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When the team at Marks & Spencer (M&S) were challenged to refresh their existing benefits strategy, they worked closely with Reward Gateway to deliver the new platform quickly. Their agile, people-led approach was built around employee feedback from different departments across the business to ensure the benefits offering was relevant to all colleagues.
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Employee discounts, employee wellbeing, employee recognition, employee communications, Cycle to Work, Childcare Vouchers
In 2013, M&S launched “Choices,” a benefits portal for its 85,000 colleagues. In May 2018, the team faced a challenge – to implement a replacement Choices platform, enhancing the employee experience and delivering savings back to the business.
During challenging times for the High Street, many retail businesses are experiencing transformation programmes – M&S included. This has sometimes meant uncomfortable levels of change and uncertainty for employees, so it was important to the team that the relaunch of the platform would help colleagues feel valued and invested in.
Before reaching out to potential new suppliers, the team used their bi-annual employee survey to find out what mattered to employees when it came to their benefits, as well as any pain points or barriers they were experiencing with Choices. The team quickly established that accessibility, simplicity, choice of benefits and flexibility were the most important factors to employees. This exercise also highlighted any benefits popular among specific demographics, or any barriers experienced by those who worked in certain geographical locations or specific roles.
The team then went about finding a new provider who could offer a product that would bring all the M&S benefits, along with wellbeing and recognition initiatives, into one single platform that was accessible at any time and on any device. It was also key that this platform was engaging for all colleagues, with relevant offers and provided a simple browsing experience. In addition, they also required a product that could give them more control over the platform’s content, look and feel, so that keeping it up to date and relevant was no longer frustrating or costly. The Reward Gateway team presented directly to the leadership team, resulting in an immediate, unanimous decision to go with Reward Gateway.
In autumn 2018, M&S set up a dedicated project team with representatives across the business. The team decided to roll out the new platform in stages, launching discounts and wellbeing initiatives in January 2019, then benefits in February. This phased implementation meant they tested and launched in parallel, while still delivering new and exciting offerings.
The new platform – named “My Choices” – provides a unique employee experience across discounts, benefits and wellbeing. The team worked closely with specific areas of the workforce such as employees in the Isle of Man, who now have their own My Choices platform tailored to their location and benefit eligibility.
More recently, the team have added recognition to the platform, allowing for colleagues to celebrate and thank each other without the boundaries which previously prevented peer-to-peer and cross functional ‘in the moment’ recognition.
To make the user journey even more seamless, the platform uses single sign-on, so that employees’ shares and pension accounts could be accessed via the same platform that houses their benefits, eliminating the need for them to remember numerous login details. Switching M&S’s existing tech financing and cycle to work schemes to Reward Gateway’s SmartTech™ and Cycle to Work products also allowed employees to choose and begin using these benefits at any time of the year, rather than biannually.
For launch, the team introduced interactive videos and digital posters, as well as designing and distributing physical posters and table talkers to all UK M&S stores. They ensured My Choices was featured in weekly conference calls with retail staff, and launched a My Choices Yammer group and blogs to communicate key information about discounts and benefits on a daily basis. The team also celebrated the launch of My Choices by running a number of competitions among employees.
When the team launched discounts and wellbeing initiatives on My Choices in January 2019, they saw 6,800 registrations in just 10 days – at that time, this equated to almost 10% of M&S’s workforce. In February, 11,200 employees registered to see their new and improved benefits, and there were a further 6,800 registrations in March.
Nine months after its launch, just under 50% of M&S’s workforce are now registered and are actively using My Choices every day.
The platform’s holiday buying benefit has seen an increase in uptake of 20% on last year, with 10,951 applications. Since switching their tech financing and cycle to work schemes to Reward Gateway’s Cycle to Work and SmartTech™ products and allowing colleagues to start using these benefits at any time, the team has seen a total of 227 Cycle to Work orders and a total of 2,637 SmartTech™ orders to date. There has been uptake for both benefits every month since launching, and employees have said that they love the flexibility and choice that they offer.
As M&S transforms and becomes a digital first retailer this is a great example of how quickly the team can deliver to colleagues.
registrations within 10 days
registered on the platform after 9 months