Unlocking the Future of Total Rewards: 5 Trends to Know

  • Author: Greg Stewart

In today’s workplaces, traditional benefit structures continue to evolve in alignment with shifting employee needs. Thanks to new technology and other tools, organizations have more opportunities to leverage total rewards to attract, retain, and motivate employees. As you refine your total rewards program for maximum impact, it’s critical to understand the trends that promise to enhance your employees’ overall health, well-being, and career growth.

The many components of total rewards — including pay, health benefits, recognition, and work flexibility — make it a critical lever for improving the employee experience. Our research has found that, in addition to higher retention and engagement, the optimal mix of total rewards can also help you cultivate a more connected workforce. Therefore, it’s no surprise that total rewards have been identified as one of the highest investment priorities for HR leaders today.

From personalized benefits to holistic well-being programs, here are five key trends in total rewards to consider for your workforce: 

1. More Flexible, Personalized Benefits

Employees’ benefits needs are never static or one-size-fits-all. Not only do employees value total rewards differently as they move through their employment journey, but a benefit that’s valuable to one segment of employees may not be so important to another. For these reasons, the more you can personalize total rewards, the better.

It’s no secret that most employees prefer a flexible work arrangement that fits their lifestyle, family situation, and work-life balance needs. However, there are other ways to personalize total rewards to address employees’ unique needs. You could offer:

  • Flexible leave benefits such as volunteer time off and mental health days
  • Specialized wellness programs for specific demographics, e.g., programs for remote workers or individuals with disabilities
  • Spending accounts that can be used for health, home office setup, and caregiving expenses
  • Personalized training and development opportunities

2. Expanded Caregiver Support

Employees responsible for child care, parent care, or both represent a considerable portion of the workforce. An estimated 73% of employees spend 20 to 30 hours per week on caregiving, and this commitment can significantly impact their productivity and mental health. Given that finding affordable, reliable care is sometimes half the battle, you can help employees by connecting them to your employee assistance program (EAP) and other resources in their area. If your budget allows, you could also incorporate expanded time off and a caregiving stipend into your total rewards offering.

3.  Real-time Data Analysis and AI-Powered Technology

Predictive analytics, AI, and automation tools make it easier to administer total rewards and pinpoint which rewards have the greatest impact on employee health and well-being. These tools also make it easier to identify trends and efficiencies, resulting in a higher total rewards ROI.

With AI and other technologies, you can:

  • Conduct real-time compensation benchmarking in support of more competitive and informed pay decisions.
  • Provide AI-driven benefits decision support to employees during open enrollment (through your third-party administrator).
  • Analyze employee feedback and historical usage data to determine which benefits are underutilized and can be replaced by others.
  • Augment employee self-service portals with chatbots and virtual assistant tools.

4. Enhanced Total Rewards Communication

As highlighted in our latest research spotlight, only 42% of employees know all the rewards and benefits available to them. However, by developing a total rewards communication strategy similar to one we created for a client, you can ensure employees know what benefits are available and how to access them. This added transparency also supports your diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts, as it gives employees equal access to total rewards and ensures no one is left out. 

Another option is to gamify total rewards, allowing employees to earn badges and prizes in exchange for hitting specific milestones, such as attending a benefits lunch-and-learn or utilizing specific benefits resources.

5.  Renewed Focus on Career Development

Skill development serves dual purposes: it empowers employees to pursue their career aspirations and improves their financial well-being. Besides job rotations, mentorship, and traditional training, you can consider these new trends in employee development for your workforce:

  • Microlearning and microcoaching delivered in short bursts vs. day- or week-long training
  • Customized learning solutions built off of employee preferences and training histories
  • Self-service resources that enable employees to explore new roles, required skills, and possible career pathways.
    • We helped eBay deliver Career Boost, a program to help employees envision their career advancement path with guidance along the way.

Do More With Total Rewards

As you navigate the ever-changing landscape of total rewards, staying attuned to these trends remains critical. By embracing personalized approaches, fostering well-being, and leveraging AI and other technologies, you’ll empower your workforce and create a thriving and connected workplace. 

To learn more, check out our research spotlight, The Undeniable Impact of Total Rewards on Employee Connections.

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