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Developing the existing talent within your workforce - interview with Justine Brown

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How can a strong benefits system help you retain talent? Justine Brown, human capital (HC) director for Europe and Russia for DP World highlights how you as an organisation can really benefit financially by recognising internal skill.

Tell us about you and your role/firm?

My name is Justine Brown, HC director for Europe and Russia for DP World. Having a regional role, I have a team of three supporting me from our office in London plus HC teams in each of 10 business units in the region. The business units that we operate in the Europe and Russia Region are: London Gateway, Tarragona, Antwerp, Germersheim, Southampton, Fos, Constanta and Le Havre, in addition to development projects at Rotterdam and Yarimca. 

Container handling is the company’s core business and generates more than three quarters of its revenue. In 2014, DP World handled 60 million TEU (twenty-foot equivalent container units). With its committed pipeline of developments and expansions, capacity is expected to rise to more than 100 million TEU by 2020, in line with market demand.

What key HR initiatives are you working on?

Our key initiatives are to improve the communication of benefits and the current offering to ensure more flexibility for employees. 

Before we reviewed, we had three distinct business units in the UK; regional office, London Gateway and Southampton, with some benefit coordination from regional office, some common benefits like life insurance and pension, but many historical variances and oddities. Benefit arrangements had evolved rather than being formally structured and we had a legacy of benefit providers with a mixture of renewal dates.

We were not leveraging UK volume effectively, and we also were not taking advantage of possible tax and social security savings. There was a high administrative burden for HC and we were not providing a consistent user experience, with low awareness of benefits and total reward.

However, our aims were to;

•Identify one provider to deliver all benefit design, broking, administration and communication requirements

•Consolidate the employee benefit offering and identify economies of scale where possible

•Modernise the employee benefit offering and communication  

•Implement an online benefits platform to communicate total reward and facilitate choice

What challenges do you face?

We found that some employees resent taking control of their benefits. What HC sees as empowerment, some employees see as a chore.

For example, large groups still expect the company to manage crucial areas of their lives including retirement planning and healthcare. "Do I have to do anything?" is a question we hear frequently. 

It is important to not take IT literacy for granted; we have a long journey towards an IT savvy workforce, particularly operational employees but some functional employees too. Some groups have mistrust around data protection and use of personal information. We also found that employees aren’t as excited by total reward as HC are. It needs to be sold to employees, integrated within communication and around other relevant areas.

How have you overcome them?

The process is ongoing, and we expect with more benefits on offer and as employees start to use the flexibility that the benefits give them, we will see a better understanding when we open the flexible benefit window mid-year and at the end of the year. 

We will continue with poster campaigns and emailing alerts to employees, alongside the flexible benefits such as lifestyle discounts which employees can use anytime. We also ensure employee benefits are reviewed twice a year and also review the total reward statements regularly keeping employees up to date.

What can other firms learn from you?

We have found that by focusing on benefits and flexibility, we have seen savings on both benefits and the cost of providing them. Our online flexible benefits solution gave us a saving in excess of £25,000 in its first year. 

All broking now goes through one contact at Aon, simplifying the renewal process and recharging. We’ve created a single point of contact for employees, and reduced workload for HC, along with a central storage point for all benefits documents, guides, FAQs and so on. All interactions with benefit providers go through Aon, ensuring lower administration and lower risk for DP World.

What have you learnt from your role?

I have been in my role for 18 months and found this to be a great project to be involved in from conception to delivery. To see technology used in a different way to support all employees with their benefits and provide useful information has been a great reward for the HC team and me. It is great to see the support for this from the business units involved.

What are your future plans?

We want to expand flexible benefits further and provide an even larger choice for employees. We will be running focus groups during 2015 to understand their needs. Recent information from our ‘My World Employee Engagement Survey’ will help us to understand what else we can do to improve the employee experience.

Emily  Sexton-Brown

By Emily Sexton-Brown

Emily is the commissioning editor at Changeboard

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