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Show Me The Money (But How Much?): Compensation Planning In An SME 💰

Show Me The Money (But How Much?): Compensation Planning In An SME 💰

After a tough couple of years of surviving a pandemic, there were mixed feelings about individuals’ financial well-being. For some, this time presented a saving opportunity:  a non-existent social life meant that the money we would have spent on the weekly trip to the pub, or lunch out was instead put into savings. For others, however, it meant they needed to dig into their savings to make up for the shortfall in furlough pay or redundancy.

Fast forward a year, throw in a global cost of living crisis with soaring energy (& everything!) prices and the outlook makes a pretty grim reading across the board. Having been dancing with recession for the last year, companies are watching the pennies as much as their teams, who are keen to see their salaries rise to match their outgoings.

It’s a question many of our clients have been grappling with as they approach salary reviews (planned and unplanned). At a time when the disparity between wealth and poverty has never been greater, it presents employers with a bit of a conundrum: How can we support our team, without putting the business and the whole workforce at greater risk?

Salary benchmarking is a critical part of any business’s compensation philosophy that involves gathering data sources internally and externally to ensure that employees are paid fairly and equitably to each other but also to the external market. There is a lot of sensitivity about how salaries are calculated, especially now, and so in order for your team to feel they are being paid fairly, they need some reassurance that you’re not plucking salaries out of thin air. Typically this would involve internal and external benchmarking.

It’s not just the ££ that attracts people to your business

The benchmark for your business greatly hinges on the reasons why people choose to join you. For the most part, many people look to work for smaller businesses to gain practical experience, take on responsibility, feel ‘part of something’ and broaden their knowledge base: they are not always drawn to your company solely because of exorbitant salaries or a prestigious ‘name’.

Therefore if you’re looking in the market and being quoted sky high salaries, it’s important to recognise that you are not necessarily always in direct competition with these larger, more prominent organisations. These entities function in a completely different arena, often paying their staff in the 85th percentile or higher. Conversely, as a start-up or scale-up, you would typically fall within the 50th percentile for base salaries, and perhaps add equity or bonuses to supplement earnings.

Why one size doesn’t always fit all

There are lots of different ways to look at how you calculate your salaries. Some companies use a robust formula applied across the board, however others prefer the flexibility of being able to use guiding principles and fundamental data points to ensure they’re making data driven decisions should things in the market or their business change. Typically these will be influenced by the following factors:

  • Getting your internal benchmarking right:  This is about making sure your team is within the same pay bracket as each other if they have comparable roles and skills. This doesn’t mean you need to pay everyone the exact same salary, but it does mean you make sure there are not huge variances in these for people doing the same roles with the same experience. For context, 10% is the variance most companies are typically comfortable with.
  • What are other companies paying? Whilst you won’t always be able to get specific data from your competitors you can get a generalised feel for the market and acceptable rates. Each year you should aim to review your roles against the market to see where your salaries sit against the average. You can engage TheHRhub to help you gather this or do some good old-fashioned research yourself. Once you gather the data, you should then look at the averages of all the data points collected to try and minimise any bias or anomalies.
  • Market rate of the specific skills/experiences we want or need to prioritise? It’s a matter of fact that some skills and experiences are harder to come by or more competitive than others and so you’ll need to pay a premium for these. This reflects the landscape and critical nature of these roles within the business and (quite often) the scarcity of these skills in the market.
  • What is your total compensation? This includes equity, bonus and discretionary benefits such as private health, parental leave etc. As a start-up / scale-up you shouldn’t just look at your base salary as your compensation – you should also look at other elements such as your equity, bonus and benefits.
  • Where are you based in the world? This becomes increasingly important as companies scale and international and national borders become less restrictive. Local benchmarking helps to make sure you’re competing in local regions.

Small print alert: When deciding salaries across regions, you are not comparing apples-to-apples – this is because you need to reflect geographical differences in salaries, supply and demand and cost of living. For example, our friends in America don’t have the NHS or statutory benefits like pension or paid parental leave, whereas countries like Australia have significant statutory pension contribution requirements. As a result, this doesn’t necessarily mean a role in London is paid the same as a role in New York, even if it’s comparable in ‘size’. It’s important that you consider these regional differences when paying salaries.

We can’t magic away inflation or give you an endless pot of money but we can help implement a compensation philosophy, with guiding principles and benchmarking to allow you to make data driven decisions that your team feel confident in. To do so, drop us a line via, give us a call on 0203 6277048 or pop in a diary time here.

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The Work Summer Do: Why You Need One And How To Get It Right

The Work Summer Do: Why You Need One And How To Get It Right

For many, Glastonbury weekend heralds the start of an increasingly busy summer calendar of live cultural and sporting events. And more and more businesses are capturing some of this magic for their employees by hosting their own summer ‘do’. 

Here, Matt Turner, founder and MD of Clownfish Events  explains how work summer parties can be the perfect antidote to employee stress and gives us some great event theme ideas to boot….. 

If work is stressing you and your team out at the moment, you’re not alone. Research shows that people in the UK work longer hours than anywhere else in Europe. Stress can be hugely detrimental to productivity and engagement, not to mention our wellbeing. Over 11 million days are lost at work every year because of stress, according to annual reports by the Health & Safety Executive. More significant to business owners is the £1.24bn cost to UK employers of these high levels of absenteeism.

Balance sheets aside, we all know about the powers of exercise and mindfulness for combating workplace stress; but one of the best (albeit rather underrated) antidotes is a well thought-out summer office party. Done right, it can recharge the batteries of the most jaded of employees, whilst boosting engagement and reinforcing cultural values at the same time.

The Rise & Rise Of The ‘Digital Detox’ Party

Given the contribution of smartphone addiction to stress levels, not to mention the current ‘always on’ culture, it’s unsurprising that Digital Detox parties are a huge trend at the moment, as employers opt for summer events that urge colleagues to re-connect face to face and share quality time away from their devices. 

They can be surprisingly cost effective too. Think fires-side alongs: a tipi, firepit, cosy blankets, toasted marshmallows and maybe an open mic for coworkers to show off their talents. There’s no need for expensive catering or fine wines, but you could include a discreet photographer, so no one is tempted to use their phones and post the action on social media!

And a digital detox event is suitable for all brands, regardless of their specific cultural values, because it makes the vital connection between respecting work/life balance and the impact of proper downtime on mental wellbeing. 

But if a detox isn’t needed for your team, and you’d like something more bespoke to your business, here are four more cost-effective options that can be used to convey specific brand values and create a consistent cultural experience that boosts employee engagement levels…

Creative Summer Party Themes That Reflect Specific Brand Values

  • White Party – stylish, sophisticated and achingly cool. 

This theme is ideal for luxury brands and high-end professional services companies that might also want to celebrate their organisation’s emphasis on promoting diversity and a cosmopolitan culture. 

Think Mediterranean islands, white furniture and ambient lighting to recreate an exclusive holiday hotspot. Add a dance floor, DJ, chill out zone and plenty of entertainment for an event worthy of an A-list beach club.

Brand values: passion, attention to detail, diversity, dare to be different, simplicity, style

  • Traditional English Fair – heritage, tradition, under-stated style and practicality. 

This theme is great for brands that want to emphasise their British provenance as a sign of quality – like custom manufacturers, food and drink producers and ethical brands. 

Choosing a garden party theme with traditional accents like deckchairs, bunting, fairground rides and side stalls (with some Pimm’s and strawberries thrown in!) is a great way to celebrate the summer, keeping costs down but still delivering an event that is unique and memorable. 

Brand values: community, fun, quirky, sustainable, heritage, traditional. 

  • Sporting Fun – competitive, team spirited, entrepreneurial and spontaneous. 

This theme is the perfect choice for challenger brands, start-ups and dynamic/fast moving industries where risk-taking is the norm. 

With the FIFA Women’s World Cup this year and increasing numbers of companies wanting to promote health and wellness amongst employees, sporting challenges are likely be very popular this summer.

Brand values: excellence, growth orientated, teamwork, courage, commitment

  • Boho Festival – glamorous and fun; a good fit for international brands looking to emphasise the importance of ‘down time’ and adventure. 

If your employees are longing to be back at Glasto, why not bring the Pyramid Stage to them with music, hay bales and street food vendors.

Brand values: innovation, distinctive, creative, open-minded, sustainability

Summer Parties Are Quickly Overtaking Christmas Dos As The Must Have Annual Event

Whereas a Christmas party is often fairly traditional, summer events can be much better at conveying an employer’s brand values and reinforcing its personality. This is important for everyone but especially for millennials, who tend to value personal experiences, their employer’s values and a sense of feeling appreciated over material rewards. 

Furthermore, they are flexible to organise, cost effective and a greater return on investment in terms of improving productivity. So why not take inspiration from Glastonbury, The FIFA Women’s World Cup or simply your local village fete and make your work summer party a legendary fixture in the event calendar for your team… 


Matt Turner is the founder and MD of Clownfish Events. He started his first business aged 13, DJ-ing at community discos, and now runs themed events, team building and parties for some of the UK’s best known brands and business owners.

Image: Canva

10 Free Ways To Reward Your Team This Christmas

10 Free Ways To Reward Your Team This Christmas

Christmas is nearly upon us and for many SMEs it’s a chance for their employees to let off a little steam. But for others, its a case of ‘all hands on deck’. Whatever the nature of your business, there will be varying levels  of ‘business as usual’ over the festive period. Whilst Christmas is an important opportunity to show the team you appreciate their efforts, budget and business constraints often mean you can’t go over the top.

Here are 10 thoughtful ways to show your team you care which don’t cost a penny:


Catch up with every team member before the year end. Thank them personally for their individual contribution, giving specific examples of how their actions have contributed to the business’ success. This is the single most important thing you can do.

Flexible Hours

The Christmas holidays can be particularity challenging for those with school-age children or any other dependants. Some flexibility in working hours can be just what’s needed to help stressed-out parents ferry little people to and from activity clubs/playdates/granny’s house, making both family and work life a bit easier.


Quieter business periods can often be a good time to offer home working options to some team members. Whilst this might seem like a leap of faith, be comforted by the fact that the average worker tends to get way more done without the distractions  of the office and a busy commute. Laying out clear expectations at the start is a wise move, but then step back and give them the trust and respect to do things they’re own way.

Christmas Shopping Afternoon

Some things just can’t be bought online. Whether its collecting the turkey from Smithfield or queuing for the world’s best cheese board at Neal’s Yard Dairy, a few hours grace to let staff do what they need to do to make Christmas special for them and they’re family could be the best present of all.

Get In The Festive Mood

Embrace the Christmas frivolities.  Hang those decorations up, take part in Save The Children’s Christmas Jumper Day on Friday December 14th and organise an office Secret Santa. Allowing yourself to be seen to have bit of fun will humanise you and make you more approachable to your staff. And that’s never a bad thing.

Make Sure They’re Healthy

Christmas is also the season to catch cold and flu. The best way to protect your staff from illness is to fight presenteeism in your business. By being very clear that your expectation is for sick people to stay at home (and by leading by example here yourself!) it will quickly become part of your company’s culture. A few ‘Now Wash Your Hands’ stickers in the loo wouldn’t do any harm either! Be mindful of the team’s mental health too. It’s so common for individuals to become completely burn out and/or overwhelmed at this time of year. A couple of rest days when they’re really needed can help avoid a whole world of problems in the long run.

Make Sure Their Welfare Is Protected

As you are aware, it’s also your responsibility to safeguard your team’s welfare at work. One of the best ways to do this is to ensure all relevant HR policies are in place. Legally, in the UK you’re only required to have Disciplinary & Dismissal, Grievance and Health & Safety Policies in a workplace. There are lots more you might want to consider though – for more on this click here. Whilst I’m not suggesting you circulate these to the team the afternoon of the Christmas party, as this is a common time for grievances to occur, it would be a good idea to ensure your policies are up to date and readily accessible.

More Responsibility

Spare a thought for the poor souls manning the office over Christmas. Being someone’s holiday cover, however, can often be a real development opportunity. Some extra responsibility coupled with clear objectives and a defined chain of command could be exactly what’s needed to give someone a bright start to 2019.

Keep An Eye Out For Those Who Always Work Christmas

For some, Christmas is a time of year they’d rather be over with. Whilst an bit of extra responsibility might make the time go faster, do check in on how they’re doing and make sure they know that when a special day or event comes around in their life you’ll support them in being able to make the most of it. 

Have Some Rest Yourself

It’s important that you and the leadership team enjoy the Christmas period too. Time away from the business can often give a much needed fresh perspective and is a valuable opportunity to re-charge your batteries. You’ll need to be firing on all cylinders to get the team motivated and excited to hit the ground running in 2019.

For help and advice on any HR issue give us a bell on 0203 627 7048 for a free chat to discuss how we can help you or get in touch via

Image: Canva

Childcare Vouchers: What’s Going On??

Childcare Vouchers: What’s Going On??

You could be mistaken for thinking that the current Childcare Voucher scheme has now closed (after all we have been talking about it since 2017 now….) however it has now been extended for new members by another 6 months following a Commons debate, with a revised closing date of October 2018 (exact date still tbc).

The current Childcare Voucher scheme (which means that parents can save up to £933 a year on childcare) was due to close to all new members on 6th April, making way for the new Tax Free Childcare scheme which was launched in April 2017.

So, what’s the difference between them? In short, both schemes reduce the cost of childcare but one scheme may suit an individual’s circumstances better. The most significant difference between the 2 schemes is that Tax-Free Childcare offers savings per child per year, while childcare vouchers offer savings per parent per year.  

With childcare vouchers, each parent can take up to £55 each week from their salary before tax and National Insurance, or £243 a month, to spend on childcare no matter how many children they have, as long as the parent is a basic-rate taxpayer and the employer has chosen to run the scheme.

The Tax-Free Childcare initiative however is much more akin to a savings scheme and under the rules parents have 20% of their childcare costs each year met by the Government, up to a limit of £2,000 a year per child (or £4,000 if your child is disabled) The scheme is directly managed by the employee and not the employer and so employees are not restricted based on whether or not their employer runs the scheme.

What do you need to know as an employer?  If you don’t offer child care vouchers to your employees you don’t need to do anything! However, if you do offer Child Care vouchers you should be aware of the following:

    • Anyone who joins the Childcare Vouchers scheme before the scheme closes can continue to benefit from the savings for as long as their child remains eligible, they must also stay with the same employer, or have received a voucher within the last 12 months;
    • Employers will continue to benefit from up to £402/year savings in employer NI for every parent on the scheme;
    • Once an employee has left Childcare Vouchers to move to Tax Free Childcare scheme, they cannot rejoin
    • Employees can’t use both schemes at the same time.

For help or guidance on Child Care Vouchers or any other benefits related query contact us at

Image Credit: Unsplash

Boring-but-important: Auto Enrolment Updates for April 2018

Boring-but-important: Auto Enrolment Updates for April 2018

It is just over five years since the first employers started to automatically enrol eligible workers into a qualifying pension scheme but for your SME it may have been a lot more recently.

Up until 6th April 2018, the minimum contribution under auto enrolment rules has been set at 2% (of which the employer has been required to contribute at least 1% of the employee’s salary) However, on 6th April 2018 there will be an increase from the current total minimum contribution of 2% of qualifying earnings, rising to 5% (of which the employer must contribute at least 2% of qualifying earnings whilst employees make up the difference of 3%). Contributions will then rise again on 6 April 2019, eventually reaching a total minimum contribution amount of 8%. These changes will apply to all employers regardless of the size of their business and so even if you were part of the last wave of business to auto enroll employees you will still be subject to the changes.

When you initially rolled out your auto enrolment scheme you should have sent each eligible member a letter which set out that contribution levels will increase over time. If that was some time ago (and in fact even it was recently) it is likely that many employees will be unaware of these changes and the impact it will have on their income. So, although there is no legal requirement or additional duties for you to write to your employees about the increases you should consider reminding them about the change as it can provide an opportunity for employees to financially prepare for the statutory increases and potentially reduce the number of scheme leavers and opt outs.

Summary of Contribution changes

Effective Date Minimum Employer contribution Employee contribution Total minimum contribution
Until 5 April 2018 1% 1% 2%
6 April 2018 to 5 April 2019 2% 3% 5%
6 April 2019 onwards 3% 5% 8%

It remains the employer’s responsibility to ensure pension schemes are qualifying and that contributions are deducted accordingly, so, remember to contact your scheme and payroll providers to make sure that the change in contributions will be correctly calculated and paid.

You don’t need to take any further action if you don’t have any staff in a pension scheme for automatic enrolment, or if you are already paying above the increased minimum amounts and remember that these increases don’t apply to staff who asked to be put into a scheme that you don’t have to pay into.

For help and support with the upcoming changes to auto enrolment contact us at or call us on 0203 627 7048.

We don’t all jump for money – other ways to motivate sales teams

Having a motivated sales team is crucial to the success of any business. The relationships they build, create the foundation of your business, selling your brand or product to clients and customers.  This is not just in terms of individual sales, but also your overall reputation and growth.

Of course money works as a motivator, financial incentives are hugely attractive, but sometimes employees need more than that to make them feel impactful, appreciated and part of the team. So the huge question is, just how can you motivate your sales team beyond the money?

A traditional sales structure would set targets and offer commission paid in line with reaching these. Others add in a “fun” route with contests, trips, tickets, dinners and other innovative rewards.  All of these things are great and have their place but in my experience sales professionals need more than gift cards or event tickets; they also want to succeed in their chosen profession by climbing up the ladder whilst having a fun and dynamic environment to work in.

Even by switching things around a little you can create a feeling of success, for example, additional incentives could be offered for winning new business rather than simply taking repeat orders.

This one sounds a little bonkers but how about rewarding people for not getting sales? Dan McGraw, founder and CEO of Fuelzee, said that one of the best ways his company learned about motivation was by rewarding the sales team for ‘no’s. “Every time someone got a ‘no’, we tracked it in our system, and the person with the most ‘no’s received a $100 gift card every week”, McGraw said.  ”This might sound crazy, but you get a lot of no’s when doing sales. The more no’s you get, the closer you are to getting a yes. The prize of getting a yes is way larger than $100, so you still wanted to get there. This nearly doubled our outbound calls and motivated the whole team.”

Have some fun/create a fun working environment. For some salespeople, the ability to have a little fun during work time is as much of a motivator as money (remember that your salespeople are working long hours and are in the office for a large proportion of their week). Common rewards for reaching sales goals include leaving work early, winning a team trip, a Big Boss lunch, or simply being given one hangover pass to be used at any time.  

How about getting your favourite song played when you finalise a deal, create a team dance move to rock out when you hit a target, circulate sales team quotes and gifs to increase office banter.  Fun in small spurts adds to the culture of your company and can be just as motivating and rewarding as the financial rewards you offer.  You should strive to create a fun sales environment where everyone wants to come into work every day.

Career progression is one of the most simple cost effective ways to motivate your sales team too. Although the fun and financial rewards work short term, sales employees, ultimately want to do well but also have the opportunity to get ahead in their careers. Intrinsic motivators such as development and personal growth play a huge part with a competitive sales team so don’t underestimate the power of offering training, and development opportunities, showing that you are supportive of allowing them to develop their skills to help move them to the next level or win that promotion

The simple things can also have an impact on your sales team’s motivation. The majority of employers (and not just those in the sales industry) now offer table football, ping pong tables and similar activities to be able to switch off, take a break and socialise. And although you might not think that a Ping-Pong table for the office would push people and drive behaviors, why not try it, from experience these types of incentives can make a real difference to team spirit.

When it comes to understanding how to motivate your sales team there is no simpler approach than asking them. You can do this via a survey, face-to- face or through team meetings but make sure that they understand that by giving their suggestions does not mean that you will put the reward in place. Gather ideas and suggestions and consider what works best for your business, employees and your culture.

These are some of the ideas you can use to motivate your sales team without just focusing on money. Try to keep things fresh in your business and consider what your employees want to see and use this as a basis to generate new innovative ideas.  By offering a variety of rewards, you stand a greater chance of having a motivator for every personality type on your team and developing all of your salespeople into top-tier team players. When your goals and their goals align, only the best things can happen.

For further information or advice and support on motivating your sales team join us at

Image : Jared Sluyter