Case Study

Reward outside the NHS : RSPCA's employee benefits

A look at how reward can be a driver for change in a large organisation outside of the NHS.

18 January 2024

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) is a large charity with employees and volunteers spread across a variety of different settings. The organisation wanted to review its current benefit offering to ensure there was something for everyone. 

What the organisation faced

The RSPCA employs approximately 1,600 colleagues across a range of areas including animal hospitals, animal centres​, inspectorate roles and a head office. There are also 6,600 society volunteers​. Staff that work in the various branches across the country make up 1,200 employees and 5,000 volunteers​. 

The RSPCA has a competitive benefit offering in place for staff including a defined contribution pension scheme, generous annual leave entitlement, life assurance scheme, healthcare cash scheme and a variety of discount schemes. It is also a Real Living Wage employer and has a diverse range of salaries. In 2022, the charity decided to undertake a benefits review, because it was aware that staff were not making the best of what was on offer and it wanted to remain competitive and improve its employee value proposition (EVP). The charity wanted to ensure there was something of benefit to all staff at different demographics therefore increasing engagement and uptake. The review would also provide the opportunity to look at its current contracts with benefits suppliers to ensure affordability and sustainability. 

What the organisation did

The RSPCA used Barnett Waddingham, an external consultancy, to support the review. The consultancy’s main role was to support with gathering feedback from staff. Three methods were used to gather feedback, including a staff survey, benefits workshops, and key stakeholder meetings. 

In terms of the staff survey, the questions were based around four pillars: health, financial wellbeing, protection, and lifestyle. The aim of the survey was to find out from staff what they liked about the current offering and what potential new benefits would be of interest. Within the staff survey was a set of demographics questions including age, work location, gender, working pattern and salary band. Staff were assured that the survey was anonymous. To ensure a high response rate the organisation did a lot of work in promoting the staff survey, via posters and QR codes.  

Key stakeholder meetings were conducted on a one-to-one basis and colleagues were questioned about their knowledge of the current scheme and what they would like to improve or introduce. Benefits workshops were attended by people across the organisation at two different locations. Staff who attended these workshops were able to see a preview of the staff survey results, and this was a used to encourage attendance. These meetings were for more of an in-depth discussion and they used a variety of methods to look at every benefit in detail to gain insight.  

Results and benefits

The staff survey ran for two weeks and received 650 responses in total and the benefits workshop were attended by 25 staff from across the organisation. The survey responses were representative of the makeup of the workforce across the whole organisation. Like the NHS, the RSPCA has a predominantly female workforce (73 per cent). Staff from across all the different generations are represented with the biggest percentage falling between generation X, 44-59 years old (42 per cent) and  generation Y / millennials, 27-42 years old (41 per cent).  

The findings from the entire review revealed a number of findings:  

  • Discounts were the most popular choice with 61.5 per cent of all colleagues wanting this​, closely followed by buying and selling annual leave. 
  • Critical illness and dental insurance were popular across all generations. ​ 
  • Financial wellbeing type benefits weren’t as popular, for instance only 11 per cent wanted early wage access​. 
  • More than 70 per cent of staff were in favour of a well-structured system to reward recognition by way of a token of appreciation. 
  • Staff didn’t want to get rid of the current benefits. 
  • Staff wanted to have all benefits in one place on the intranet to easily access. 
  • The benefit offer needed to include individual choice and be of interest to all generations. 
  • The offer must be sustainable and aligned to the RSPCA’s core values. 

Once the organisation had gathered and analysed the findings, they were able to start working on a plan in terms of what a future benefit offer will look like. Staff were clear that they didn’t want to lose any benefits, which aligned with the vision of the review in enhancing what is currently on offer. 

The RSPCA worked to progress several small enhancements, which included improving the education and awareness around the benefits. The charity launched ‘benefit of the week’ which highlights one benefit in a weekly newsletter that goes out to all staff. Improvements have been made to its intranet site to ensure all information is accessible and in one place.  

A longer-term piece of work to improve its EVP is to procure some new benefits, such as the cycle to work scheme and enhanced medical cover, and to do some work to look at currently suppliers to make sure the organisation is getting the best value for money. The charity will also monitor the uptake rates of the new benefits, and is working in partnership with the new suppliers to assess and track this information. 

Takeaway tips:

  • As an organisation, look what you already have – there may be overlaps with suppliers offering the same thing, so it’s important to have an in depth look at your current offer first. 
  • Staff engagement is key – don’t assume you know what staff want, engaging with them is pivotal in ensuring as an organisation you stay competitive and attractive to current and future employees. 
  • Communication is key – there are many ways organisations can utilise existing communication mechanisms to ensure staff know what reward and benefits are available. Making sure your offer in one place is really important too. 

Contact details:

Sarita Coleman, Head of Reward, RSPCA –