Product in Practice – University of York Case Study

Rewards Extra was introduced in 2009, with the full involvement of all of the Campus Unions, and today is available to around 3300 University of York employees. It brings together a whole range of core benefits, salary exchange schemes, voluntary benefits and employee discounts. It is a flexible benefits package designed to offer a mix of benefits with broad appeal to suit the many different needs and lifestyles of its employees, as well as to enable them to make savings either through salary exchange or discounted rates.


A primary objective was to instil the concept of “Total Reward” and to increase employees’ perception of the value of the University’s Total Reward offering, helping to reinforce the positive perception of the University as a good organisation to work for and one that values its staff. In addition to this, the University wanted to position the new Total Reward scheme as structured and fully accessible.

The University also wanted to increase the significant tax and/or National Insurance (NI) savings, for both for the University and employees that are available through salary exchange schemes. Once the University had developed its strategic position, the objective was then to raise awareness of the new benefits package amongst University employees and provide clarity around the options available.

The aim was to make employees feel empowered and informed by helping them understand why the scheme was being introduced and how it could benefit them. An emphasis was placed on making them feel responsible for choosing the benefit most suited to them and owning that choice with confidence. Ultimately “Rewards Extra” was launched to maximise staff engagement, measurable primarily through member registration on the website and scheme participation.

Launch & implementation

Edenred worked with the University of York to create a reward brand for the scheme so that all communication could be designed in line with this and crucially, be instantly recognisable by employees. The name ‘Rewards Extra’ was created and an inclusive communication plan was developed to support existing internal communication channels as well as new offline and online channels.

Part of the brief was to establish any current communication gaps, rise above the internal communications wallpaper and develop key messages that were short and simple. The University’s intranet played a big role in launching the scheme and continues to be a key channel of communication, integrating information not only on the elements of the Rewards Extra but also reward and recognition, making it the hub of its Total Reward package. From the intranet, employees are directed to the online election portal administered by Edenred where they can make their benefit choices and see the financial impact of their choices on their monthly salary.

A number of channels are used to signpost employees to the intranet including posters and an email. The email contains additional information including links to a brochure, a summary of the scheme changes in subsequent enrolment years and information about the face to face events. This is a viable channel with an average click to open rate of 40% over two campaigns in 2010 and 2011.

The brochure was created mainly to support the road show, which was held to enable employees to speak face to face with the benefit providers and the University’s reward team, as well as for employees with limited access to the internet. They are also given out to new joiners as a tangible representation of the Total Reward package.

In addition to employee consultation, the university acknowledged that to make the scheme a success, key stakeholders should be involved from the outset including Payroll, Unions and the Communication Team, and face to face communication with these groups became invaluable.


Since 2009, an average of nearly 10% of employees actively make new elections during the enrolment period for benefits such as Private Medical Insurance, Cycle to Work and Childcare Vouchers.

The total participation rate of employees receiving a benefit in addition to their core benefits is growing year on year. In terms of ROI for the University, the annual Employer NI savings made by the University from the Childcare Vouchers scheme alone, for example, is approximately £65,000, enabling it to further invest in its Total Reward package.

About University of York 

A top 20 university in the UK and one of the top 150 in the world, the University of York undertook a strategic review of its reward offering with the aim of establishing itself as an “Employer of Choice” for both existing and potential new employees. It was decided that a Total Rewards offering would assist in continuing to attract the highest calibre of staff.