Business Insights

Creating a great place to work

At M&S CORPORATE GIFTS, we understand the value of employee engagement and retention, and we help our customers every day to deliver successful reward schemes which motivate and recognise valuable employees.

M&S CORPORATE GIFTS are able to provide numerous solutions for incentives and rewards and we often get asked what makes up a successful staff retention strategy. More notably, we get asked to shed some light on what makes an incentive or reward scheme successful.

With this in mind, we asked for opinions from HR managers, Directors and owners of businesses who have gained formal recognition for their work towards reward and recognition schemes. These companies include a selection recognised in The Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to work for as well as those who have received other forms of recognition. We asked for their thoughts on why they have been successful and their opinions regarding what other organisations can do to implement successful strategies.

  • Attract the right people
  • Recognise achievements
  • Encourage freedom to flourish
  • Reward your employees
  • Promote progression
  • Provide ‘actual’ benefits
  • Identify the mission
  • Communicate to the company
  • Stimulate a successful culture

Attract the right people

When you have happy and motivated members of staff, the business starts to attract like-minded people. Therefore, investing in existing employees you treasure will go a long way in attracting more of the same and ultimately creating a better culture and more profitable business. After all, people like to work with talented, like-minded people.

Laura Hare, the Head of HR at Jagex Games Studio mentioned that ‘the challenge of this is that the war for real talent, both attracting and retaining, is fierce’. By making your organisation an attractive place to be, you are benefiting both existing employees and attracting fresh new talent. This also makes the recruitment process a lot more fulfilling.

Moneypenny, a leading UK telephone answering service, ‘recruit on attitude and values’ as they “firmly believe skills can be taught but personality and attitude can’t be,” Joanna Swash, Commercial Director. It is all about getting the right mix of people in the right job roles. Once you have achieved this, the rest will come naturally.


Encourage freedom to flourish

After recruiting the right sorts of employees, you then need to harness their potential and allow them the freedom to grow and evolve the business. After all, you have invested a lot of time in choosing the right person for the right role, now you need to let them show you what they are capable of.

‘If you recruit amazing people, you should just step back and let them be amazing,’ Dan Dobson-Smith, Global Talent Director at Essence. ‘When you get people from different walks of life together in a room, this creates a wonderful creative tension from which good things grow’.

A similar approach is taken at Hawksmoor, a group of steak restaurants, where staff are encouraged to ‘be themselves and think for themselves’. JB Hall, the Training and Recruitment Manager, indicated companies should ‘trust people to do the job you hired them for and let them make mistakes and learn from them’.

Ultimately, this will encourage your employees to be motivated, believe in themselves and achieve more for the company. It will also keep them engaged, so the time invested in searching for that individual will be repaid with a long-standing, happy and committed employee.

Trust people to do the job you hired them for and let them make mistakes and learn from them.
JB Hall, the Training and Recruitment Manager

Promote progression

One way to keep your staff motivated is to harness their ambition and make sure their career progression path is clear and well signposted.

At Hotwire, the company places a huge emphasis on developing talent from within rather than recruiting externally. ‘As an international company, we’ve got offices all over the world and our year on year growth means lots of opportunity for our team – opportunities to progress and opportunities for promotion’, Loveday Langton, global HR director at Hotwire.

If you already have great individuals working for the company, hold on to them and encourage their development. It will save both time and money invested in recruiting new employees but also improve the working environment.

At Kindred, a communications agency, they believe in integration, and take their staff’s career aspirations very seriously. “We have a very unique way of working that allows employees to move around to different disciplines within the business should they want to expand their knowledge, creating highly talented individuals,” says Hannah Richards, HR Manager. This approach undoubtedly results in high levels of staff retention as well as a great culture.

identify the mission

Identify the mission

individuals who work within the company. By making every employee feel important and vital to the success of the company from day one, you are ensuring they understand their role within a business and what their contribution means.

Natalie Green, Communications Executive from Postcode Anywhere, believes that in order for employees to be engaged, they ‘need to feel they are contributing to the mission of the company’.

The mission of the company should be something that every single employee is aware of and they should know how what they do contributes to that goal. This engagement will link very closely with the culture of a company – if everyone is pulling towards the same end goal, you will be more likely to achieve it, and more quickly.

This understanding alone can drive increased motivation and incentive to perform better; inciting employees to achieve more and succeed within the organisation and industry.

stimulate a sucessful culture

Stimulate a successful culture

Ceri Assiratti, Head of People Services at The Admiral group, says that their success is based on their employees and how the company goes out of their way to make working for the business as rewarding as possible; ‘Everyone at Admiral is treated equally’, she says. Employees are then more aware of their individual importance.

The culture of the company should be based on recognition and appreciation for hard-working team-players but also on an understanding of the company’s mission to ensure everyone is working towards the same goal.

Employees will spend a lot of their week at their place of work, so allow them to add-to, participate-in and mould the culture of your company. It will help them to feel more engaged and inspire them to work hard for a company who values and appreciates them. It will also help them feel a part of the mission. Moneypenny share the opinion that ‘people matter’. Ed & Rachel, co-founders of Moneypenny, set about creating a company that people would want to work for and a workplace people would want to work in. They invest a lot into this and, despite extensive growth, in their business, you will still find them participating in everything as they did in the beginning.

At Havas Worldwide, their way of working is very flat, which employees consistently cite as a preferred way. There is a limited hierarchy, employees are not split by endless job titles and senior management do not work at a stratospheric and removed level. They are accessible, personable and involved.,

Admiral follows a similar approach with an honest and open culture, treating everyone as an equal, recognising and rewarding hard work and achievement. They believe a great working environment will go a long way to keeping staff happy.

The culture of a company is completely unique to that organisation and the more you encourage and inspire your staff to contribute to it, the more success will follow.

The culture of a company is completely unique to that organisation and the more you encourage and inspire your staff to contribute to it, the more success will follow.

Recognise achievements

A company should always, without question, recognise achievements in everything they do. This may be very small achievements such as finishing a project to much larger achievements such as securing a new piece of business or project.

RPM, a marketing communications company, make sure that success is always recognised and that outstanding performance is continually rewarded. This doesn’t always have to be about remuneration, says Beccy Gibson, HR Director. ‘At RPM we have an established culture of publicly recognising achievements, whether it is via an all-office email from a Board member or a thank you message written by a peer in the weekly newsletter’.

reward employees

Reward your employees in a creative and original way

When we talk about reward schemes, many people’s first thoughts are a gift of monetary value. Of course employees will always appreciate a financial reward for their hard work and dedication but there are other ways to reward staff.

Hannah Richards, HR Manager of Kindred, discussed that in the current economic climate, it is not always possible to reward staff members financially, so they ‘have to be creative’ about how they reward employees for their efforts. Some of their recognitions include ‘Hero of the Month’, the winner of this getting company-wide recognition for their contribution and a bottle of Moet champagne.

RPM have their own reward which recognises outstanding creative thinking and execution of design known as their ‘Treacle Tin Award’. This award takes nominations from all of their projects throughout the year and is held with high prestige within the company. The actual prize is simply a £50 bar tab at the local pub but receiving the recognition of a ‘Treacle Tin’ has a far higher value to the individual within the company.

provide actual benefits

Provide ‘actual’ benefits

Company benefits come in many shapes and forms, from the more typical private healthcare, subsidised gym membership and staff team building days, to the highly unusual and elaborate. The key to providing the best benefits is to provide ones that are relevant to your employees. That doesn’t mean the benefits have to be crazy and unsustainable for the business, but will be something that sets you apart from other organisations.

Beccy Gibson, HR Director at RPM says that their staff benefit from perks which are ‘relevant’ to their workforce. This will stretch from family friendly benefits such as flexible working hours for parents, to ‘softer benefits’ which currently include a shuttle bus from the office to the local underground in the cold weather.

Postcode Anywhere staff benefit from the use of a company narrow-boat and four kayaks to use at their leisure. This was to coincide with a move of premises to state-of-the-art offices overlooking the river Severn.

A benefit also isn’t exclusively an addition to their job role, it could also be a part of their job role. Your company’s benefits could include a great training programme which allows your employees to progress or flexible working hours to allow your employees to work around their family life.

Waterstons, an IT & Business consultancy, has a truly unique way of working with benefits that include no set hours or holidays. Staff at Waterstons are measured on the outcome of the work rather than the number of hours they work. This setup would not be to everyone’s taste but it certainly attracts the right members of staff at Waterstons, who last year saw a 96% staff retention rate, Amy Crimmens, PR & Events Manager.

communicate to the company

Communicate to the company

Communication in business is paramount, but in practice is rarely well-executed. The key to success is to remember that communication is a two-way stream and rather than simply telling your employees, ensure you listen and converse with those people.

Almost all of the companies we spoke to recognised the importance of not only communicating with staff, but also listening to them, allow them to provide feedback and acting upon that feedback.

Mischcon de Reya has done just this with the introduction of their ‘Mischon Flex’ creation. Based on direct employee feedback, the company ‘offers staff the opportunity to tailor their benefits package to suit their own individual requirements and we offer a range of benefits suited to the lifestyle of our employees’, Penny Jones, Business Development at Mischcon de Reya.

At Hotwire, they are firm believers in listening to their employees and believe this has contributed to their continual success. ‘We’d always rather say yes and make something happen, whether it’s allowing a team member to move to a different office globally, developing a new service, winning a new kind of client or supporting someone to work in a new flexible way’, says Loveday Langton.

The ways in which you communicate will differ depending on the industry but the actual mechanics behind it will not. A notice board or newsletter is a good way of letting everyone know about upcoming changes but does little to evoke a conversation. A forum such as company or team meetings where employees are able to discuss their views openly will ensure everyone’s views are heard and could ultimately result in an even better solution to any issues raised.

At Postcode Anywhere, they ensure communication happens through their open-plan office and regular team meetings. ‘This ensures that everyone is aware of what is happening at all levels of the business so that no-one feels excluded or less important than others’, Natalie Green, Communications Executive.

We’d always rather say yes and make something happen, whether it’s allowing a team member to move to a different office globally, developing a new service, winning a new kind of client or supporting someone to work in a new flexible way.
Loveday Langton

There are many things a company can do to reward, recognise and retain employees and more often companies are trying to engage their employees in new and exciting ways. It is important not to lose sight of who your employees are and what would actually benefit them in their day-to-day lives – is a ping pong table in the office really justified?

Consider what you are trying to achieve and what is realistic within the company’s budget and time constraints. Bring culture to the forefront of the business and get employees involved to assist with building and progressing this – after all, your employees are the lifeblood of the business. Trust and communicate with your staff and you will see clear results.