Best Practice Total Rewards? Communication is king!

Article by Craig Raath

Best Practice Total Rewards? Communication is king!
Best Practice Total Rewards? Communication is king!

My goal for today was to sit down and write an article about the next big thing in the reward and recognition arena.  I had planned to spend the morning researching global best practice to bolster my local knowledge of trends and the afternoon consolidating my findings and writing a profound article for the benefit of Human Capital professionals everywhere.  I diligently read numerous articles penned by the top thinkers from leading organisations, made notes, sat comfortably, clicked my knuckles, hovered over my keyboard and . . .  realised that the best advice that I have in creating a world class total reward structure in your organisation is to communicate effectively, honestly and ethically.

We’ve all seen case studies on companies like Google and Patagonia and I have no doubt whatsoever that they are leaders in optimising a corporate culture that works in their unique environments.  As cool as it would be to go surfing during working hours and crawl into a nap pod for an afternoon siesta after your cafeteria subsidised triple, venti, half-sweet, non-fat, caramel macchiato, that just plain doesn’t work for most organisations.

I am constantly being asked “what is the latest best practice in the reward space”.  What is with our obsession with best practice anyway?  Best fit is the be all and end all in my opinion.  A total reward approach tailored to your organisation, taking your unique leadership-led culture into account.  It always amazes me when presenting the results of an employee engagement (or similar) survey to an organisation.  The immediate feedback is usually “but we do that”, “but we offer that”, “but that is available”.  In most cases, perceived gaps in your employee value proposition can immediately be rectified through effective communication.  This is not to say that a substantial overhaul of your current practices is a bad idea.  Change can be good, change can be healthy, but change will fail if not managed correctly through a well thought out change management and communication plan.

So assuming that you fully understand your total reward landscape and how you compare to market practice, what are the important elements in crafting a communication plan,?

  • Decide who will form part of the communication team
  • Recognise what your employees care about and identify key audience groupings
  • Define the communication channels (determined by your organisational culture, geography and structure):
    1. Face-to-Face
    2. Paper-based
    3. Technology-based, or a mix
  • Determine the timing and frequency of total reward communications
  • Create a detailed project plan
  • Monitor your progress

A key thing to remember here is that, no matter what the latest buzz words and trends are, don’t go crazy with the jargon.  Use simple language, be direct and be empathetic.  Reward can be an emotive topic and getting the balance right between delivering the facts in a transparent and clear manner and giving employees comfort that the available reward options are well thought out and have their best interests at heart can be tricky.

Remember that total reward describes a reward strategy that details all of the investments an organisation makes in its workforce.  This could include remuneration, benefits, learning and development, career opportunities, flexible working arrangements, free parking, access to a gym, a recognition programme, free coffee and yes, if it fits your culture, a high-tech space-age nap pod.  The key here is to ensure that you take the “best practice” out there and customise the elements that could work in your environment.  The goal is not to give every employee what they want 100% of the time but to create an environment that, through organisationally aligned, customisable reward options, caters for individual needs and fits with your unique organisational culture.

It is important to remember that, although HR may be the custodians of total reward in your organisation, a critical success factor is to enlist the help of managers and position them as employee experience champions. They’re best placed to personalise reward for their employees, explain why they are on a particular total reward structure and what they can do to maximise their income and job satisfaction.  Importantly, managers need a deep understanding on your reward and recognition philosophy and structures and understand the “why” behind it.  Coupled with this, coaching on how to communicate the correct messages to their employees will give you the best chance of bedding down a total reward culture that attracts, motivates and retains the right people in your organisation.

A good approach is to prepare a manager toolkit which could include the following:

  1. Total reward policy documents
  2. Detailed remuneration information on their direct teams
  3. Insight into what’s important to employees
  4. Guidelines on how to handle queries such as:
    1. “I found this on the internet”
    2. The pay scale philosophy doesn’t make sense when I look at my pay
    3. My pay is not equitable compared to colleagues
    4. How can I influence my pay to increase my earnings
  5. Tips on how to best facilitate reward conversations

Finally, the goal of effectively communicating the total reward approach in your organisation is to sell the employees on their total reward options!  “Sell” might seem like the incorrect word but employees are your internal clients and, in my view, this is absolutely critical and mustn’t be avoided.  If your organisation fails to clearly articulate and describe in detail the total value of employment, you run the risk of unnecessarily losing your most valuable talent.

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place”.
– George Bernard Shaw

Get it right.


Written by Craig Raath

Issued By: The Lime Envelope
On Behalf Of: 21st Century
For Media Information: Sarah Martin

Bronwyn Levy

Telephone: 011 467 9233
E-mail: [email protected]

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