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The People’s People: How do you expand your benefits offering in a downturn?


It’s never been more important to focus on engaging with our people than in the wake of a pandemic. We recognise the importance of offering a wide range of benefits to support the ‘whole person’, and the pandemic has presented us with an opportunity to review our offering and, where they are no longer serving us, find innovative alternatives.

We are committed to investing in benefits which are truly valuable to our employees. Benefits do not always mean a cost to an organisation, it can be about offering more flexibility or agile working, creating a culture which fosters better work:life balance that leads to healthier and happier employees. A recent survey from consultants Willis Towers Watson supported this. When asked what benefits are most important to them, the majority (27%) said flexible working, followed by mental health support (21%), online fitness (13%), meditation classes or apps (12%), and nutrition support (7%).

We are a people business and the wellbeing of every employee is important if we are going to reach our objectives. We all have a role to play in looking after one another, and that goes ‘beyond the pound’.

How do you prioritise benefits for your people when their priorities are changing?

‘No one size fits all’ is a phrase we are hearing more in today’s quickly changing workplace.  As an organisation we have responded to this and shifted our emphasis to be more consumer-focussed in our strategy, creating a suite of benefits that more effectively meets the increasingly diverse needs of our people. Naturally people’s expectations are high and particular to their individual circumstances, and being able to respond to this expectation can be an important differentiator when attracting and retaining talent. At Colliers, we are at the beginning of this journey and we have started small. We listened to our people following our employee engagement survey in 2019, which indicated that our rewards and recognition initiatives needed improvement. Since launching our new benefit brand Compass, we have taken our people on a journey to enable them to have full visibility of the value of their benefits, which have been carefully curated to complement every aspect of their lives. Equally, employees expect to be able to access information on their benefits when and where they want, and Compass enables this. We recently hosted a Virtual Benefits Fair offering a range of informative sessions with our providers and activities to help people understand their benefits and learn more about what's available to them. 

Our strategy is responsive to the current climate, for example we have recently been focusing on financial welfare to support our staff in managing their personal finances by trialling a partnership with an online platform that delivers quality and unique personal finance content to suit employees at all stages in their lives.

How do you balance the core and voluntary benefits?

Our existing core offering consists of the most popular benefits such as health insurance, risk and pensions and enhancement of those benefits is driven by employee grade, which is our industry practice.  We recognise that responding to employee feedback is key and are building on our offering by enhancing the cover on the existing benefits. For example, in the last two years we enhanced our Private Medical Insurance to include mental health, changing the excess rolling period rule and reducing the waiting period on our income protection benefit for employees below certain levels. Changes like these are significant investments, so effective communication is important to inform our people on how these improvements can positively impact them and their families.

We are also constantly reviewing and expanding our suite of voluntary benefits at competitive rates that are attractive without added cost to the company. The uptake of these benefits, along with extensive external research, will allow us to build a stronger business case, enabling us to successfully transition that approach to more company-funded benefits.

What we offer now may not be relevant in a years’ time as needs change. By balancing this approach beyond core vs voluntary we can offer a range of benefits so there is always something for everyone.


About the Author

Krista Vitolina has over 6 years of generalist HR experience in a number of industries, e.g. oil, gas & energy, fintech and publishing. As a HR Business Partner at Colliers, Krista serves as a liaison between the business line and HR to provide pragmatic and commercially focused solutions to deliver value-added services to the management and employees that reflect the business objectives of Colliers UK.

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Krista Vitolina

Associate Director

Human Resources

London - West End

Krista is an MSc HR graduate with over 6 years of generalist HR experience in a number of industries, e.g. oil, gas & energy, fintech and publishing.

Developed knowledge and experience of full employee life cycle, ER, talent management, global mobility, TUPE, pay and reward.

Strong interpersonal skills with proven ability to communicate, influence, and motivate leadership teams, managers, cross-functional groups and individuals/teams to deliver business results.

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