Improving reward through employee benefits groups

Emma Skitt

Emma Skitt, programme manager at NHS Employers, finds out how Dorset HealthCare University NHS Foundation Trust created an employee benefits group to review their reward approach and communication.

We know that effectively communicating your reward offer to your employees and potential candidates helps them understand and appreciate their overall employment package. Using a reward group is one way you can ensure your overall reward offer is one that staff want and value and that you are effectively communicating your offer to your staff.

I recently visited one of our Total Reward Engagement Network (TREN) members, Karen Beckett, head of payroll and benefits at Dorset HealthCare. Leading on the reward agenda for the organisation, Karen has been a regular member of TREN since it began just over two years ago.

Dorset offers a wide range of benefits and rewards to its employees. From health and wellbeing initiatives and recognition schemes, to retail and service discounts and use of the organisation’s beach hut. 

Creating the group 

One of the most interesting parts of the visit for me was understanding how Karen recognised that they could make improvements to the organisation’s reward offer and the steps she took to make these changes.

Karen told me that Dorset’s rewards were administered by different teams and had different branding, meaning the overall reward offer was less recognisable or accessible to employees than it could be. To bring all elements of reward under one umbrella, Karen set up an employee benefits group. This includes representatives from staff side, HR, payroll, communications, equality and diversity, health and wellbeing, staff benefits, learning and development and occupational health.

The group’s purpose is to support the organisation’s objective to increase recruitment and retention by refreshing the rewards offered and bringing them all under one umbrella. The group also wants to avoid duplication of effort when departments promote elements of the reward offer separately. Karen is keen to ensure that the offer reflects what staff want and value and that the communication channels used help them reach all their employees, including those who work in the community.

During the first couple of meetings, the group agreed its purpose and how often it will meet. It has also pulled together all the benefits currently being offered and reviewed how popular and valued they are.

One of the advantages of such a diverse group of representatives has been the feedback and commitment seen while developing their employee benefits leaflet which is a folded A5 flyer. The group is confident that using all the communication channels available will increase staff awareness and understanding of the reward offer.

Future work includes:

  • reviewing of a formal reward strategy
  • researching new benefits including financial wellbeing
  • development of an employee benefits platform.


Meeting with Karen and her team was an excellent opportunity for me to see first-hand an organisation’s process for developing and communicating a reward offer. This is useful learning that I will be sharing with our team when we’re developing new tools and resources.

We know through our Total Reward Engagement Network (TREN) that more NHS organisations are developing reward groups to help them review their offer strategically and use reward to meet workforce challenges such as recruitment and retention.

We facilitate TREN which is a network for reward professionals to meet with colleagues from across the NHS to develop and share reward knowledge and experiences. Find out more and register to attend sessions by visiting our TREN web page.

Further information 

NHS Employers has a range of resources available to help NHS organisations review and communicate their reward offer, take a look at our reward web pages.

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