being able to work whilst also caring for children.
In addition, the topic of LTIP and STIP payments was discussed in detail. The majority of participants discussed waving short-term incentives for 2020, particularly cash bonuses. The exception in this may be for Key Workers, who continue to be required on the front line. Distinguishing between ‘incentivising’ and ‘recognising’ was key to this discussion, with many businesses placing importance on rewarding Key Workers following their efforts, rather than introducing incentivisation up front through bonuses or overtime payments for example. There were examples given where Key Workers were being supported through use of reward mechanisms during this phase, including offering solutions around travel (expensing the difference between driving and use of public transport) as well as continuing to provide lunches where there have been canteen closures.
There was a suggestion that this crisis may be a catalyst for change particularly with respect to Executive pay. In relation to LTIP’s, we may begin to see movement away from traditional share options towards RSU’s.
The topic of ‘fairness’ was widely discussed and considered high on the agenda. It was suggested that this is a moment of truth for employers with regards to how colleagues, executives, shareholders and customers are treated during this ongoing situation. Public perception of an organisation may be impacted based on how an organisation is seen to be responding to the challenges the face, particularly from a reward perspective. It was highlighted that executive and colleague strategies should be aligned.
There was a sentiment that businesses should also be aligning their reward strategy and policies to the company narrative. Working closely with marketing and communications departments to ensure that the reward strategy is ‘on brand’ may be important. There was a sense that there must be a focus on the long-term as well as the short-term – how employees are treated now may affect how potential future employees and customers will view the business.
The move to working from home and uptake on flexible working practices is viewed as a significant benefit to the future of how employees work, how work is viewed and how our relationships may evolve. Businesses who have perhaps used more traditional working methods in the past have had to adapt and perhaps this will benefit the workforce post Covid-19.
Furthermore, the need for digital HR and communications technologies may be far greater and enable remote/flexible working to operate more effectively.
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The Scottish HR Leadership Group
Primarily the Scottish HR Leadership Group will focus on the advancement of the profession in Scotland plus have a development and mentoring framework. Our aim is to ensure an interesting, diverse and experienced group of senior practitioners across all sectors who can develop talent and as business leaders contribute and influence the broader societal agenda.
The purpose of this forum is to allow Senior HR Leaders to share their own experiences and gain further insight, thoughts and ideas and to allow more connectivity within the HR community given the evolving global Covid-19 pandemic.
Summaries of the discussions will be posted on our news section and also on LinkedIn.
For further information about any of these forums please contact us via:
Director, FWB Park Brown & Secretary, The Scottish HR Leadership Group
t. +44 (0)131 539 7087