Increase employee engagement with personalised total rewards

For decades, rewards programmes in the Middle East were relatively straightforward. Salary packages consisted of basic salary, housing allowance and transportation allowance. Many organisations provided an annual leave ticket and health insurance as benefits. Companies differentiated between employees on a single or family status, where, in the latter case, dependents were also covered. Despite this, compensation and benefits approaches followed a rigid one-size-fits-all approach.

These days, companies are recognising the need to modernise their total rewards programmes. While other HR areas have evolved, most total rewards programmes remained inflexible, focusing on experience and company seniority. They seem to have forgotten the employee. Leading companies are consequently transitioning to a personalised total rewards experience.

The benefits

As more studies are conducted in this area, the evidence is also supporting the move towards personalised total rewards. Paid back in higher employee engagement and increased business results, both the employee and the organisation benefit from personalising total rewards.

Payscale found that employees who do not understand the pay process are 60 percent more likely to leave the organisation. (Dave Smith, “Most people have no idea whether they’re paid fairly,” Harvard Business Review, December 2015.) Can your organisation afford this?

Companies have 27% fewer regrettable new hires in the first year, according to Willis Towers Watson. Deloitte also found organisations with highly engaged employee experiences have a 2.3x greater than average 3-year-revenue growth.

Understand what your employees value

While organisations may have the best intentions when creating or reviewing benefit plans, employees may have a very different perception. Moving towards a more diverse workforce with part-time employees, contract and project staff and a multi-generational workforce, employees have different needs. Companies may wish to segment their employee groups further, e.g. critical roles, highly sought after skills and high potential employees.

To learn more about their employees, companies shouldn’t just rely on the anecdotal stories from line managers. Employee surveys can give deeper insights into what employees need and value.

Wen Wan, director of talent and rewards at Willis Towers Watson, confirms “any initiative aimed at improving the total rewards experience must take into consideration what employees value most and how those preferences differ by employee segment.”

Total rewards and HR teams can analyse the data, identify recommendations for the most relevant programmes for employees and build tailor made programmes for the different employee groups.

Consider the various TR components

A few years ago, leading companies in this region moved from providing numerous separate allowances to one consolidated allowance. This was to simplify the administration process and to educate employees about the total package approach. Employees are ultimately responsible for how they spend (or save) their salary.

Despite an apparent still fixed approach to total rewards, 12.8% of companies participating in Informa’s 2019 Compensation and Benefits Employer Survey have already implemented flexible benefits. A further 22.9% of participants are considering introducing flexible benefits.

Compensation

While many organisations have moved from fixed grade and step salaries, broader salary ranges give line managers more flexibility in deciding an employee’s pay. They can define the basic salary based on the criticality of the role, possession of skills critical to future success or, at the time of a salary review, achievement of team goals.

Benefits

Companies can offer more flexibility to employees when it comes to benefits. In the UAE, Mercer at its post-TRS survey meeting identified medical insurance, dental and optical insurance, life insurance, and annual leave as four components ripe for flexibility. Employees can swap these at one time during the year (i.e. at renewal date), reducing the concern of increased administration.

Wellbeing

Rising healthcare costs are a global issue. It’s not just the cost for medical appointments and prescriptions. 1 in 5 absences at work is due to workplace stress. The Global Wellness Institute calculated the cost of ill-being as high as 12% of the United States’ GDP. Companies need to realise the importance of well-being and make it a priority.

Even though wellbeing programmes need a holistic approach, organisations can start with purpose-driven activities for their staff. Linked to their industry, companies can emphasise specific initiatives. For example, pharmaceutical companies can focus physical wellbeing while financial institutions financial wellbeing.

Flexible working

In direct conjunction to wellbeing, employees are craving for more flexibility at work and a better work-life balance or integration. Businesses can review their working arrangements. Core working hours with a flexible start/finish and working from home can be implemented without a lot of bureaucracy. Leading companies offer working from other offices for a longer period (e.g. over the summer), allowing employees to strengthen relationships with colleagues in other locations and possibly combining this time with their annual leave.

Recognition

Instead of waiting for the year-end performance review, more organisations are offering frequent performance check ins. While bonus payments are still only at the end of the year, line managers can use recognition programmes to acknowledge their staff’s performance. Monetary awards like cash and gift cards may be given. More research has found that non-financial recognition (e.g. dining experiences, social recognition) contributes to an individual’s happiness and has a longer lasting impact.

Utilise data and technology

For most organisations, flexibility stops with their IT systems. The administrative burden is too much to provide their employees with the flexibility they so desire.

Total rewards and HR teams should review their current procedures and streamline operations to optimise their internal and external resources. The region remains split on HR technology. While 31.9% of the participating companies in Informa’s 2019 survey will stick to excel programmes for data analysis, 44.7% of participants invested in technology compared to 2018.

By using technology, organisations can support their employees to make informed decisions and create an employee grade experience, which is characterised by its simple, convenient and personalised nature. Intuitive self-service at the push of a button provides the easy usage employees are looking for. Total rewards and HR teams can tailor their communication and education for employees according to the individual’s interests and needs.

Measure the cost and impact of your programmes

As with any other programme, total rewards and HR teams need to track and measure their personalised total rewards programmes. Business leaders will be interested in the financial costs and the non-financial impact. The financial costs may be kept neutral, although the more targeted spend will create non-financial returns. Leading organisations have seen positive impacts on employee engagement, their ability to attract and to retain employees.

Surprisingly, leading companies that have already implemented personalised total rewards are not talking about their financial ROI. Especially in times when we can expect an increase in skills shortages and a continued war for talent, it’s part of their overall employee value proposition (EVP) and their strategy of being an employer of choice.

Make a start and prioritise

The decision to move to personalised total rewards may be taken quickly. However, the implementation may require some time and businesses need to prioritise:

  • Offering more flexible working arrangements can be the first step.
  • Adding more health and wellbeing benefits may be reviewed prior to the annual renewal date and the insurer and broker may be heavily involved.
  • Creating more personalised communication and aligning the total rewards/HR experience to the organisation’s brand may be a cross-functional project.
  • Improving the organisation’s technology for administration purposes and employee communication may be a larger financial investment.

Find out how personalised total rewards can increase your employee engagement. Contact us today.

 

How volunteering can create an engaged and happy workforce

Can volunteering be an effective tool to attract, engage and retain employees? Yes and it’s time you use it!

A new approach to attracting talent

Volunteer programmes serve as a proven attraction tool for millennials. This generation is all about aligning their personal values with their organisation’s values. 64% go as far as rejecting job offers if they don’t see the hiring organisation having strong corporate social responsibility (CSR) values.

88% of millennials would also leave an employer whose CSR no longer matches the individual’s values. While other generations may not be as outspoken, CSR is also a recognised retention tool.

When it costs almost 1/3 of the employee’s last total salary to replace them, companies also risk the non-financial implications like reduced moral and increased absenteeism.

It’s high time find new, strategic and holistic approaches to engage and retain talent. This is where employee volunteer programmes linked to the organisation’s community social responsibility (CSR) kick in.

CSR and wellbeing

Although CSR has been around since the 1950s, Archie Carroll’s defined the modern approach in his article “Pyramid of Corporate Social Responsibility” (published in 1991).

  1. Economic responsibilities: Be profitable
  2. Legal responsibilities: Obey the law
  3. Ethical responsibilities: Be ethical
  4. Philanthropic responsibilities: Be a good corporate citizen

The philanthropic responsibility may only be a discretional responsibility for an organisation. Yet, 91% of global consumers expect companies to address social and environmental issues and “contribute financial and human resources to the community and to improve the quality of life.”

Looking at these numbers, no business can afford not to have a CRS strategy in place. In its “2017 Volunteerism Survey”, Deloitte discovered that “creating a culture of volunteerism may boost morale, workplace atmosphere and brand perception.”

They further found 77% respondents to “volunteering is essential to employee well-being.” Willis Towers Watson identified 2 in 5 companies customising their wellbeing initiatives to act as a differentiator to attract and retain talent.

It’s been shown over and over again that employees who feel their organisation is inventing in their wellbeing give back to their employer higher productivity and engagement.

Create volunteering opportunities

Supporting employee’s altruistic values, companies can offer volunteering opportunities in different ways: Giving one’s time, energy, skills or talents to a charitable organisation without obviously expecting anything in return.

It’s here when the company’s sincerity for CSR is tested. Businesses donate money for a cause. Yet, when implementing paid-time off volunteering initiatives, the authentic and genuine approach to CSR is shown. It underlines the commitment for specific issues and causes and there are plenty for organisations to choose from, naming just a few:

  • Education, where employees mentor school-aged children, read out to children or adopt a school
  • Environment, where groups plant trees, organise clean up drives
  • Health, where teams participate in a walk or run to raise awareness for diabetes or cancer
  • Social, where teams offer pro-bono services or take part in Ramadan iftar initiatives
  • Skills, where individuals donate their specialised knowledge

Companies can identify possible causes linked to their corporate goals, mission and purpose. Alternatively, local projects may be selected together with employees. Local government authorities can also act as an introducer to approved charities which whom any organisation may wish to partner.

Reap unexpected benefits

While volunteering increases engagement, organisations have seen other (unexpected) benefits, too.

  • 79% of participants in skill-based volunteering found higher job satisfaction and 70% found it having complemented their career development
  • 92% of respondents agree that volunteering is an effective way to improve leadership skills
  • Relationships with co-workers and colleagues are strengthened, organisational silos are broken down
  • 93% of respondents agree volunteering improved their mood, 75% felt healthier and 79% felt less stressed
  • Line managers can recognise those employees who go the extra mile and who contribute to their communities through company-sponsored volunteering or on their own initiative

Can your business afford not creating volunteering opportunities? Contact us today and find out how company-sponsored volunteering opportunities can build an engaged and happy workforce.

The benefits of HR Policies

We are working in one of the world’s most multi-cultural regions. Individuals from all over the world are coming to work in the Middle East. They are bringing their skills, excitement and hope as well as their beliefs and value systems. Leading a team where languages, viewpoints and behaviours may differ so substantially can be a challenge even for experienced line managers and HR teams alike.

Policies can support creating a common ground for all employees regardless of their background.

What are policies?

While top management determine the guidelines for the business, policies break these down further and define how the business runs. They support the strategic growth, the day-to-day operations as well as organisation’s culture.

What are the benefits?

Written HR policies provide numerous benefits to an organisation.

As companies are growing and hiring new staff, common standards need to be communicated. HR policies help all employees get and stay on the same page and support the company’s culture.

Companies can base their policies on best practices, set to foster innovation, increase the employee experience and strengthen the competitive advantage. Local companies can benefit from the flexibility which the UAE labour law gives them to adjust HR policies issued by their global head office to their specific requirements.

Determining the delegation of authority, roles and responsibilities are clarified for everyone. This, in return, reduces misunderstandings and ensures smooth workflows.

As such, well-written policies provide an opportunity to strengthen employee relations. Reflecting the needs of both parties, they describe the performance and behaviours expected from the employees and the support and guidance given by the company. Should any disciplinary actions need to be taken, they provide a clear framework for consistent and fair treatment and are to prevent lawsuits, as much as possible.

Hence, HR policies consequently serve as a reference point for all people matters.

Which policies to include?

The local laws outline a limited number of required procedures only. Chapter VI of the UAE Labour Law Federal Law No. 8 of 1980 and its amendments describes disciplinary actions whereas Law No. 2 of 2015 against Discrimination and Hatred focuses on the prohibition against discrimination in an employment context.

Companies can therefore decide which policies they implement depending on their needs, provided they do not conflict with the local laws. Typically, companies choose to cover the following areas in their policies:

Recruitment

Organisations can define how they link their strategic workforce planning with the operational recruitment activities like selecting candidates and rehiring former employees. Policies may also include an employee referral programme or deal with the recruitment of family members and relatives.

Code of conduct

Companies can set their own standards of behaviour in their code of conduct, which reflects the organisation’s daily operations, core values and overall company culture. The handling of bullying and harassment situations may be described here, too.

Compensation and benefits

Policies can outline the company’s approach to rewarding employees, eligibility of benefits and allowance and evaluating jobs. They may also include how the company will address salary reviews.

Leave

Besides mandatory leave, companies can support their employees’ wellbeing by providing additional leaves, for example, time off for parental and caring duties, sabbatical or study and exam leave.

Learning and development

These policies address the company’s view on training and can point out the resources available for employees to acquire and develop their skills. They can lay out the criteria for reimbursement of any employee-initiated training, if it is relevant to the job, or special assignments for the employee to gain new experiences.

Performance

Performance policies assist companies applying fair performance assessments. They can also provide guidance on how to deal with unacceptable conduct and help employees improve. A disciplinary policy is normally also in place.

Although there is no limit on the number of policies a company may have, a reasonable and practical approach should be applied. Companies should therefore evaluate the specific needs for their business, however, it is recommended to have the following policies at a minimum written and communicated to all staff:

  • Bullying, harassment and discrimination
  • Code of conduct
  • Disciplinary
  • Grievance

Just as the business evolves and changes, HR policies need to have an option to adjust to the changing business requirements or legal mandates. Do your policies provide you with that flexibility?

HR policies are an effective way to look after your organisation’s and your employees’ needs while providing guidance to handling common workplace issues. Contact us today and learn how we can draft tailored HR policies fit for your business needs.

What to expect for medical benefits in 2019

It’s already the last quarter of the year and many organisations are finalising their HR strategies and initiatives for 2019. Many also include a review of their current practices, in particular their medical benefits in search for increased efficiencies and more employee-centric programmes.

Over the last few years, we have seen fundamental changes looking to enhance the medical insurance coverage in this region. Dubai implemented a mandatory health insurance in a phased approach and a low cost insurance option came into effect on 15 October 2018. There also a number of challenges that need to be addressed, including the direct (and costly) access to specialist physicians, over-prescription and price pressure. At this time, it should not be a surprise to anyone that lifestyle diseases are the leading diseases in the Middle East, adding to the challenges companies, insurers and physicians are facing.

So what can we expect in 2019? We anticipate further developments and enhancements to tackle these challenges.

More negotiation powers

The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) has currently approved permits for 50 medical insurance. Competition to keep especially large accounts is becoming fiercer. Brokers have been able to negotiate premiums well below the medical inflation reported elsewhere. Insurers are also able to add new features and extended coverage to provide more holistic medical cover.

As such, we expect a further reduction in medical inflation compared to figures previously reported by research consultancies.

Local re-investment

The Dubai’s Health Strategy 2021 aims at providing innovative health services and improving the health of its citizens and residents. Simultaneously, Dubai is establishing itself as a hub for medical treatment in the Middle East.

In alignment with these goals, a number of local universities have expanded their medical and nursing degree programmes in recent years. This September, the first medical school opened its doors in Abu Dhabi. This provides the local training grounds to develop medical talent where it is needed.

For 2019, we anticipate continued emphasis on professional education and personal development. Further invest investment into research programmes will be made. Insured will benefit from a wider range of locally available treatment, reducing the need and possibly cost for treatment abroad.

Alternative delivery options

With the high cost of medical insurance, this is are now the second highest employee-related expense after salaries. Companies are therefore continuing to search for possibilities to lower and/or sustain these costs.

The concept of employee clinics, particularly for large corporations, and telehealth isn’t a new one. Various insurers have been offering 24/7 access to mobile or tele doctors for more than 5 years in the UAE. However, as one option to control spending, we will see an increased provision for and utilisation of alternative delivery methods.

Prevention with big data

Following the mandate to save and/or reduce medical expenses, organisations together with their broker and insurance provider have been raising awareness and educating employees.

The main health concerns in this region, e.g. diabetes and obesity, are lifestyle-related issues. Long-term and sustainable solutions need to be found to manage and, ideally, also prevent these. Daman Health utilises big data to identify ways for employees better monitor and improve their health. Big data illustrates the spend for each insured member.

As part of the overall move to utilise more data for HR’s decision making processes, organisations will also analyse and investigate the huge financial toll lifestyle diseases has on the company itself. Medical insurance companies are already evaluating their data sets to identify new ways for prevention and education purposes.

With HR teams becoming more big data savvy, we envisage an increase in the interpretation of big data to define targeted and employee specific preventative education and actions.

Integrated well-being

Well-being had been the hot topic for the last 15-20 years. While companies were asking what it was some 10 years ago, organisations are now concerned how to integrate well-being as a way to attract, engage and retain talent, as Robin Wells from Medstar shared.

However, offering yoga sessions and a bowl filled with fresh fruits falls short of comprehensive well-being strategy. The utilisation of integrated well-being initiatives is however still lagging compared to other regions across the globe.

With the increased attention on well-being, we’ve witnessed a mindset change amongst individuals. Initiatives like the Dubai Fitness Challenge are supporting the activities implemented by companies.

Companies will therefore start using well-being in an orchestrated approach to prevent, monitor and control lifestyle illnesses. In return, this is expected to show improvements in the claims management.

Want to overhaul your benefits, especially your medical benefits? Call us on +971-52-2516322 and find out how we can create, enhance and implement a medical benefits strategy fit for your EVP and organisation.

How National Bank of Fujairah implemented a highly effective employee wellbeing programme

Over the last 3 years, National Bank of Fujairah (NBF) has won many coveted HR awards across the region. Following its success in 2016 and 2017, NBF’s HR team has again been awarded “Best HR Team” this year. In 2017, Korn Ferry recognised the bank among its list of high performing organisations in the Middle East. It has been also awarded the “Innovation in Employee Engagement” prize and received the “Mark of Excellence for Nationalisation Initiative of the Year” in 2016/17 at the HR Excellence Awards.

These awards reflect NBF’s journey towards HR excellence and its commitment to creating a stimulating working environment. The last eight years reflect this unwavering commitment to driving employee satisfaction and creating a highly engaged workforce.

Earlier this month, we met with Mr. Abdulla Aleter, Head of Human Resources, and learnt how NBF overcame the challenges when implementing their wellbeing initiatives. We are excited to share his tips and lessons learnt with you and show how they managed to achieve ROI on their wellbeing initiatives.

When Aleter started in 2010, the bank had to identify new ways to engage employees. The 2008 financial crisis also left room to increase staff efficiency and do things differently. NBF’s CEO, Mr. Vince Cook, Aleter and NBF’s management team embarked on a change journey which would transform the bank by 180 degrees and make it one of the most sought-after employer brands in the UAE.

Take stock

To understand where they stood, the first employee survey was conducted in 2010 whereby around 15,000 comments were submitted. Aleter has read each and every comment then and continues to do so. Despite the number dropping significantly to roughly 1,000 comments in the last survey, Aleter appreciates honest feedback from all employees.

For Aleter, listening to NBF’s employees is crucial. Employees provide diverse and innovative ideas and suggestions to the business. They also share what’s important to them, rather than what management thinks employees value. Aleter pointed out that each of NBF’s activities had to focus on the employee and their needs. Now, this should be the norm. Yet, we’ve seen numerous companies emphasise revenue over employees, questioning what “HR” stands for.

Act on the feedback

Aleter also emphasised the need to act upon employee feedback as a next step. His team grouped feedback into specific categories and then assigned each action to a specific action owner. This way, progress could easily be tracked and nobody could shy away from their responsibility to improve the bank’s operations. For him, accountability and communication of progress are key to NBF’s successful transformation.

Communicate, communicate, communicate

This is also a valuable reminder for every organisation: Take time out and define the appropriate communication strategy. Decide on the different channels for each employee group before implementing the actions resulting from the employee survey.

For NBF, it was clear. Each manager had to play an active role in the communication process. Aleter’s team designed and carried out management training sessions to prepare leaders for the appropriate messages, handling employee queries and supporting every staff member during the transition.

Based on the feedback from employees, CEO Cook and Aleter announced the upcoming initiatives to all employees. Amongst others, NBF launched its Employee Wellbeing Programme (EWP) – the first by a local bank.

A holistic approach

NBF took a number of strategic decisions when designing the EWP. The EWP was to take a holistic wellbeing approach including aspects of body, health and mind. In addition, it was to be offered to employees and family members alike. This placed NBF ahead of other organisations in the UAE which generally implemented one-off wellness initiatives. Only in recent times have we seen an increase in interconnected wellbeing programmes offered for employees and dependents in the region.

Active teams

The bank has expanded its sports groups over the years and has become the main sponsor for the NBF Fujairah Run, the inaugural event took place in December 2017. In addition to running, employees cycle, play badminton and cricket and can even learn to swim. Aleter shared the remarkable story of one employee who was afraid of being in the water. Curious to learn how to swim after witnessing the headway his colleagues made in the pool, this employee approached the coach, took small steps and has now pledged to a swimming race.

Healthier choices

Believing that healthy minds come from healthy bodies, NBF continuous to encourage its employees to lead a healthy lifestyle by making small behavioural changes like staying hydrated. Upon noticing that employees were showing more interest in being physically active, the bank supplemented this lifestyle change with re-educating staff about their diet. Aleter proudly shared that some employees even managed to lose some weight, with one individual shedding 20 kg. All these lifestyle changes also left a positive mark on the usage of NBF’s medical insurance. With the rising cost of healthcare, this is an important benefit for any company these days.

Connected teams

The sports groups have further impacted employees at work and helped to build connections within and across departments. Spending more time in a non-work and more relaxed environment helped to improve communication and deepen relationships between team members. Furthermore, silos across the organisation were broken down, increasing productivity and consequently business performance.

Personal matters

For NBF, the EWP also spreads to any personal issue an employee may be experiencing at home. Aleter explained that it’s essential to give employees the support at work to also address their personal issues with the right financial, legal and relationship advice. As such, NBF engaged AXA ICAS to provide independent, confidential and qualified counselling services in person or over the phone to NBF employees and family members, available 24/7 and in multiple languages.

The returns

Over the years, NBF has reiterated its view of employees as the most valuable assets the bank has. The bank’s actions and programmes echo their beliefs. The investment in its EWP has certainly paid off for NBF. The bank has become a highly performing organisation with a highly engaged workforce. Its reinforced commitment to staff welfare and wellbeing has created a supportive culture which empowers employees and allows them to grow both personally and professionally. All these actions established NBF as a leading organisation and employer of choice for expatriates and Emiratis alike. The bank’s business results are indicative of this success.

If you are planning your wellbeing initiative, consider Aleter’s most important tips for a successful Employee Wellbeing Programme (EWP):

  1. Treat your employees as human beings.
  2. Work with your leadership team.
  3. Actively listen to your staff.
  4. Act on the feedback no matter how small.
  5. Keep employees aware of the progress.
  6. Don’t worry. Business results will follow automatically.

We’d like to thank Mr. Abdulla Aleter for his time and sharing NBF’s journey as one of the leading HR team’s in the UAE. Shukran!