Employer Talk with Aviva
Aviva’s reward consultant, Sarah Moore, talks to Asperity’s client services director, George Farrow, about the reasoning behind adding an employee discounts service to Aviva’s benefits portfolio in 2010, and the ingredients of a successful benefits communication programme.
George: What made you decide to go with an employee benefits service at Aviva?
Sarah: We rebranded to Aviva last year, and one of the messages that was integral to us was individual recognition. We’d been revisiting our reward package over the last few years. We’d implemented flexible benefits in 2009 and the employee discounts was the last piece of the jigsaw puzzle, it’s what the employees were calling out for; to try and save money on things they already buy, where they didn’t have to make monthly commitment through a salary sacrifice scheme. They could just use it as and when they wanted to.
G: What persuaded you to choose your current discounts provider, Asperity?
S: We saw a number of providers during the selection process and it came back down to the point of individual recognition – Asperity were able to provide us with a system that was very intuitive when you logged on; you could customise the homepage exactly how you wanted, which made it absolutely ideal. So people could bring the offers and categories they wanted to the front of their homepage so they didn’t have to sift through lots of offers that weren’t relevant to them. And hopefully
it would maximise the amount of time that employees would spend using the website.
G: What role does effective account management on the part of your benefits provider play in helping you achieve your company’s benefits objectives?
S: Since the system’s been in place, our account manager has been very responsive to requests and requirements that are being sent through from both our benefits team and our employees who use the scheme. For example, we were recently looking at doing something for national energy saving week, so we arranged to have specific providers promoted or added on there. This linked to our corporate social responsibility objectives, so making these changes to the site allowed us to drive two agendas at the same time.
G: Is there anything about your employee discounts service that you have been pleasantly surprised by?
S: The telephone helpdesk – it absolutely is there in the hours that you say it is. There’s always email responses when the helpdesk is closed but it’s open until 8 o’clock in the evening, which for most people is really convenient. They’re always really helpful and you always get an answer. Which again, just comes back to the advocation of the service that we’d need from our employees to use it. Asperity were able to provide us with a system that was very intuitive when you logged on; you could customise the homepage exactly how you wanted, which made it absolutely ideal.
G: Do you think there are some facets of the service that appeal to certain types of employee that aren’t internet enabled?
S: Yes, the shopping vouchers are one of the big spenders in the Aviva scheme. Certainly the Sainsburys and Asda offers pull our employees in and catch their eye. I think what our employees like about it is there’s no upfront commitment, you spend what you want on a reloadable card when you want it, it’s easy to use, you order your reloadable card before 11 in the morning and it’s with you the next day. You can top it up as and when you want, so you need to be a bit more planned perhaps but to save 5% on your shopping all year round then I think it’s a small sacrifice and I think one that our employees are taking full advantage of.
G: Presumably that kind of regular shopping is something you’d want to encourage rather than the ad hoc transactions – so that you can keep the service in people’s minds all the time?
S: Absolutely. I think that’s where a good communications programme comes in. We promote the big brands all year round that we know have the long term big discounts. So then, if someone’s pulled in by Asda or Sainsbury’s, then they’re going to be using the scheme regularly and they might pick up some of the more ad hoc offers along the way.
G: Are there any other methods of communication you’ve found to be effective to get employees onto the discount site?
S: We also really rely on word of mouth for the scheme’s success. At Aviva we tend to be a bit like a family at each site – so if there’s an Asda just over the road, as soon as one employee knows they can get a discount there, the word will spread and their colleagues will be logging on to get their reloadable cards in no time.
G: So do you actually hunt out benefits champions to try and get them to promote the offers?
S: When we first implemented the scheme we gave our consultative forum access to it before it launched fully. Normally they’re embargoed to talk around certain things but with this one, we actually wanted them to talk about their experiences of using it, so that they could become advocates of the system and start to create some excitement and buzz around it before it hit. We also used roadshows to promote My Aviva Extras and certain other aspects of our benefits package all across the country from Perth right down to Southampton – so our people could come along, find out more about what their employee discounts scheme involves and how to use it.
G: What do you think is going to come next as far as benefits is concerned?
S: I think for us, as I said, the employee discounts was the final piece to our reward package. Now we’re looking at refreshing our messaging around total reward – selling our whole benefits package as a total element to employees so that they understand all the benefits of coming to work for Aviva.