Rethinking Total Rewards Strategies

Rethinking Total Rewards Strategies

The real competitive advantage in any business is one word only, which is “people” –Kamil Toume


Organisations that excelled in taking care of their people during these unprecedented times have already won a part of the talent war, for a considerably longer time, against the employers who chose not to change with the times.


In just a few months, the world has seen the most unexpected transformation. While the overall impact of this black swan is still vague, organisations are moving with the new shift. They have walked that extra mile to take care of their people and business, but there is more to be done to meet employees’ needs to create a sustainable growth model.


It has been a rollercoaster ride for most employees. The fear of being laid-off, becoming infected, balancing work-life, and many other severe vulnerabilities are lingering around. They were all just lost, or probably still are! As the virus continues circling the world, policymakers are proactively redefining and redesigning strategies to meet today’s and tomorrow’s needs. The new and the next normal are getting reviewed and reworked every day.


Power of Rewards Program


The pace at which everything around us is changing has baffled our minds and bodies to an unrealistic level. The most basic needs are the essential ones now. We have learned to live more of every day with less of everything. 


The power of a well-designed and well-executed rewards program is miraculous. Dale Carnegie aptly stated, “People work for money but go the extra mile for recognition, praise, and rewards.” It can generate business results by enhancing and improving employee loyalty and workforce morale. The value for existence is received and decoded well by employees if this philosophy stays intentionally benefiting and purposeful. 


The formalisation of strategies depends on the capacity of the organisation and the nature of the business. Companies show take into account a few essential criteria while redesigning the processes in the COVID-19 era.


Total Rewards Strategy should be:









Realistic: With uncertainty being the only certain scenario, an individual’s way of looking at basic needs have dramatically changed. The total reward system should aim to give what is needed and shouldn’t be a mere tick mark initiative. It should be real, attainable, and transparent. The guidelines should delineate how employees can earn rewards or become eligible.


Empathetic: Adopting humility is the key. Organisations need to put aside the preconceived baggage of opinions, understanding, biases, and relevance. Policymakers should have intensified awareness of employees’ needs, wants, and motivations. They should then purposefully align these needs with their strategies to get to a win-win state. As rightly stated by Julie Bevacqua, “In order to build a rewarding employee experience, you need to understand what matters most to your people.”


Well-being centric: Looking at the current scenario, where there is more stress than anything else, along with empathy, well-being takes an important place in the “MUST-HAVE” list. Organisations should consider designing and deploying total rewards programs considering people’s well-being depending on their life and career stage. Emotional and mental wellbeing should not be compromised, ever!


Not many organisations, before COVID-19, had focused on wellbeing programs and policies for their employees, but new research says, 87 per cent of the organisations have included well-being as a base of their total rewards strategic planning system.


Adaptable: Organisations have to ensure that the strategies defined are in line with company standards, market, current scenario, and the current need. The Total Rewards System should be nimble and straightforward enough to get adjusted, modified, changed, and made relevant as many times as needed. The rigidity in the system steals the essence of its essential existence.


Reset-able: Policymakers, generally, have a not-so-good habit of retaining their precious policies because it was well thought through and did miracles when launched. Due to scenario thrusts, like the COVID-19, we sometimes agree to tweak those a bit but refuse to replace them. Policymakers have to understand and accept the relevance concept. Research – evaluate – plan - implement – evaluate. If the result is not as expected, accept and if need be, CHANGE! RESET!


Digital: Those days are long gone when there was a high dependency on conventional strategies and approaches. COVID-19 has washed away all our claimed benefits of inperson perks and benefits.


Management has to rethink and realign all their non-monetary rewards with the digitally explored and exploited world of work.


The rewards strategy has to look and feel real in this virtual world to keep our multi-generational workforce connected, collaborated, and motivated.



Otherwise, as Doug Warner indicated, “In the world of Internet Customer Service, it’s important to remember your competitor is only one mouse click away.”


Organisations can gain a leg up in today’s competitive era by adopting a comprehensive total rewards philosophy. Various critical components do not reflect in our conventional strategy. We have been very prominently talking about TRS components as base pay, health insurance, paid time off, employee physical wellness, and similar elements. Employees seek financial, physical, mental, and social well-being and a little more from their organisation.


A few need-based initiatives that should be considered to meet the need of the hour are:


Add-ons: Mental Health Counselling, Wellness Counselling, Health Monitoring and Support, Reimbursement for Health and Well-being Expenses.


Redefine existing policies: Sick Leave Policy, Remote Working Policy, and Annual Incentive/Bonus Plan.


Short-term initiatives: Unpaid Sabbatical Plan, Swapping Budgets, Supplemental lump-sum Payments, Choices against Layoffs, LWP, and Proportional Pay.


Moreover, this pandemic is a phase when people, rightly and rightfully, want that little more of every little thing to help them in any little way. Consider it!


If you don’t create a great, rewarding place for people to work, they won’t do great work. - Ari Weinzweig


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Dr. Ankita Singh is the Senior Vice President & Global Head of HR at CIGNEX Datamatics. Ankita has over 19 years of experience in managing various aspects of HR spanning across domains of ITES. She holds a PhD in Management and was named one of Forbes India's Top 100 Great People Managers.


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