Do total reward statements truly engage employees?

Total reward statements

Need to know:

  • Focusing on the value staff can derive from their total reward package rather than the cost to the employer can increase the relevancy that total reward statements (TRS) hold for employees.
  • Online TRS can provide staff with up-to-date information and anytime access.
  • Going beyond pay and benefits to include broader information, such as career development opportunities, can provide a more engaging picture of the employee value proposition.

Enhancing employees’ understanding of the overall investment an organisation makes into its workforce through compensation and benefits can help to demonstrate the high value an employer places on its employees. Total reward statements (TRS) are one way in which employers can detail their overall offering to staff.

Raising awareness of the commitments an employer makes to its staff beyond base pay also becomes increasingly important as competition for talent intensifies, says Simon Rance, senior consultant at Willis Towers Watson. Meanwhile, the rise of employer review sites such as Glassdoor and LinkedIn has further influenced the need for organisations to provide a clear picture of what they offer to staff, adds Richard Veal, UK head of reward, talent, communication and change management at Willis Towers Watson.

“The need for employees to appreciate the deal they have from employers is even more relevant than it ever was, largely because of the pressure of social media exposure. Employers need to be able to get out in front of that and present the story of their deal in the way they want to present it, not in the way that social media presents it,” says Veal.

But are TRS still relevant and engaging in their current form? Gethin Nadin, director of ecosystems at Benefex, says: “Total reward statements are designed to show employees the total value of everything an employer does for them and somewhere along the way this has just become a bank statement showing how much money an employee gets from the employer”.

So, what can employers do to move away from a bank statement format towards a more engaging approach that delivers true value to staff?

Up-to-date information
The development of benefits technology has allowed for significant changes in how and when TRS are delivered to staff. Integrating TRS into a benefits portal enables employees to access them at any time. Furthermore, while annual, paper-based TRS may quickly go out of date, online TRS can be automatically updated so that they accurately reflect employees’ current total reward package. Clare Sheridan, principal at Aon Employee Benefits, says: “More and more employers are looking to have a more dynamic provision of total reward statements so it’s always up to date rather than a snapshot in time.”

An interactive experience
Even though technology enables employees to view their TRS at any time, this functionality alone is unlikely to drive sustained engagement. If employees are to engage with TRS on an ongoing basis, they must evolve so that there is a reason for staff to interact with them, says Matthew Gregson, ‎senior vice president, data and analytics at Thomsons Online Benefits. “Where it becomes truly compelling isn’t about thinking about [TRS] from a cost perspective; it’s about thinking about it from a value perspective,” he adds.

This could include calls to action that would support staff in gaining maximum value from the benefits available to them. Gregson says: “It might be a great thing to tell [the employee] that [they] get dental cover for [themselves] and [their] partner and it costs £200 a year for the [organisation] to provide it, but there’s nothing compelling for [employees] to find that out.”

Instead, personalised prompts could be utilised to encourage staff to engage with the information in the TRS. “If there was a call to action within it, such as ‘Did you know that it’s X months since you last made a claim?’ or ‘Did you know it’s as easy as taking a photo of your receipt in three clicks to getting your check-up paid for?’; [the TRS] then becomes that compelling point of aggregation of all the products and services that an employer offers,” adds Gregson.

This personalised approach to TRS could also be applied in a retrospective manner by detailing instances where the reward package has had a positive impact on an employee’s life over the previous 12 months, such as helping them out of a debt situation or supporting them with mental health issues, says Benefex’s Nadin. “Looking back and seeing how much [an] employer has helped [an employee] as opposed to how much money [it has] spent on [them] has got to be the future,” says Nadin.

Technology can not only support the provision of more personalised TRS, it can also improve user experience. For example, online TRS can link out to other areas of the reward portal or external sites that support an organisation’s benefits programme, such as a modelling tool for projecting retirement saving or contact information for an employee assistance programme (EAP), thereby removing barriers to responding to the information and calls to action communicated in the TRS.

Broader than reward
When developing TRS, organisations should consider both the way in which information is presented and the range of information included. Focusing on quality rather than quantity can help an employer achieve its objectives around total reward, says Willis Towers Watson’s Veal. “The real challenge is to make an impact and make a difference. What is the message [the organisation] is trying to get across with total reward? That’s what employers should focus on,” he says.

Including information that extends beyond pay and benefits, such as learning and development schemes or the organisation’s core values, can also provide a more complete picture of the opportunities and experiences available to employees.

With this in mind, some have contended that the term total reward statement is no longer relevant. “Once [TRS] is established as a compelling, dynamic, interactive tool for the employee, it then needs to extend beyond total reward because, in reality, it should be the gateway to how the employee gets value from the business,” says Gregson, who puts forward employee value proposition (EVP) and deal as possible alternatives to TRS.

Veal adds: “We’re talking increasingly about organisations needing to deliver an employee experience at least to the same quality they might experience as consumers, and total reward statements can be at the heart of that. So I think the word statement is maybe not as relevant anymore, it’s more about a total reward experience.”

Communication strategy
To maximise engagement, TRS should be factored into an organisation’s wider approach to benefits communications. Aon’s Sheridan says: “It needs to form part of a communications strategy around benefits, not just a one-off project. It should be part of the overall communications an employer provides because, essentially, a total reward statement is a form of communication of the benefits that [an employer] gives to its employees.”

There are a number of channels organisations can utilise to encourage staff to engage with their TRS, which will vary according to the requirements and workforce profile of each employer. As people spend more time on their mobile devices, organisations could take advantage of this through mobile push notifications, says Nadin. Notifications about changes affecting total reward, such as an increase in share value, could help to drive engagement with TRS on a continual, real-time basis.

However, just as important as the delivery of information is who is delivering the message, says Willis Towers Watson’s Rance. This might include line managers sharing messages on a face-to-face basis or via online methods such as webcam to reach remote employees. Rance says: “It’s enabling the organisation, the managers, and the HR community to help get that message across, be that personally, be that through town halls or other sessions. The ‘who’ is a very important part of that.”

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Tracking changes
The timing of communications designed to encourage employees to engage with their TRS should also be carefully considered. Changes that impact an employee’s total reward package, such as a pay rise, might drive them to access their TRS but encouraging them to look at the statement ahead of such a change can better illustrate the positive effect the change has had on their total remuneration, says Nadin.

Enabling employees to frequently and easily access their TRS, through a mobile device for example, can also allow them to track how it has evolved over time, Nadin adds. He says: “It helps employees have a better understanding of how their total remuneration has changed over a period of time and an understanding of that journey they’ve made, whether from their start of employment to now or when their TRS went live [to now].”