Flexible benefits introduction Case Study


With the HR Director as project sponsor, the 30 office firm had recently brought its HR systems and databases together into a new HRIS system and had decided to being implementing a flexible benefits system. Just prior to commencing the project, the firm merged with another firm, creating a combined entity of 4,200 staff, spread across 35 offices, around the UK.

Each firm had its own set of benefits it offered to staff, similar in nature and scope although with different suppliers and terms. As with any such project, there were challenges around resource needs for the project, volume of work required, the need to fit in with the firm’s reporting requirements as well as HMRC requirements. Particular challenges for this project:

  • Need to negotiate terms and conditions on each benefit
  • Need to harmonise staff terms and conditions
  • Bringing together a set of HR colleagues for the first time
  • Significant proportion of senior HR staff already involved in post-merger activities
  • Very tight deadlines [mid-July start; Executive Board requested system complete for next January payroll]

Sue Cohen’s role

  • Bringing the whole project team and each workstream leader together
  • Communication within and across the 11 workstreams
  • Working with the HRIS project manager, integrating the work of the two related systems and projects
  • Working with the supplier of the new system
  • Managing the project board and sponsor information, meetings and follow-up

Overall project management approach:

  • Detailed planning and preparation
  • Briefings with project sponsor, HR Director, and HRIS project manager
  • Initial meeting of whole project team with HR Director working on response to Executive to move deadline from 31 Dec to 31 Mar
  • Detailed discussions with Director of IT – this is an extranet system with no internal hardware / software issues; increased work on data and file transfer security
  • Detailed discussions with supplier’s Project manager, Project director and Communications director
  • Set up communications with each workstream leader, team meetings, project board meetings
  • Specific work with communications manager and firm-wide consultation group

Sue’s contribution

  • Systematic communications including weekly calls/emails with each workstream leader and collation of all information, consistently
  • Daily communications with HRIS project manager, supplier Project Manager
  • Monthly Project Board meetings with full information, agenda, notes, actions and follow-up
  • Specific “team-working” approach and activities across newly-expanded HR team
  • Coached and mentored workstream leaders as necessary to set out own project deadlines, resource requirements and how to manage areas with lack of resource
  • Acted as “sounding board” for HR Director
  • Took on specific tasks when necessary, including data-checking, staff and line manager user-testing, working on staff communications

Key achievements / outputs

  • Got go-ahead early August for April rollout, with ongoing renewals in December for January.
    • This generated some extra work, particularly with HMRC approvals and staff communications which I built into the project plan with the workstream leaders and supplier’s Project manager.
  • Hit all deadlines: For 1st April launch, this meant everything was effective from mid-February for staff to review, allowing a four week choices “window” and time for the data to be moved between HRIS / Payroll / Benefits.
  • 95%+ take-up by staff within two weeks of launch. This is exceeded initial expectations and the supplier’s experience that far more staff would wait until the end of the 4-week “window”.
  • I specifically helped some of the less experienced workstream leaders to manage their total workload alongside their project work, in particular working closely with them to help them to influence their senior colleagues.
  • For the first time for such a project, I ran a full Project de-brief and close-down after end-April with the whole of the project team including the supplier’s team. I facilitated a frank discussion on lessons learned, successes and issues which were relevant to this project, annual renewal and other firm-wide projects.
  • Very few staff maintained objections to changes in their Terms and Conditions, which although not part of benefits system, staff were precluded from selecting their benefits until other areas were agreed.
  • The project won “Communication strategy of the year for organisations with fewer than 5,000 employees” at Employee Benefits Awards.


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