Digital firms fight for staff with big perks

Electric Works in Sheffield.
Electric Works in Sheffield.
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Sheffield’s digital economy is booming if the growth figures and bonus packages on offer at two of the big hitters - Plusnet and Sky Betting and Gaming - are anything to go by.

Sky Betting and Gaming, an online betting company based in the Electric Works in the city centre, has hired 95 people since it opened in May last year - 32 since January. And it is still advertising 19 vacancies.

The firm has spent almost £6m on renovations and staff and has just opened a second office for 50 more people.

The company employs more than 900 and has headquarters in Leeds and offices in London and Rome. It operates five brands, all of them online, including betting, poker, bingo, slot machines and a casino.

Andy Burton, chief technology officer, said: “Sheffield continues to provide us with the technology and digital talent we need to scale up - we’ve just opened a second office for 50 more people at Electric Works, which has increased our space by 50 per cent, and we expect to outgrow that quite quickly.

“Since the end of last year, Sheffield has become the centre for our customer account product team which develops the systems that support customer registration, payments and contact centre systems.

“They successfully managed nearly 500 Sky Bet customer logins per second in the recent Grand National.

“We’re also feeling the Italian influence in Sheffield, which is the base for the Sky Bet Italy tech team.

“We’ve brought in more native Italians to support our growth in Europe and some of the team here are learning the language themselves.

“It’s having a real influence culturally, we’ve not only branded the office with the colours of Il Tricolore, but people are bringing in homemade food to share, taking time over lunch to eat together and socialise together. I think a lot of people really appreciate working in a genuinely lean and agile company with an increasingly European feel.”

Homegrown telecoms company Plusnet recruited more than 300 people in the last 16 months and has 20 vacancies.

It also has 16 apprentices and is looking to take on another 30 in September.

But it is the Plusnet Perks which are noteworthy - and valuable.

A spokeswoman said: “We did a company-wide survey asking what staff wanted and designed the package to match that.

“Giving a topline figure on how much people can save is really difficult due to different salaries, National Insurance and tax.

“However it does include tech purchases including Apple products, reduced car parking, discounted train and bus travel, dental and health insurance and child care vouchers as well as the option to buy additional holidays, once you’ve been at Plusnet for a certain period of time.

“Someone paying a basic rate of tax and taking out child care vouchers, discounted car parking and buying some additional holiday would save more than £500. If they took more including dental packages, critical illness, travel insurance, the amount saved could be more than £1,000. The different tax rates determine how much people can save.

“Employees also get free broadband and free lunch, which depending on how much you eat has been valued at around £1,200 per year.”

Last month, Plusnet, Waitrose and Sheffield Wednesday teamed up to form a training company to offer business courses to young people.

The Owls’ Hillsborough ground will host the Level 3 Business courses with work experience on offer at Plusnet and Waitrose.

They will be run by RNN Group, an education and training provider which includes Rotherham and North Notts Colleges.

Ken Merry, head of business and enterprise at the RNN Group said: “With the range of work experience available within both Plusnet and Waitrose this is an opportunity for them to carve out a career that really suits them.”

Andy Baker CEO of Plusnet said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for us to develop home-grown talent and skills.

It’s vital we provide young people with the opportunity and training to achieve their dreams.”