What are Total Rewards in HR?

Sometimes held as a siloed benefit, sometimes an integral aspect of human management, more businesses are directing their HR department to drive, strategize, and troubleshoot their Total Rewards to maximize efficacy. Let’s talk about what this means for HR pros everywhere.

HR employees discussing the total rewards strategy

The Human Resources department in any organization is accountable to a variety of employee needs, concerns and experiences. HR professionals are expected to keep workers happy, healthy, whole, all while balancing the capabilities and objectives of the organization – HR reps truly need to keep multiple plates spinning at all times.

“Human” is in the name, and HR’s primary responsibilities are to the workforce, whom they need to support in showing up as their best selves so they in turn can keep the business going and growing. 

These days it takes more than just a paycheck to keep employees happy and engaged in their role at any company – and that’s why more organizations are adopting a Total Rewards model to inject greater meaning into the work their employees are taking on each day.

Sometimes held as a siloed benefit, sometimes an integral aspect of human management, more businesses are directing their HR department to drive, strategize, and troubleshoot their Total Rewards to maximize efficacy. Let’s talk about what this means for HR pros everywhere.

What is ‘Total Rewards’?

A Total Rewards package is the sum of all benefits, advantages, prizes and payment which organizations offer to employees in exchange for their labor and expertise. 

In addition to an employee’s standard compensation, Total Rewards may include both monetary and nonmonetary benefits such as professional development, educational support, vacation time, breakroom snacks, etc.

Depending on the size and capacity of your organization, you may choose to offer Total Rewards benefits broadly to all current members of your workforce. Or, you may reserve some benefits for only those employees who meet certain criteria, such as length of time spent with the company, or the achievement of stipulated performance goals.

It is important to note here that Total Rewards often does not include standard benefits such as health insurance and retirement, and other legally-mandated inclusions.

Why are Total Rewards important to the HR department?

The purpose of most Total Rewards strategies is to bolster critical business statistics regarding employee performance and productivity. Most often, these will include retention, attendance, job performance, satisfaction, and lifecycle, among others.

These will all be statistics and business factors with which Human Resources should be concerned, and driving positive trends for each are likely to be a key part of the department’s responsibility.

As mentioned above, items in a Total Rewards package are often siloed exclusively as nice-to-have employee benefits. When this happens, organizations lose out on the strategic potential that comes from especially those advantages which support long-term employee wellness. 

Once HR understands this, it becomes possible to leverage Total Rewards both to bolster positive employee statistics as well as the health of the business overall.

What should be included in an HR Total Rewards package

The specific items you include in your Total Rewards package will depend on the capacity of your organization, as well as the business goals your company may be trying to meet.

Current competitive organizations now typically include a number of the following benefits in their strategy:

  • Competitive wages. This includes pay which is both competitive compared to that offered by other companies, as well as pay which may increase depending on promotion or improved performance.

  • Educational benefits. Career growth, whether through in-house experiential training or the cultivation of a degree or other high-level credential is a highly sought-after benefit which over the long term can improve employee financial wellbeing.

  • Financial wellness benefits. This is a broad category which may include stock options, debt repayment programs, tuition reimbursement, tax preparation assistance, financial literacy courses, and more.

  • Flexible working hours and location. An increasingly mobile workforce wants the option to better define when and where they work. This category can include options for remote work, etc., as well as PTO and vacation time.

  • Fitness benefits. Healthy employees mean less expenditure on the part of the company when it comes to employee health care. Fitness benefits may include free or discounted gym memberships, health classes, dietary counseling, access to mental health services, and more.

  • Recognition rewards. Employees want to be celebrated for their achievements within an organization. Recognition for these achievements may come in the form of parties, monetary bonuses, or something as simple and accessible as a social-media shoutout.

Key considerations for implementing Total Rewards in HR

Keeping your employees engaged doesn’t have to mean throwing every benefit in the box at them. A bloated Total Rewards strategy is unlikely to yield the business advantages your organization is hoping to see. And while some employees might really enjoy even your most fringe perks, low-engagement will elicit a disappointing ROI and is unlikely to result in approval from the c-suite.

So, communication is critical when it comes to designing your Total Rewards HR. 

First, you need to work with the executives to set big-picture goals for your Total Rewards strategy. What organizational objectives are going to be driven by employee benefits? How can you connect the dots between a healthy, satisfied workforce and organizational acceleration?

Next, you need to ask your employees what they most want to see in a Total Rewards package. What benefits motivate them most? What would help them to feel more engaged at work, more supported, and excited to do their job? Which benefits would they definitely take advantage of were they to be represented in the strategy?

Finally, let your people know what you offer, when you offer it. Low engagement levels in certain benefits may not be because of a lack of interest. Often, employees don’t know you offer an advantage which they may be wanting. Or, a benefit may not be accessible to your employees who need it most. Make sure to troubleshoot when necessary and make adjustments if possible. Doing so is what will give HR the best chance at driving organizational change.

How Origin fits into your Total Rewards Strategy

Origin is an employee benefit that provides serious employee impact both at and outside of work.

A comprehensive financial wellness program, Origin empowers employees to take better control over their money and design an abundant and secure financial future for themself and their families.

Learn more about what Origin has to offer your HR leaders: sign up for a free demo today.


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