How to Create Total Rewards Programs for the Modern Workplace

Last month, ABD hosted a roundtable discussion panel on the role of total rewards programs and their effect on employee satisfaction, motivation, and retention. The panel was led by our own Chana Anderson, EVP of SharedHR, and people operations leaders from our esteemed partners and peers in the Bay Area, such as Copper, Vlocity, the San Francisco Giants, Amyris, and the NUA Group. While we won’t share all of our panelists’ insights, the discussion got us thinking about the strategies we use to ensure employee satisfaction in our own workplace as well as our clients’.

Total rewards programs, which combine compensation with benefits, recognition, work-life balance, performance management, and career development, are critical to employee recruitment and retention today. Although each company’s culture is different, and these programs should be tailored to fit your company’s unique needs, we believe taking the following steps is crucial for successfully creating any programs: set clear goals, design a comprehensive plan, communicate, evaluate and iterate.

1: Set Clear Goals

Before making any decisions regarding what kind of benefits and perks you want to include in your company’s total rewards package, we suggest first setting high-level goals for your employees and the future of your organization as a whole. Understanding your priorities can help you craft a more effective program that fits your needs as your company grows.

Look to your company’s mission and business strategy to determine what key values matter most to your company – a package should adhere to and enhance these values. At ABD, for example, the company culture is structured around our ethos, “Work. Love. Play.” so a total rewards package that was designed to help our employees fill their work, love, and play buckets was our top priority.

Considering the changing needs and goals of the labor force is also necessary to set effective goals. With the youngest millennials and oldest members of Generation Z entering the workforce, the rise of the gig economy and contingent labor force, the growing skill and labor shortage, and the future of job automation, the composition and expectations of the workforce are rapidly changing. Setting your goals for the rewards program with the expectations of the labor force in mind, while being proactive about adjusting these goals as expectations change, can ensure that your program is truly competitive.

2: Design a Comprehensive Plan

Designing an effective rewards strategy will require your team to consider their own goals for the program, input of company executives, buy-in from team managers, and the needs of the employees – no easy task. And because a complete package combines compensation, benefits, work-life effectiveness, recognition, performance management, and talent development, designing the best fit program for your company will surely be an exercise in balance.

To best achieve this balance, we recommend seeking employee input regarding benefit needs and desires via surveys.  Tap into existing employee preference data that may be contained in engagement or culture surveys.  Equally important is designing the program to be measurable against the goals you set from the start. If one of your goals for the program is to better motivate your employees to produce high-quality work, for example, the ability to measure a change in this work is crucial for determining the success of your program. Consider how to use or amend existing performance measuring tools to evaluate your program and determine which tools would be useful to add to your repertoire. Using this data will help you make informed decisions about which benefits, perks, and additional support will be most valued by your employees.

Ultimately, designing a program requires you to know your employees well. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to programs, so know that any program you design will have to be tailored to the individuals in your organization. Listening to your employees and their managers at this stage is vitally important.

3: Communicate

To reap the full benefits, employees need to be informed about how the total rewards program affects them. Explaining your benefits package to your employees is crucial for adoption and utilization. Some companies go a step further by discussing pay equity, job architecture, and the dollar cost of their benefits package to paint a fuller picture of their compensation. While the level of transparency that fits your company may vary, being clear and consistent about your rewards plan can help with buy-in from employees and contribute to a “we’re all in this together” mindset.

4: Evaluate and Iterate

At ABD, we use employee engagement surveys, benefit utilization metrics, and regular manager check-ins, among other tools, to evaluate our own program.

Total rewards programs should fit the needs of your employees, culture and business. The age of designing an offering and allowing it to remain static for years, has passed. Now, businesses are constantly evaluation and evolving programs on a frequent basis. Some companies roll out small pilot programs to test and learn about utilization and effectiveness. With employee expectations and the job market changing quickly, being flexible and adaptable will give your organization the opportunity to stand out in a crowded field.

For more information on designing your total rewards programs, contact ABD SharedHR today.

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