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Do You Know What Your Employees Want?

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Data analysis is being used in increasingly inventive and positive ways to help businesses understand the needs of their workforce. It’s an area that M&S and Equiniti are working closely in.

Brands are investing huge amounts of time and money into data science to get a better understanding of their customers, but few of them are putting more than a small fraction of that effort into understanding their own employees. M&S and Equiniti have taken on the challenge and uncovered some interesting insights on:

  • How participation rates for Sharesave scheme differs across the employee base;
  • How much employees save compared to their salary;
  • The average cost of hire amongst senior appointments.

M&S has a very wide age range of colleagues in its Sharesave scheme (aged from 17 to a handful of part-time workers in their 90s) and the business has always had a strong relationship with and understanding of its people. However, Sharon Storey, Head of Executive Reward & External Reporting, is pushing the use of data to generate greater insights and help all employees make their best choices. She knows that employee expectations are changing, and so the picture across the business is always changing.

Turning data into stories


“It’s about turning data into stories that we can all learn from. We've always been good at using data for our customers and we want to do the same for our colleagues to predict trends, to see what’s making them tick and why certain things might happen. For instance, we can see when people are voting with their feet and going into the Sharesave scheme or not going into it. That insight is invaluable.

— Sharon Storey, Head of Executive Reward & External Reporting - M&S

For example, data provided by Equiniti demonstrates that higher-paid colleagues tend to take better advantage of the maximum levels of saving available through Sharesave than those on lower salaries. And while that is in part due to affordability, there are also other factors around the communication and understanding of the scheme. Armed with that insight, Sharon’s team aims to help all colleagues realise the full benefits of the scheme for their personal circumstances.

“I’m also looking into a proportion of employees who are saving into Sharebuy – which is riskier – but not saving into Sharesave at all,” she says. “I’m not primarily driven by participation rate but I am driven by ensuring that people are engaged, understand their options and make the right decision for them.” 

Power BI visuals

Sharon pointed to the value she gets from Power BI data visuals, supplied by Equiniti, which bring the data to life – exploring patterns such as the fact that women are still more likely to go into a Sharesave scheme, but less likely to save as much – a pattern mirrored in other organisations which don’t have such a female-populated workforce. Tim Baker from Equiniti shared some of these visuals at the Equiniti Employee Services Forum in September 2019. He highlighted areas such as the rate of Sharesave sign-up by new employees, and how companies can then compare those figures to the industry benchmarks. Employers can then identify patterns in their own workforce. For instance, is any non-participation simply down to a lack of awareness? Or is it a conscious decision – and if so why? Should specific elements of the workforce be targeted differently and, if so, how?

Executive remuneration

Sharon is also using data to find a path through other challenging areas, such as executive remuneration. “We're in a business where we have to be very cost conscious, and I want everybody to be aware of the decisions they're making,” she says. “We have recently been looking at the cost of hire in our senior population over the last 18 months, including total and average spend per department to give our leaders a comprehensive overview across all of our family of businesses.

“It’s not for me to say whether the appointment is the right decision to make or not, Sharon adds. “It's for me to give them the information to help them make the best decisions. What I find really interesting is that the more data you give somebody, the more they want to delve into it to understand the patterns and trends.”

*This article was based on a plenary session at the 2019 Equiniti Employee Services Forum