How to best attract and retain talent in the fiercely competitive legal sector

The challenge

The client is a large SME operating in the UK’s legal sector, a highly competitive sector where firms have to work hard to attract and retain top talent as recruitment is increasingly difficult.

In 2021, as the country emerged from the pandemic, the client decided to review their employee benefits programme to ensure it was fit for purpose in the post-pandemic landscape. The client wanted independent consultancy regarding their benefits strategy, to provide an assurance that their limited benefits budget was deployed to best effect.

Broadstone were asked by the firm to review the current offering and advise on improvements. Our review focused on:

  • The role played by benefits within the overall Employee Value Proposition (EVP) and whether this is supporting the firm’s recruitment and retention needs.
  • Feedback from employees regarding the previous benefits package.
  • The limited budget available for the benefit refresh project.
  • A gap analysis of the current benefit package and the perceived financial, emotional and physical wellbeing needs of the client’s employees.
  • An effective communication strategy to engage employees with the new EVP.

The firm’s current position:

  • A new internal Reward team had been formed, headed by HR with representation from payroll and operational leads.
  • Exit interview feedback indicated the pre-pandemic package had been narrowly focused on healthcare and required a broader appeal.
  • Healthcare provision needed rethinking following the removal of the previous company funded private medical insurance (PMI) scheme in 2020 due to the temporary closure of private hospitals during the pandemic.
  • There was a perception that pension contributions needed to be increased but concerns about the cost of doing so.
  • The Reward team were keen to offer tangible benefits with everyday engagement value.
  • The client’s focus was on retention and recruitment of legal talent, with competition for talent fiercest for Fee Earners such as Trainees, Senior Solicitors, Solicitors, Associates and Senior Associates.

The solution

Broadstone’s findings:

  • The client had a pension in place but were not taking advantage of the opportunities presented by salary sacrifice options.
  • A Group Life scheme was in place for some categories of staff, but insured employees were not taking advantage of the health and wellbeing support services provided by the Life scheme due to lack of awareness and engagement.
  • No company funded health cover was in place, but reintroducing the previous company funded PMI for all staff would exhaust the budget available for the benefit review project.
  • There was no digital platform in place to support the communication and administration of benefits, meaning the Reward team were reliant on manual processes to deliver this.
  • Employees only had limited visibility of their benefits with little opportunity to engage with them, meaning the existing benefit package was poorly understood and undervalued by employees and delivered a poor return on investment for the client.

The new benefits programme recommended by Broadstone included:

  • The implementation of Salary Exchange within the pension scheme to allow employees to increase their pension savings in a tax efficient manner.
  • A holiday buy and sell programme to allow employees to tailor holiday entitlement to their own personal circumstances.
  • The introduction of a more limited company funded healthcare scheme, that provides fast access to diagnosis and treatment of acute conditions at a much lower cost than traditional PMI, enabling the client to also introduce a health cash plan to provide support for routine healthcare costs.
  • “Flex up” options to allow employees to extend health cover to family members at their own cost through payroll deduction.
  • Extending Group Life Cover to all employees, including a “flex up” option so employees can cover partners at their own cost.

Broadstone negotiated an improvement in terms with the pension provider and charges being taken from members’ pension funds were reduced by 40%, while the cost to the employer of providing the benefits was reduced by implementing Salary Exchange in a carefully designed structure to make sure all participants were better off.

However, it was evident that any enhancements to the benefit programme would have limited positive impact if the client did not address the need to communicate benefits more effectively and provide a means by which employees could understand and regularly engage with them.

A proposal was put forward for the introduction of Broadstone’s Flexcel benefits platform, which allows employees to make personal choices regarding their benefit provision and enables the extension of benefit options to include non-insured voluntary benefits such as cycle-to-work and electric car leasing schemes.

The platform includes voluntary health and wellbeing benefits such as cancer screenings, menopause and fertility support, ensuring that benefits appeal to a wide demographic within the workforce, as well as a retail discount scheme that delivers everyday engagement and value to employees.

The outcome

The launch of Flexcel was supported by staff presentations delivered by Broadstone to explain the new benefits programme. Recordings of these presentations were also made available to accommodate those unable to attend, or who wanted to rewatch them to recap on information.

The platform was launched by the client in October 2021 and saw a surge of engagement with the new benefits. In total, 176 employees have registered to access the platform. Of these:

  • 133 members (almost 76%) logged into the system within the first 9 months.
  • Of these 133 members, 73% (97 people) have accessed the system more than once.
  • 76% of new joiners have accessed the platform since the start of the year and 46% have revisited

Given the communication barriers evident at the start of the consultancy process, these figures show a very positive shift towards employees being much more engaged with the new benefits available to them.

Feedback from the firm’s employees on the new benefits programme, and in particular the choice and flexibility it provided, was extremely positive, with more wellbeing needs being met for more employees without exceeding the limited budget available.

Competition for talent within the legal sector remains fierce, and the Flexcel platform allows Broadstone to routinely monitor employee engagement with each element of the programme and recommend appropriate adjustments to ensure it remains relevant and effective, allowing the client to continuously refine and improve its EVP.

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