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Case Study: Royal Mail’s Home Computer Initiative


“The real beauty of an HCI scheme is that it delivers so much more than computer equipment. It’s a way of helping employees and their families get the most out of every area of their lives.”
Tony McCarthy, Group Human Resources Director, Royal Mail

Royal Mail has more than 200,000 employees, most work in operational centres sorting and then delivering mail.

The vast majority don’t use a computer in the workplace and, because they spend much of their working day outside Royal Mail offices, they have little opportunity to take advantage of shared IT resources and the organisation’s open learning centres.

Tony McCarthy, Group Human Resources Director, Royal Mail, says that a Home Computer Initiative was the perfect addition to the Royal Mail’s existing skills and training policy.

"Getting more computers into the homes of our employees has to be good for them and for the business.

"We are extremely conscious of the need to boost the workplace opportunities of our employees.

"By giving them the chance to use a computer in the home, we hope that they will bring their new knowledge to bear in the workplace.”


Before Royal Mail launched its scheme, it researched the workforce to establish current levels of home PC use and possible barriers to take-up.

Andrew Raisbeck, Organisational Development Manager, Royal Mail, says: “About 13% of Royal Mail employees have a computer at home – that’s way below the national level of about 50%.

"When we asked more closely, the main barriers were lack of confidence with technology and also the perceived cost of a computer compared with other consumer electronics.”

As a result, Royal Mail’s HCI scheme is being promoted by emphasising the training and support delivered as part of the package, and the favourable loan conditions available to employees.

Says Raisbeck: “We worked closely with our learning partner, Futuremedia, who managed the full programme, to ensure that all employees who sign up to the scheme obtain the training they need to get started with their computers.

"Futuremedia also provides full next-business-day on-site service, anti-virus software, and other support and security features.”

Royal Mail is using salary sacrifice - where employees accept a reduction in their gross annual salary in return for a benefit - to offset the cost of loaned computer equipment.

Says Raisbeck: “Most of our staff are paid on a weekly basis, so it was important for them to understand what the impact would be on their take-home pay.

"Depending on the package and salary level, this varies from about £4.40 to £7.50 a week over three years.

"Although we weren’t absolutely sure how employees would respond, we were confident that this would be affordable.”

In fact the response of Royal Mail employees has been nothing short of outstanding.

When the scheme was first launched at the end of 2003, more than 16,500 employees signed up – almost 10% of the overall workforce.

“We planned launch publicity very carefully,” says Raisbeck. “We used brochures, magazine articles and email to let people know about what was happening.

"We also organised a number of open days run by Futuremedia. This gave staff hands-on experience of the technology on offer, and the chance to ask questions face to face with Futuremedia and Royal Mail representatives.

"But I have to say that probably the most effective communication channel was word of mouth. Once people see the benefits of an HCI scheme and the minimal impact on their salaries, they spread the news very quickly.”

Royal Mail launched the second phase of the scheme this summer, in the first few weeks almost 3,500 employees have signed up.

Depending on the take up during this second phase Royal Mail will set dates for future offers.

Says Raisbeck: “Some businesses choose to run these schemes on an ongoing basis, but we wanted to establish dates for sign-up and delivery to give the scheme a sense of momentum and set clear expectations for employees.”

Another important decision made by Royal Mail was to lease the computers for loan from Futuremedia.

“We looked at this very carefully - especially the outlay required to buy the equipment outright.

"One of the reasons that we decided to keep the investment off-balance sheet was because we didn’t want to suddenly acquire a large amount of capital at a time when we are monitoring spending so closely in every area of the organisation,” says Raisbeck.


Alan Leighton, Chairman, Royal Mail, recently stated that one of the organisation’s key business imperatives is to make it a “great place to work”.

Says McCarthy: “Clearly an HCI scheme is a great way of showing your commitment to employees and rewarding them for their loyalty.

"And when implemented with salary sacrifice, it also shows how you are helping them to make their salaries work harder.”

Another strength of the scheme is its wide appeal.

Says McCarthy: “There are so many convincing arguments for having a computer at home.

"Unlike some of our more focused benefits, such as childcare vouchers, an HCI scheme appeals to nearly everyone.

"It also helps in our drive to become a single status organisation where everyone enjoys the same privileges and opportunities, and where the only differentiator is salary.”

Even during the early days of the scheme, it was clear that employees appreciated its benefits.

“Apart from the sheer scale of the response, we got several messages from people who had been with us for many years expressing their appreciation,” says McCarthy.

Learning for all

Royal Mail has called the implementation of its HCI scheme ‘Learning for All’, reflecting the wide range of skills and training available to anyone who signs up.

Says McCarthy: “This is much more than simply giving people the knowledge to operate a keyboard, computer and mouse. Computers are the most effective tools for individual learning available today.

"For that reason we made sure that in most of the packages available to employees, they can choose from a range of learning software.”

Software included in the Royal Mail’s scheme supports the national curriculum, including GCSEs, basic numeracy and literacy for younger children and Standard Assessment Tests (SATs).

It also includes training for basic office IT skills. Says McCarthy: “The real beauty of an HCI scheme is that it delivers so much more than computer equipment.

"It’s a way of helping employees and their families get the most out of every area of their lives, including individual learning, the convenience of home shopping via the internet, email, games and multimedia entertainment.”

Better communication

Clear communication with all employees is another priority for Royal Mail.

Says Raisbeck: “Some organisations have set up workstations on site where people without their own work computer can access company intranets and private email accounts.

"But many of our employees are off-site for most of the day. By giving them access to a computer at home we can send them emails and offer access to internal websites to keep them up to date with the latest news on our business.

"Everyone has access to the latest information if they want it, not just a privileged few.”


Another important benefit of salary sacrifice is the reduction in employer National Insurance Contributions (NICs).

Although Royal Mail is using this to offset the cost of implementation and leasing equipment, it hopes to take this one step further.

“We are already thinking carefully about how we can invest any additional savings for the direct benefit of our employees” says Raisbeck.

* For more information on HCI go to


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