Unilever to use TRS data to show impact of reward decisions

Unilever is planning to integrate the data from staff surveys with total reward statements (TRS) so it can analyse the business impacts of reward decisions, for example on employee retention or engagement.

It rolled out total reward statements (TRS) to staff in 96 countries in 2011.

Speaking at the annual WorldatWork Total Rewards conference in Philadelphia, USA,  Keith Williams, reward manager at Unilever, said: “I call this building a steering wheel for reward.

“At the moment I couldn’t tell you if paying 5% more to my people or paying 5% less has any impact whatsoever. This shifts us into a completely different space that shows us why we spend our money on reward, and the way we spend it.”

The data held in the system, which was implemented by Buck Consultants, will also allow the global manufacturing company to be open, fair, consistent and explainable. Williams added: “What we want to be able to do is show people: these are the companies we benchmark against, this is what we think the market looks like, this is how we put our scales together relative to that market and this is where you sit within that scale.”

Employees will also be able to see where they are likely to sit on the scale should they hit set performance targets.

To get to this point, Unilever spent several months in 2011 gathering reward data from its reward teams across the globe. It asked the teams to supply information on how reward was calculated so that the formulae could be input into the system.

The TRS uses an employee’s Peoplesoft record as its starting point and then adds in extra information, such as employee choices and exceptions, as well as the engagement survey data.

It allows the organisation to get back more detailed information and allows it to measure return on investment (ROI) for reward.

It has plans use the system for further projects to improve the ROI. Williams said: “What we did earlier in the year was say to people ‘We have now told you what you have been rewarded for last year’, but now we want to turn it forward and say ‘This is your opportunity for this year’.

“So we can tie that message in with business objectives and say ‘If you want to earn a bigger bonus, then this is the range of possibilities’, and we can get a message from the business to say ‘These are things we need to deliver this year in order for your bonus to be higher than it would otherwise be at target’.”

Unilever is also currently systemising reward and benefits procurement by using the TRS data, and will launch this in its Singapore division. It is working on being able to automate ‘all-up costs’, for example, easily calculating the total cost impact of a pay increase, taking into account the impact on salary-related benefits and any related statutory payments.

All this will reduce the amount of time reward managers at Unilever have to spend crunching data. “Reward should be an analytic function, it should not be a data-monkey function,” said Williams.