Findings from the 2021 reward in the NHS survey

Read our publication to find out the key themes, trends, and findings from the survey responses.

10 March 2022

Each year we ask employers in the NHS to complete our reward in the NHS survey to inform us of their approach to reward and how they communicate their strategies with staff.

In this survey we asked employers to provide information about how they are using reward, how they communicate reward, some questions around the NHS Pension Scheme and a few questions around health and wellbeing.

The information from the survey is extremely valuable and ensures we tailor our products to suit the needs of employers. The findings are used to form part of our evidence to pay review bodies and are fed back to our Reward and Recognition Network

The survey opened in September 2021 and closed in December 2021. In total, the survey received 51 responses.

From the responses three key trends were identified:

  • Employers are consciously using reward to support recruitment and the retention of staff.
  • Apprenticeships are being utilised to enhance the career opportunities of existing staff, particularly for nursing roles.
  • NHS employers are collaborating with other organisations to enhance their reward offer, most commonly salary sacrifice and discount schemes.

The following sections highlight further feedback and key points from questions in the survey covering communications, flexible working, evaluating reward and the NHS Pension Scheme. 

Communicating reward

Communicating your total reward offer to staff ensures they are aware of what is available to them as part of their full employment package. Effective communication of reward and benefits addresses some workforce challenges such as attraction, retention, and staff engagement. In the survey we asked what were the most effective reward communication techniques for their organisation.

Most respondents agreed that the effectiveness of line management communications in relation to reward requires some improvement. Employers identified that line managers were facing time and capacity pressures due to the pandemic but agreed that dedicating time to support and improve the knowledge of line managers with reward communication would be extremely beneficial and valuable.

Introduction of a contractual right to request flexible working

Employers are providing flexible working arrangements to help create a healthy work-life balance for employees with some offering flexible working options within the advert of their vacancies. To reflect the introduction of a contractual right to request flexible working, from the start of employment, employers have revised their flexible and agile working policies and have then used their usual communication channels to inform staff of the changes.

Evaluating reward

Employers recognise the value of evaluating their reward offering despite identifying some barriers to doing this. The most reported obstacle was capacity. In general, evaluation was identified by many as requiring improvement. Many employers also found choosing appropriate evaluation and analysis methods challenging.

Several different evaluation approaches were included in the feedback. The most popular was including targeted benefit and reward surveys, staff surveys and local surveys, with various timescales reported from weekly to bi-annual. Staff feedback and engagement sessions also proved popular and allow for exploratory questions and open conversations. Employers reported using analytics and metrics to measure staff take-up and benefit portal use; understanding the popularity of different available reward offerings can help to tailor local reward packages to suit staff needs.

NHS Pension Scheme

Employers recognise the value of the NHS Pension Scheme in both attracting and retaining staff, but also acknowledged the ongoing challenges of pension tax and scheme flexibility. Despite this, employers are using a multitude of channels to communicate the value of the NHS Pension Scheme. Membership is being encouraged through Total Reward Statements, inductions, staff newsletters, job adverts, intranets, benefit booklets and social media. One of the most popular and productive promotion methods reported was education sessions.

The feedback identified some challenges in conveying complex scheme information and highlighted the importance of clear, concise and easily accessed information to help members make informed decisions regarding their pension and retirement. Employers are holding pension and pre-retirement seminars, drop-in sessions, workshops and financial wellbeing meetings. Some organisations are able to offer a dedicated pension support service to help staff understand their NHS pension and the various options available.

COVID-19 pandemic

Employers have continued to develop and adapt wellbeing support offers to staff in response to the ongoing challenges the pandemic continues to present. Respondents reported their three most important initiatives that have had the biggest impact and will remain in place. Initiatives included in the feedback were:

  • agile and flexible working options
  • resilience training and workshops
  • health and wellbeing champions
  • psychological support with a trained clinician
  • additional food and drink provisions including subsidised refreshments
  • dedicated wellbeing rooms/spaces
  • improved communication of available offers.

Further information and support

If you are interested in learning more about how other organisations use reward strategically, you may want to consider joining our Reward and Recognition Network. The network is an opportunity to share and learn with other colleagues from across the NHS in an open and informal environment.

Please visit our Reward and Recognition Network web page for a schedule of future events, or email to sign up.