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Total Rewards: What Motivates Employees

Total Rewards: What Motivates Employees?

By Beth Hales, Director of Sales


Total Rewards, which simply put, is anything and everything an employee receives and recognizes as valuable or rewarding.  This topic is hot right now, and has experienced an increase in inquiries around this subject.   To bring it closer to home, an engagement survey conducted by Aon Hewitt just stated that 10+% of high performers have left their employer since the economic downturn, and it is estimated that 25+% are preparing to leave.  That’s an interesting statistic that should make us think about ways to ensure that our employees, especially our top employees, realize the value and stay engaged to remain within our organizations. organized a local networking session to dive a bit deeper into the subject of total rewards, and we’d like to share some of the main discussion points from the industry HR professionals that attended.  One of the key areas of focus:  We need to better understand what motivates each employee individually, but still be able to develop something that maintains some type of standard across the whole employee group.  One way mentioned to keep rewards streamlined was to structure a rewards program where “gifts” were awarded for performance.  The gifts that could be earned would be hot items like iPads.  The drawback to programs like these seemed to be that they fizzle out, and a lack of communication long term tends to create disconnect.  It can also be risky to develop a rewards program that is too complex.  Benefits can get lost in translation, and the medium(s) you use for communication may be challenging.  For example, you may have a special employee discount available, but only a small percentage of employees actually remember and take advantage of it.   It could be that the majority of employees don’t have access to the company’s intranet or email.  

 It was also brought up that there are generational differences in what people find rewarding, and everyone agreed that employee expectations are changing.  Benefit programs aren’t necessarily geared toward long term loyalty/employment like they used to be.  Are today’s graduates more excited about a 401K plan/company stock or a higher base salary?  A mass survey to explore motivation with regards to generational differences could provide some key insight into this evolving situation (see details around this below).  Some organizations have adopted a rotational internship program to fully expose young talent to every aspect of the business.  While the participants of the session agreed that this type of program was designed to further engage potential employees and ensure the right career path fit, they didn’t feel that there was a sense that it was truly working yet (not to mention the logistics challenges).  It was also noted that a lot of times, we do more to onboard and engage our interns than we do our new employees!  

When we looked at the big picture of total rewards, there were two main themes that were consistently touched on during the session.  Location/work hour flexibility and designing opportunities to grow were essential points affecting employee motivation and retention.  Companies are thinking outside of the box to develop sustainable work plans and career paths.  Some companies in the live production segment don’t have a lot of choice when animals need to be feed and operations run on a fairly structured schedule.  However, one example was given where prime hours of operation were determined and then schedules were adjusted accordingly to allow for generous flex time.  The culture and leadership must be supportive of these out of box scenarios in order for them to work.  Old company traditions can often interfere with progressive recruitment.  It boils down to providing the total employee experience, where there is work life balance as well as opportunities to develop professionally.  Piece of cake, right?

Please help us provide key information to our agricultural employers on benefit and incentive programs by taking the Total Rewards Survey.  Share your thoughts and help shape future Total Rewards Programs.  You’ll be entered into a drawing for your chance to win one of three iPad minis just for taking the brief survey!