Engage staff through total reward

Knowing the value of their benefits package increases engagement for staff, says Buckinghamshire County Council’s Gillian Hibberd

Too often we try to overcomplicate the relationship between employees and employers. In reality, employees’ expectations are quite straightforward – they are simply looking for answers to a number of questions. They want to know what is expected of them, what tools and training they will be given, how they are doing, and what care and support the organisation will provide. Given this simplicity, and given that research shows how important benefit and reward packages can be in attracting and retaining talent, many employers are now looking at new ways of communicating the answers to these questions via total reward.†

Total reward describes how a range of monetary and non-monetary rewards are provided to employees in exchange for their time, talent and effort. A particularly important factor in this equation is effort. Discretionary effort, or going the extra mile, is critical to business performance. The level of engagement between employee and employer is believed to drive the amount of discretionary effort by employees. Totally integrated models of reward, which place equal if not greater importance on non-pay benefits, have been shown to drive engagement and empirical evidence from my own organisation supports this.†

We introduced a total reward model about three years ago and since then have been working to enhance our offering and promote Buckinghamshire County Council as a great place to work. The strategy places equal importance on pay, benefits and non-pay benefits such as opportunities to learn and grow, the work environment, work-life balance, wellbeing, inspiration and values. Last year I pledged that Buckinghamshire would be one of the first local authorities to introduce total reward statements in a bid to boost the value employees put on their benefits. In a recent development, we have partnered with Cambridgeshire County Council, Hertfordshire County Council and Vebnet to produce online total reward statements, which are now being piloted.†

Since introducing total reward and focusing on non-pay benefits, the response in terms of employee engagement has been remarkable. In the past three years, confidence in the leadership of the authority has risen by 21%, the percentage of employees who feel valued has risen by 7%, 80% of staff now feel well recognised for the work they do (an increase of 3%), 91% of employees enjoy being part of a team (a rise of 13%), the number of people who would recommend the council as an employer has increased by 16% and 76% of staff enjoy working for the council (up 6%). The results are encouraging and are testimony to the type of culture and working environment we have striven to create.†

Using total reward has sent a strong message to our workforce that we care about them and that, I think, is key in using reward to foster employee engagement. The non-pay aspects of the package have been particularly well received, including our individual learning accounts. Employees are given an opening balance of five days’ learning a year, which they can spend on an activity related to their role. In return, they have to give feedback to their manager on how the investment has helped them contribute to the organisation’s goals. Other benefits staff can tap into as part of their total reward package include free financial education, access to environmentally-friendly pooled electric bikes, and employee recognition award schemes.†

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Highlighting the total monetary value of the benefits package, which is often 20% to 30% higher than take-home pay, has opened people’s eyes. More importantly, focusing on support, values, recognition, development and career opportunities has helped developed a team spirit. Employers that are not communicating their total reward – including non-pay perks – are missing a trick because staff will fail to value what is on offer and not be as engaged as they could be.

Gillian Hibberd is corporate director (people and policy), Buckinghamshire County Council

  • Build a business case for total reward by focusing on the fact that it provides a good basis for increasing engagement and discretionary effort.†
  • Use total reward to market your organisation as a fantastic place to work.†
  • †Personalise your total reward statements to send a strong message that your organisation cares about its people.