I Maybe you'd like to begin by explaining how Choices came about.
D Well, we wanted to show tath PricewaterhouseCoopers recognized the individuality and diversity of all its employees. Flexible benefits was the ideal way of sending this message with massively increasing the firm's payroll costs. Also, after the merger between the two firms, Price Waterhouse and Coopers & Lybrand, we wanted a new scheme that both sets of employees chould identify with.
I And what advantages does Choices give employees?
D Well, it sounds obvious, but the main advantage is choice and the opportunity to change benefits as an employee's lifestyle changes.There's also a price advantage on many of the benefits.
I How does that work?
D Well, there are tax savings when taking certain benefits rather than cash. But the real advantage is that our size means that we can find the best providers in the market and then negotiate bulk discounts with them.
I And how did you inform employees of all this when you launched the scheme?
D We had to be very pro-active to ensure employees understood everything about Choices, from its concept to its implementation. We began by creating awareness with printed material, and then ran a series of countrywide roadshows.
I Roadshows? Why did you choose roadshows?
D Because they were the ideal way of offering employees a face-to-face opportunity to develop their understanding of Choices and get the answers they needed. People were already going through huge changes with the merger, so we had to expect some challenging questions.
I And how successful were the roadshows?
D Well, they were attended by 8,000 our of 19, 000 UK employees. ANd since then, research among staff has shown very high awareness levels and a very good understanding of why Choices was introduced.
I And where did you go from there?
D Well, having created awareness and interest, we then had to encourage employeed participation. we did this by making detailed information about Choices available to all employees electronically. Any employees needing further information chould then contact the Choices call center if they needed to.
I From the feedback you've had so far, which benefits do you thyink will prove most popular?
D Well, we don't know yet. But things like pensions and company cars are likely to prove popular. But typically, with flexible benefits, most interest is shown in varying the amount of annual leave. And I expect it'll be the same with Choices.
I You mean people taking more days off?
D Well, not just more. Many employees actually reduce their annual allowance in exchange for cash. It's just another example of the flexibility which characterises Choices - which, as we know from post-recruitment interviews, can be a real factor when people are comparing job offers.
I Yes, I can image. Choices must have had a real effect on recruitment.
D Well, it only went live in April, so it's still too early to say exactly what effect it's going to have. But with Flex, the old benefits scheme that Price Waterhouse used to have before the merger, there was a 30% increase in the number of candidates who accepted job offers. We expect Choices to be just as effective, and help us get the brightest and the best - both university graduates and experienced applicants.
I And finally, what do you see as the main benefit for PricewaterhouseCoopers?
D Well, for one thing, it should reduce staff turnover. Replacing an employee through an agency can be a very expensive business. But most importantly, it'll help define the PricewaterhouseCoopers image and sned a clear signal about out values to employees and job applicants. There's also the experience it gives us in running flexible benefits schemes.
I What do you mean exactly?
D Well, flexible benefts is something our consultancy service is asked to advise companies on. So Choices provides us with invaluable experience.