Nikki Grigg talks change and transparency in a cloudy industry
I recently sat down for a catch up with Nikki Grigg, founder of County Employee Benefits, an employee benefits business. When we’d first met at a professional services dinner, she had been very open about her 15 years’ experience in an industry plagued by commissions and poor service. She felt that she could create a business that would put the client first and set about creating a business to deliver that. Over an hour together, I hear how she has set about doing just that.
SM: What exactly does County Employee Benefits do?
NG: We help employers find the right benefits and strategies to support their employees. It’s no secret that a happy worker is a better worker. We’re passionate about working with employers that believe in our ethics. If you’re friendly and open to new ideas, even better.
Some organisations have been alive to the opportunity that this offers for a while now, and some are catching up. If you’re not yet catching, you probably need to do so fast. The war for talent means that talented employees will get offers from a range of places when they’re looking for a new role. You have to stand out in order to attract the very best. That’s where we help all sizes of organisations: by providing tailored employee benefits that attract and retain great talent.
When it comes to employee benefits, we act as a kind of personal shopper for corporate HR teams. They tell us that they’re happy with the service. The greatest buzz for me is still being able to make a difference to a client and knowing when a client is happy with our work.
SM: I remember from years ago a lesson from my days at CMS Cameron McKenna: When we offered a pay rise to trained super users of the CRM system, no-one came to the events. But if we offered free chocolate at the training sessions and they didn’t take place over lunchtime, then the training sessions were packed.
NG: I think that that’s right. The assumption that all employee benefits require big spending isn’t correct. Equally, employees quickly forget frivolous benefits. What’s offered needs to be aligned with what you’re doing as an organisation, and they need to be appropriate for the people you have at your organisation.
SM: What’s topical in your world right now?
NG: Mental health and wellness. It’s something that has been brushed under the carpet for far too long. Fortunately, some employers are now starting to realise that investing in this not only improves the lives of the employees, but also their bottom line.
For the sake of my own wellbeing and for the success of the business, I am glad that I walked away from a large brand. I thought it would be good to have them as a client, but I realised that in dealing with them I was really compromising my values. It taught me how important it is to stay true to my values of honesty, transparency and service.
SM: If you could get everyone in your industry to make one major change, what would it be?
NG: To remove commissions that are automatically built into insurance products. Ha! Chance would be a fine thing!
I’d also say that I learned a lot about service and business from my time as an office junior. It taught me how to respect everyone from the bottom up. I think that more people in our industry (and most industries) could do with that experience.
SM: What can older business people learn from younger business people? And vice versa?
NG: Younger people need to be patient and not expect an immediate response. Older people could learn more about the power of social media.
Both can also share their best advice. Someone once said to me that “The harder you work, the luckier you get.” I think we need to make time to give each other advice at work.
SM: Could your family describe what you do for a living?
NG: Probably not! My kids definitely have no idea, but I think my husband could explain what I do.
SM: What charity work do you do?
NG: If I had to pick one piece of work that really sticks in my memory, it would be our #CEBthePig Competition, when we treated a lovely family at the Ronald McDonald House to afternoon tea. You can find loads of the entries on our Facebook page.
One of our friends recently lost their three-year-old daughter, so we have also decided to work with Charlton Farm, which is part of Children’s Hospice South West. We’ll be volunteering, raising money via our corporate sponsors, and doing our own fundraising to help support this fantastic charity.
And that’s it, our hour together is up and Nikki is off to save the corporate world from poorly aligned benefits. Reflecting on our time together, I’d say that:
- County Employee Benefits genuinely wants to put its clients first and create a more transparent industry. It not just bluster, but clearly a purpose.
- Employers could be missing out by not investing in their employees’ mental health and wellbeing.
- It’s not luck, but hard work and determination, that helps you achieve your dreams; and
- Being values-driven takes guts and the ability to walk away from some opportunities.
Nikki in a nutshell
Stockholm is her favourite city and Mug Shot in Bristol is her favourite restaurant. Her first job was as an office junior (see above) and her workplace hero is her former boss and mentor, Michael Brown. She’s a proud mum and a granny to four grandchildren.
If you spend any time with Nikki, you quickly realise that she’s a woman of integrity, very well connected, great at listening and asking interesting questions, and happy to answer with honesty.
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