The reward marketplace is always evolving and staff benefits are becoming high on many employers agendas so it’s a real chance not just to take a role where you’ll be doing the same as has always been done, but where you will have the opportunity to develop new programmes and initiatives.

Claire Clarke

Pay & Reward HR Officer at Durham University

How did you get into a career in reward?

My background is in the charity sector, where I worked for a small organisation as part of their Operations Team. During my three years in this team I worked across all operational aspects of the charity: administration, contract management, finance, IT, risk management and human resources. As other colleagues moved on from the charity, the main focus of my role quickly became HR and I acted as a HR generalist for the staff team of 25‐30 employees. I recently decided that I wanted the opportunity to specialise within HR and would also benefit from the structure and support given at a larger organisation, both of which were provided in this new reward role that I have started in the last few weeks.

What are the key responsibilities in your role?

To support the existing reward strategy as well as developing new rewards, benefits and incentives.

Describe a typical day.

As we are a fairly new team, a typical day involves both ‘business as usual’ tasks alongside researching new reward and benefit offers. Business as usual tasks include: checking the grading of job descriptions against our framework before the roles are advertised by recruitment, offering solutions to managers where their job descriptions need adapting, completing internal and external benchmarking exercises for management reviews of staff salaries and administration around our staff discounts platform.

I’ve signed up to various HR, reward and sector‐specific email newsletters in my first few weeks so some of the day is spent reading these where I can as these keep me up to date with what’s happening in the sector and in HR news, they’re also really helpful for prompting new ideas through seeing what other organisations are doing.

We’re currently looking to extend our reward and benefit offer so I have some time each day to work on this which might include: talking to a third party provider about what they can offer our staff, researching what other organisations in the sector are offering and writing internal communications to promote both the existing rewards and the new and upcoming rewards.

What skills are needed for this role?

  • Excellent written and spoken communication
  • Ability to network (internally and externally)
  • Good eye for detail

What challenges do you face in this role?

Staff engagement in the reward processes is a challenge at the moment, so we’re putting more time into promoting the existing rewards and benefits. We’re also aware of the new initiatives that we want to launch but that timing is key to ensure that staff aren’t bombarded with too much at once or that any reward programmes don’t end up being less effective than they could be because they are launched at a ‘bad’ time in our organisational calendar.

What keeps you motivated to go into work every day?

The main agenda in my workplace for pay and reward is how we can best attract and retain excellent staff through the benefits offered to them. This motivates me as I am a people‐person who cares about how my colleagues feel they are treated by their employer so, if the work I do in reward can help to benefit staff members and increase their enjoyment of working for our organisation, it is a win for the employee and a win for me too!

What advice would you give someone considering a career in reward?

I’ve found it to be a brilliant specialism already, so I’d encourage people to go for it even if you don’t have a background specifically in reward. The reward marketplace is always evolving and staff benefits are becoming high on many employers agendas so it’s a real chance not just to take a role where you’ll be doing the same as has always been done, but where you will have the opportunity to develop new programmes and initiatives.

I’d also recommend signing up to a few reward / benefit email newsletters to get a wider view of this area of HR, I found this really interesting and also really helpful when preparing for interview.

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