5 Takeaways from Total Rewards 2018

May 24, 2018 Dan Miller

“Show me the money” may have been a memorable line from “Jerry Maguire,” but, like the movie, the concept that cash is the primary driver of job satisfaction is dated and losing relevance.

In 2018, the employee experience plays a larger role in total rewards. Money matters, of course, but in Dallas, at WorldatWork’s Total Rewards Conference and Exhibition, there was more of an emphasis on the non-monetary demands of today’s workers.

As companies navigate the tightest job market in decades, retention, engagement, and the employee experience were top-of-mind topics throughout the sessions.

According to recent Labor Department data, for every job opening in America, there’s now barely more than one unemployed person available to take it. The number of job openings is at a record high while the number of Americans readily available to fill those roles trends lower.

This poses a major challenge to companies struggling to find and retain top talent. As the workplace continues to evolve, human-centered approaches rise to the forefront of best practices.

Here are five takeaways from the conference, non-negotiable concepts that keep employees focused and productive:

  1. Greater purpose – Employees want to feel good about what their company represents, its point of view, and its place in the world. In the opening keynote, Josh Bersin, principal and founder, Bersin by Deloitte, discussed how the world of work has been disrupted, and that the power of purpose is now a driving force in finding and retaining talent.

“In the era of social enterprise, employees are taking an intense look at their organization’s impact on society and want to see a mission that deeply engages critical social problems,” said Bersin. “This larger view has a direct alignment to individual performance.”

  1. Role clarity –  Today’s employee wants to understand how their job aligns to the larger company mission. And those companies with absent managers and fractured communications are falling behind. The concept of continuous performance development was a common thread, and a key driver of role clarity.

“It’s important for managers to give feedback throughout the year to establish a healthy, ongoing dialogue,” said Nick Vollrath, executive director of global compensation at Merck. “But it’s equally as important for peers to give feedback as well.”

  1. Voice - Regardless of role, employees want to be part of the process. When managers say ideas can come from anywhere, these can’t be hollow words. The companies that do this well find that amplifying employee voice is most effective when it’s authentic, organic, and supported by strong managers.

“It’s critical for individuals to step up, regardless of role, and reach out across departments to get work done,” said Lisa Logan, IHG’s director of compensation and benefits. “You have people responsible for specific deliverables, but the energy and insight can come from anywhere.”

  1. Variable Pay - Companies continue to leverage variable pay to align employees to business values. According to Aon’s U.S. Salary Increase Survey 2017-2018, variable pay is 12.5% of total rewards. In fact, variable pay has jumped nearly four times from 1993, when it was 3.6%. In 2017, 88% of companies had at least one broad-based variable pay program, up from 61% in 1992.

"The market is ripe for it,” said Ken Abosch, a compensation marketing, strategy, and development leader at Aon. “Variable pay is the perfect lever to drive behaviors and create alignment. With merit budgets stagnant at an all-time low, variable pay is being viewed as the most promising way to pay for performance.”

  1. Growth mindset – Many traditional HR concepts are outdated, most notably the top-down, command-and-control managerial practices that can create disengagement and sap productivity. Employees today want to stretch out – to take on more challenges.

“The biggest opportunity for positive change is to throw away everything we have and think about the talent, the learning, performance, and measurement practices for a more networked, agile, developmental organization,” said Bersin. “I think some of the exciting things we have going on is that we’re becoming a much more experimental profession.”

About the Author

Dan Miller

Dan Miller is the director of content marketing for Globoforce.

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