"The challenges, the variety, the flexibility to support my career and my role as a parent and just being involved and able to lead on some really exciting changes and developments."

Holly Coe, Reward and People Operations Lead at Aster Group UK

How did you get into a career in reward?

Hmm, this is interesting, kind of by accident. My background is very much recruitment, HR shared services, benefits and projects. I completed my post graduate diploma in HR management at the start of my career which gave me a good introduction to all aspects of HR and in the last 4 years completed a more specific short course with the CIPD on Benefits, pensions and Share Schemes.

After a return from maternity leave into a big restructure my role wasn't the same as when I left and so I saw a gap for a function focussing on reward and benefits. Having had prior experience and a real interest in benefits I spent some time researching and networking the reward aspect and am thoroughly enjoying my journey so far.

What are the key responsibilities in your role?

We aspire to be an employer of choice and are in the midst of some incredible transformations across the company and specifically within the people team. We are being recognised as being particularly progressive with some of our practices including our approach to flexible working which includes a trial of ‘take what you need’ annual leave.

I’m currently working on our whole reward approach and leading on some specific reward related projects, including the implementation of a flexible benefits system including total reward statements, benchmarking all job roles throughout the business and creating a clear pay framework alongside this. We are also reporting on the gender pay gap (and identifying and progressing actions to reduce this), as well as internally reviewing the ethnicity and disability gap, and the CEO pay ratio. I've also recently completed a pensions consultation, reviewing the various schemes we have in place and making recommendations for next steps.

Other aspects involve:

  • working through day to day transactional people admin and people systems
  • writing papers to propose what our pay review amount should be
  • reviewing what bonus (if any) to provide to colleagues and how
  • researching new benefits providers and making recommendations on these
  • managing supplier relationships and contracts.

Describe a typical day.

I'm not sure there is one, so here's a flavour... I work for a very flexible business and have two children (age 2 and 7):

8:30am - Drop my boys to school and walk home (where I'm working today).

9am - Check in with the team over the phone.

9:30am - Work on project scope for flexible benefits system - what are we looking to include, what system links are we going to need, who do each of these benefits apply to.

10:30am - Going over the benchmarking proposal, how the role profile template will look and feel, the pay framework and job evaluation.

12pm - Working lunch, catching up on emails (we had a benefits provider in today and had a few queries from people who couldn't make it to see them).

12:30pm - We are trialling ‘take what you need’ leave within our business and we are rolling it out to a couple more areas this year, so I spent time preparing the Q&A, discussing any concerns with the respective managers and setting up the comms channels.

2pm - Skype meeting with a company to discuss financial wellbeing and benefits and how this could support our colleagues.

3pm - Home to collect my boys.

8pm - Once boys are in bed catch up on e-mails including reward related blogs and prepping for tomorrow when I'll be working at one of our offices and have a number of meetings planned in.

What skills are needed for this role?

Organisational, analytical, communicative, influential and definitely the ability to work under pressure.

What challenges do you face in this role?

Wanting to get everything completed now, managing relationships with suppliers as well as internal stakeholders who all have a slightly different view on things. It’s about being able to find enough hours in the day to juggle different priorities and responsibilities!

What keeps you motivated to go into work every day?

The challenges, the variety, the flexibility to support my career and my role as a parent and just being involved and able to lead on some really exciting changes and developments.

What advice would you give someone considering a career in reward?

Go for it, it's a really interesting aspect of HR and can differ immensely from one organisation to another; there are so many different aspects and different routes in. If it interests you, and you haven't specialised in this area previously don't let your background put you off.

I’d recommend networking too. Find people working in reward and share experiences and support one another If you can get a mentor, then even better. There are also some great conferences (I recently attended the CIPD reward and benefits conference), blogs, webinars and good old books that can provide you with a really good understanding of some of the key principles.

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