Blog post

Reward and benefits champions

Read how Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust uses reward champions to communicate its reward offering effectively.

13 July 2023

In this blog, Sue Wright, head of reward and benefits at Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT), shares how her team has implemented reward champions to improve staff experience, health and wellbeing, and support retention by proactively communicating its reward and recognition initiatives. The trust has successfully embedded the reward champions across one of the largest trusts in England.

Our champions lead the way

In 2017 the trust merged with Wythenshawe Hospital and we inherited approximately 150 reward champions. Since then, reward champions were introduced across all sites to support the trust to improve the communication of its reward and recognition package. We have a great network of champions, over 500 to date, who are volunteers from diverse backgrounds and roles. They are the first point of contact for their colleagues to seek support with the trust’s reward and recognition offer. They actively highlight the total reward package and good practices to their colleagues.

“ The champion network is now recognised as one of the trusts most responsive and active networks.”

We send the reward champions a monthly newsletter which provide details of offers, promotions and planned campaigns. The champions can then share this with their team and wider networks as they understand the best communication channels for their department.

The newsletter can be downloaded and includes posters and infographics. Champions can put these in staff areas, to promote to clinical and community staff and any other staff members who may not often access emails, intranet or a computer.

Since taking up post in October 2022, I have worked on expanding the reward champion network to increase the balance and spread of champions across all sites in Manchester.

I recently conducted a data cleansing exercise with our HR business partners to identify the areas in the trust that did not currently have any reward champions or where champions may have left or moved roles within the trust. Using this data, work has been ongoing to increase the number of champions across the trust sites and the members are growing week on week.

“Our approach makes sure that the reward offer continues to be advertised even in a team that sees high turnover of staff.”

To promote the role and encourage more registrations, we sent out flyers to all hospitals, managed clinical services and local care organisations. I also regularly attend meetings and forums to grow the network, which is now recognised as one of the trust's most responsive and active networks.

Monika Sypnik, Carol Lambert, Florence Ijeoma, Katie Gray and Mark Justin-Ford

The scheme is open for all staff to join, and an interested staff member can easily sign up through a form readily available on the intranet, people portal or via posters using a QR code. No matter how many champions are already registered at any one site or department, new members are more than welcome to join. This approach makes sure that the reward offer continues to be advertised, which is particularly important for teams which have a high turnover of staff or in a clinical setting where a higher percentage of staff may be part-time or work irregular hours.

Communication with the champions is a two-way conversation. To facilitate this further, we have designed an icon for champions to include in their email signature. This allows staff members to recognise champions and contact them directly for further information about the rewards and benefits hub and/or MFTs reward offering.

Overcoming challenges

The main challenge was how to accurately monitor the number of reward champions and how that correlated with staff accessing reward offers and advice. Although third-party sites such as the membership numbers of the Blue Light Card cannot be monitored, I evaluated the scheme through the number of hits on the intranet page, as well as the number of applications for schemes including credit union memberships, car leases and the cycle to work scheme.

The rewards and benefits communication platform was launched in November 2022, and with the support of the rewards champions, it has had over 17,000 page views to date. This has given a strong indication of the impact and merit of the scheme and can be used to highlight the uptake of certain reward schemes and provides a structured evaluation process to track the success and impact of the service.

I am extremely proud of the team and our champions and believe that recognising and incentivising colleagues for their exceptional work can inspire them to continue performing well on future projects. Rewards can increase engagement and productivity at all levels of the workplace, while also making staff feel valued and the reward champions play a big part in this.