Based in at The Den in Bermondsey, south London, Millwall Football Club was established in 1885. It has suffered reputational damage over the years with supporters often associated with acts of hooliganism.
Claire O’Sullivan has worked at the club for nearly four years and is responsible for providing HR and payroll services to its 200+ workforce.
How long have you been in your current role?
I started in March 2019 as the club’s payroll manager. In July this year I received a new job title, head of HR and payroll, as my role over the last three years has grown in speed and magnitude and the business felt that the payroll manager title didn’t begin to cover the role.
How big is your team?
Along with an HR assistant, I sit within the finance and HR department. The finance department is made up of another four members of staff.
What benefits are currently offered to your employees?
Employees are entitled to up to two season tickets for the football matches, up to 25 days of annual leave (depending on length of service), travel season ticket loan, access to a cycle to work scheme, payroll giving, a death in service payment of two times their annual salary and a workplace pension.
How do you ensure employees know about the available benefits?
When employees first start at Millwall we ensure they have all the company policies and documents they need to understand the role and the workings of the club, I make extra effort to meet them face to face, and in that meeting will go through the company benefits and entitlements. I also send out regular email reminders, and announcements on our HR platform.
How often do you review your benefits offering?
It’s always open to review, but always budget dependant.
Has your offering changed since the Covid-19 pandemic began?
Not really, due to revenue being very tight during the pandemic since the fans bring in a lot of revenue for us on match days etc. However, we have tried to support staff in other ways by offering flexibility and setting up a Wellness Mentor group with an open-door policy.
What are your current HR/benefits challenges?
Managing expectations, trying to keep staff happy but also managing budgets and keeping the board happy. This is all alongside managing a challenging workload and any unexpected changes, which can happen daily. It’s also doing this while trying to be appealing enough for candidates to want to apply for roles within the club.
How are you supporting employees with the cost-of-living crisis?
As I mentioned above, we have set up a Wellness Mentor group that staff can talk to should staff need support, and we regularly remind staff of the organisations that can support them further.
What do you think are the main challenges for HR/benefits departments today?
It’s a constant juggling act. We have to not only manage staff expectations but also that of the board. We’re managing budgets while making sure that the data we are using is up to date and current. We have to ensure that new staff coming into the business are given an informed welcome, and also make sure that their starter paperwork is clear and that basic details (such as their name, National Insurance number and bank details are legible so there is no delay in getting their first pay processed). Working within a small team it’s about prioritising and giving realistic deadlines to those asking the questions, all the while doing the best you can.
What do you foresee will be the hot topics for your team this year?
As I am working within a small team, just keeping the ship afloat and our staff calm and happy is the main focus. There are lots of areas I would like to look at but again, it’s still embedding the foundation of processes and making sure they are followed correctly is vital before jumping into look at other topics.
However, with recent changes in calculating causal staff holiday payment that is going to be a huge undertaking in itself when we don’t have the best payroll system to support that or the people power to do it.
What’s the best employee benefit you’ve ever had and why?
An anniversary trip. While I was working for a publishing company they offered an anniversary trip, which meant that after five years of service you could arrange to visit one of the other offices in California, India, Singapore or Australia. They would then give you (at the time) £2,000 to help pay towards the flights and accommodation while you were there. The stipulation was that you made contact with your counterpart and spent the day with them understanding what it was like working in their shoes. Its main aim was to create connections with overseas counterparts and understand the culture differences within the company.
If you had an unlimited budget, what employee benefit(s) would you like to introduce for employees at Millwall?
Wow, where to start? I’d offer enhanced maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental pay and leave. I’d also increase the employer’s contributions towards pensions, as well as introduce an employee assistance programme and a mentor scheme for staff.