Thinking People Breakfast | KPMG | UK
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Thinking People Breakfast

Thinking People Breakfast

Our Thinking People breakfast events give HR leaders an opportunity to explore major themes shaping the people agenda.



KPMG in the UK


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Talking points from our latest event

Our Thinking People breakfast events give HR leaders an opportunity to explore major themes shaping the people agenda. 

At our April event, we explored the impact of rewards and benefits on performance.  Our speakers were:

  • Simon Catford, former HR & Regulatory Director, Viridor
  • Sally Knill, Head of Reward, Vitrex
  • Sharon Riddell, Head of Reward, Royal Bank of Scotland
  • Greg Davies, Founder, Centapse

Boosting engagement with fair pay and rewards

Simon Catford led a programme to implement a new pay and rewards strategy for Viridor, part of the FTSE 250 Pennon Group. A series of acquisitions meant the company had inherited a mix of cultures and reward strategies, which was undermining employee engagement.

The comprehensive programme established a consistent, equal, fair and transparent strategy for the whole organisation. Three years in, the new approach is delivering better engagement, lower turnover, easier recruitment and less absenteeism. 

Simon highlighted key learnings from the successful implementation:

  • Take time to engage people at the start – don’t rush.
  • Get agreement from the board and the workforce that something needs to be done and set out your plans clearly.
  • Keeping communicating – the more communication the better.
  • Transparency is vital – be open and frank about what you plan to do and what you want to achieve.

Gender pay gap reporting: a first time for everything

Sally Knill has just helped cutting-edge manufacturer Vitrex prepare and publish its first gender pay gap (GPG) report. She shared some of the challenges her team encountered:

  • Deciding how to report data is far from straightforward. Bonuses, share options and salary sacrifice all throw up complex queries. 
  • Once GPG data is collected, deeper analysis is required before companies can use it to guide future decisions on issues such as pay, training and engagement. Raw data doesn’t provide answers.
  • The decision about what to publish and where is critical. Including GPG data in the annual report, for example, can suggest gender pay is a topic owned by the board.
  • The narrative accompanying the figures is perilous. Engage employees and unions in advance to make sure they understand the context and how the company plans to address any issues.
  • The first year’s reports could help propel the issue of gender pay up the corporate agenda. A poor showing has the potential to damage an employer’s brand, so gender pay could fast become a boardroom issue.

Download KMPG’s free guide to gender pay gap reporting.

How coaching can change culture

Sharon Riddell has seen a new approach to motivating staff help transform RBS’s culture in the aftermath of the global financial crisis.

Previously the bank, like many competitors, ran a traditional incentive scheme, with customer-facing staff rewarded for appropriate sales of products and customer service. Today, the bank has removed incentives completely. Instead, it provides staff with the right coaching to drive the behaviours that will make the bank ‘number one for trust, service and advocacy’.

The new approach enables employees to focus fully on customers and is showing a positive impact on a range of key business indicators, but crucially customer indicators.

Sharon picked out several success factors:  

  • Make sure the whole executive committee is behind any major change. Private interviews with individuals are crucial to understand concerns and ensure that these are met before any change.
  • It’s worth being fair when calculating new pay levels. This helps shift the conversation to the future and stops staff going over and over the transition arrangements.
  • A thorough risk analysis is vital. What happens if high performers leave? What about if performance drops? Everyone needs to accept the risks.
  • Communication needs to be super-clear. RBS engaged with leaders, unions and employees throughout, and achieved both positive media coverage and positive blogging by employees.

Why do people behave how they do?

Greg Davies founded Centapse to help organisations use insights from behavioural economics to make better decisions. His presentation revealed fascinating truths about why people behave how they do.

  • Incentive schemes often assume people will be rational in calculating how to behave to maximise rewards. In fact, emotional reasoning and how they want to see themselves usually has a bigger impact. Pay and other financial incentives can actually undermine this intrinsic motivation.
  • People get comfortable with the status quo, so incentives need to keep advancing to have an impact. The problem is people also anticipate and get used to future advances. This means it’s easy for financial incentives to become both progressively less effective and progressively more expensive.
  • Don’t assume transparency on incentives is all good. It lets people compare what they receive – so they start to focus more on how incentives have been calculated and distributed, and less on the behaviours the incentives are meant to encourage.
  • Financial incentives can be a blunt tool for promoting sophisticated behaviours in complex environments. Gamification provides ideas for a more subtle approach. Awarding badges or using schemes that let people move up through different levels are effective ways to recognise the value of certain behaviours, even if they’re not linked to pay.

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