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People Experience 101: Demystifying Total Rewards

Humera P. | Gourabashis D. | Swetha S.
31 Jan 2023

What is the preferred mix of Total Rewards of an employee today? Now, the answer is here.

To attract high-impact talent and retain top performers, organizations today need to create a holistic talent strategy that combines the multiple facets of compensation, benefits, personal development, and well-being. The degree to which an organization understands employee expectations and navigates potential challenges, dictates future success.

Gartner defines Total Rewards as “the combination of benefits, compensation, and rewards that employees receive from their organizations. This can include wages and bonuses as well as recognition, workplace flexibility, and career opportunities.”

The recent ‘People Experience Advantage’ report by Capgemini Research Institute (CRI) states that only 28% of employees globally are satisfied at work today. Shifting demography, the great resignation, quiet quitting, market restructuring, global lay-offs, and the economic downturn have radically changed employee expectations today, thereby forcing organizations to rethink their talent strategy and re-invent Total Rewards.

Evolving employee expectations

The earlier notion that compensation can buy the best talent, does not hold true anymore. Employees today expect organizations to enhance their entire life experience, not just their work experience. Here are a few top priorities of the workforce of today:

Compensation discussions are no longer taboo. The CRI survey also found that only 30% of employees feel that they are adequately compensated for their work. Compensation that is transparent, and at par with the market, has become the fundamental aspect of employee expectations. Employees expect workplaces to be fair, inclusive, and equitable. The effort that an employee puts in is a reflection of the compensation that he/she receives; and this has given way to the #ActYourWage phenomenon globally.

Flexibility is another important facet of workplace experience. Employees aspire for greater flexibility when it comes to work location, working hours, and the ability to customize their work to fit their lifestyle. Hybrid working models, flextime, shorter work weeks, and unlimited paid and maternity leaves are key to attaining a flexible work environment.  As mentioned in the CRI report, 65% of employees feel that a healthy work-life balance is essential for achieving true flexibility.

The CRI survey also observed that 42% of employees believe physical, mental, and social well-being is crucial to workforce and organizational resilience. Employees continue to wish that their employers actively support and enhance their health and well-being, which helps them feel safe and valued.

64% of employees highly value continuous learning and development of transferable skills, as per the CRI survey. Access to personalized, technology-enabled, and self-paced learning content through mobile applications, open university courses, and microlearning helps employees hone their skills and keep themselves relevant in today’s competitive job market.

Large-scale layoffs and workforce optimization across the globe, pose questions related to employees’ job security, which is a major cause for concern amongst employees. Today’s talent seeks clarity on future strategy, alignment with the organization’s values, contribution towards shared goals, and inclusivity. Employee satisfaction is a critical element since it impacts customer satisfaction.

Adopting the right total rewards strategy

Many organizations across the globe have been launching newer total rewards initiatives based on employee expectations; however, most of these initiatives fail or remain under-utilized. This is not due to inaccurate assessment of employee expectations, but due to a myopic understanding of implementation challenges. Some of the major challenges that organizations could face include:

Organizations primarily focus on annual salary benchmarking, and ignore other aspects of total rewards. They also struggle to put benchmarking results into practice due to limited availability of relevant data, diverse role definitions, lack of in-depth analysis, inefficient implementation, limited leadership buy-in, and employee relevance.

Many organizations equate flexibility with hybrid working alone. However, true flexibility implies empowering employees to determine the time, location, and amount of work. Enterprises struggle to create true flexibility plans which yield desirable outcomes and which are acceptable to employees. As stated in the CRI survey, only 28% of employees feel their work schedule is sufficiently flexible.

An ineffective and impersonal communication strategy fosters limited awareness and thus leads to low utilization of organizational facilities, total reward programs, and wellness benefits. Organizations struggle with information overload and silos caused by insufficient integration of different media and inconsistency across channels.

Many organizations still use the ‘one size fits all’ approach to develop career plans for their employees without understanding the uniqueness of each employee. Thus, they struggle to cater to the career needs of their diverse workforce. As mentioned in the survey, only 29% employees believe there is a path for career advancement in their current organization. Insufficient focus on real-time career conversations and social time, and lack of customized career development plans are key concerns for many employees.

Designing a future-fit total rewards strategy

Although crafting and implementing bespoke total rewards strategies could be challenging, employees value organizations which understand and cater to their needs as an individual. As per the CRI ‘People Experience Advantage’ survey, 96% of employees report that a positive experience makes them feel more engaged at work. An empathetic, inclusive strategy strengthened by collaboration, inclusion, support, and care, and governed by continuous monitoring is the key to success.

Personalized total rewards strategies which focus on the future also aid organizations in attracting new talent by creating offerings which go beyond financial compensation. Investing in data-driven, people-centric approaches can help create strategies which efficiently integrate people, processes, and technology. Organizations need to provide holistic people experiences which benefit employees and enable organizations to become future-ready.