Josephina Smith: What lessons can employers learn from 2020 for reward strategies in 2021?

Josephina Smith: Lessons learnt in 2020 for 2021 reward strategies

As the uncertainty of life beyond the pandemic continues to unfold, predicting the reality of reward strategies in 2021 may not need a crystal ball, but the ability to separate reality from rhetoric.

I have learnt from many years supporting organisations with transforming reward functions and consulting on strategy, policy and practice that when it comes to rewarding employees, the starting place for every organisation is different, so no change there.

In the main, employers that have taken a strategic approach and are further along in developing integrated total reward approaches have been able to draw on the progress made to maintain stability and control costs through focusing on the importance of employee wellbeing, offering as much support as possible to minimise the financial impact of the pandemic, and honing virtual engagement to foster connection and community. Organisations that are further behind have had to catch up quickly to maintain that vital connection with their employees.

News around the globe on the extent to which the pandemic has impacted organisations is dependent on the sector they are in, which customers they serve, and how an organisation has been able to adapt. Suffice to say, reward in 2021 will look different for organisations in survival mode from employers that are thriving, and consequently the ability to formulate innovative reward strategies will depend on the investment an organisation is willing to make reward achieve its strategic goals. The reality for some organisations is that this is likely to be the bare minimum.

What is evident is that although over the past few years we have seen growth and innovation in the areas of reward digitisation, wellbeing, benefits type, access, flexibility and inclusion and long may it continue, the pandemic has provided the opportunity to evaluate reward strategy from a different lens. Remote working moved the focus from physical to virtual, our whole outlook on life and priorities have been impacted significantly and will, in turn, inform reward choices and preferences. During 2021, savvy organisations will take advantage of this shift to redirect investment and delivery of a more ‘human’ reward approach, making smart choices to deliver the most benefit for their employees albeit balancing this with the familiar challenges of ensuring return on investment (ROI) in reward, managing its relationship with business strategy, engagement, mitigation of reputation and legislative risk.

Josephina Smith is a reward thought leader and speaker