Modernizing Your Total Rewards Programs to Attract & Retain Talent

Co-author Christine Burrows is a Vice President at Purple Ink. She has a passion for supporting HR across the country and expanding Purple Ink across the national stage.

Have you reviewed your Total Rewards package lately? The people strategy of your organization has likely evolved. Your workforce has changed in a myriad of ways. Compensation and economic security are still paramount. But many other benefits have risen to prominence, including hybrid/remote work, a progressive paternity leave policy, adoption benefits, wellness incentives, and even on-site pet care. Timing is essential to match your Total Rewards package to the needs of present and future employees.

Getting Total Rewards right requires introspection. You might still be investing in benefits and programs that aren’t valuable to your employees. Given their ever-changing needs and expectations – particularly with the changes we saw through the pandemic – it’s easy to see the value of a review and reset of Total Rewards.

Where should you focus your Total Rewards reset? Here are four top-ranking total rewards trends to consider for your organization right now.


The pandemic hastened the onset of flexible and remote work arrangements more quickly than most of us ever dreamed possible, making it essential to review Total Rewards, beginning with compensation. As we consider a more holistic strategy around remote work, you may be asking, “How do I pay a distributed workforce? How should I approach my employee compensation strategy in this new environment?”

Take a close look at your compensation philosophy and practices around geographic and remote work pay, and create a flexible, future-focused strategy. Here are three approaches to determining income levels for your distributed workforce:

By employer location or national rate – Employees are paid on a single pay structure regardless of where they live. HQ location or a national figure determines the rate.

By employee location – Employees are paid based on where they live.

Remote work differential – Employees are paid using a differential above your “home office” rate for working remotely by choice. For example, if you would typically pay $45,000 for a marketing coordinator, you may add a 5% remote work differential to increase their pay to $47,250. This 5% bump accounts for the office costs (such as desk space, snacks, and printing) that you save when they choose to work remotely.

Mental Well-Being Focus

Employers are strategically moving away from using well-being to reduce healthcare costs and expanding to a more holistic approach to well-being that values the whole person at work. Mental health and well-being’s impact on satisfaction, retention, and productivity is just now being understood. And with one in every five US adults having a mental health disorder, mental health is an issue employers cannot ignore. Too many employees are in crisis or suffering without an adequate response to their mental health status.

Now is the time to assess your current resources, select any additional programs for your benefits package, and ensure your employees understand what benefits are available and how to use them. What can you do to re-up your mental well-being strategy:

  • Start with meaningful data so you can get clear on your challenges.
  • Identify your well-being strategy; assess and select resources and create organizational support.
  • Educate and engage employees.

Leadership Development and Coaching

As the modern workplace evolves, employers will rely on an agile, adaptable workforce. And employees will depend on leadership capable of understanding their needs. Are we connecting with employees and their career paths in meaningful ways? Employees deserve the chance to develop their skills, and employers who offer coaching and leadership training will reap benefits in recruitment, retention, and productivity.

Culture and Connection

Even the best total rewards package can’t make up for a toxic culture.  Focusing on your people and providing them opportunities to connect, collaborate and build relationships, whether in person or virtually, is critical. A people-first approach strengthens your organization, supports mental health, and improves employee retention.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is a crucial piece of culture. Employee expectations include fundamental human values of respect, dignity, and understanding. Without a diverse and inclusive workplace, employee trust and commitment will be lacking.

Community initiatives are sometimes an undervalued element of benefits that can align the organization’s values with the values of its employees. As you examine culture and connection, take a look at your volunteer initiatives and whether they still align with your highest purpose as an organization.

The Bottom Line

These four growing trends in total rewards all share one thing in common: they require leadership and management support. They don’t happen without employer investment and commitment. Once the organization has set a path, HR Communicators must connect with employees to affirm the value of these updated benefits. Employee engagement is the final and central element. With the proper adjustments to your total rewards package, you can attract and retain high-performing talent to drive your organization’s performance to the next level.

Is a Total Rewards Reset a DIY Endeavor?

Not necessarily. This type of strategic reset may be a significant lift on top of the responsibilities you already hold. Powered by Purple Ink is the national network of people professionals – consultants who provide expertise across all of these domains of employee experience. If you are in need of a coach, trainer, HR specialist, recruiter, or any type of professional consultant in the people industry, you can find the expert you need in the Powered by Purple Ink membership directory. The network is also comprised of corporate partners, like NFP, who offer high-value products and services to go hand-in-hand with the consulting you need to develop a rewards program and an employee experience that helps you attract and retain the best talent.

If you’re looking to reset your Total Rewards strategies to address the changes in the workplace and mitigate potential talent challenges, feel free to drop me a note or reach out on LinkedIn. I’d love to help! You can also reach out to a member of our advisory team or tweet us with your questions and concerns.

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