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Total Rewards Strategy

Now is the time to rethink your approach if your organization has not transitioned from a traditional compensation and benefits plan to a total rewards strategy. Historically low unemployment rates continue to create a competitive labor market, and the talent pool is rapidly changing as baby boomers retire and millennials join the workforce. In response to this staffing environment, employers are beginning to modify their total rewards strategies and offer things like chef-prepared meals, yoga classes, massages, student loan repayment programs, unlimited paid time off (PTO) and sabbaticals.

A total rewards strategy is defined by the tools an organization uses to attract, motivate, retain and engage employees. These often include compensation, benefits, work-life balance, recognition, performance management and talent development. It’s important to assess these components within your own total rewards strategy and see how your program stacks up against others.
Total rewards strategy

Total Rewards Strategy Assessment
Ten thousand baby boomers turn 65 every day. This trend began in 2011 and will continue until 2030. Despite their workaholic reputation, baby boomers typically retire between the ages of 61 and 65.¹ Employers need to prepare for significant turnover. As employment demographics change, so do the traditional and non-traditional benefit needs of employees.

Organizations that successfully recruit and retain top talent in this market have typically implemented a total rewards strategy that caters to their employees. The best way to find out what employees want is simple – ask them! We recommend conducting employee surveys or focus groups to discover what benefits are most important to them. You can use this information to determine how to spend your benefits budget and which programs to implement.

A Total Rewards Comparison
While it’s important to know what your employees want, it’s also important to know what benefit trends are gaining traction among other companies. This information can help you develop an innovative total rewards strategy that meets and exceeds your employees’ expectations. SilverStone Group’s HR Consulting Team, in conjunction with our Group Benefits Team, conducted our first annual Hot Topics in HR and Benefits Survey in December 2017. The survey included a wide range of topics, such as:

  • Dress code polices
  • Harassment prevention training
  • Paid parental leave
  • PTO plans (combined vacation and sick leave)
  • Student loan repayment plans
  • Tuition assistance
  • Financial wellness

We received responses from 88 participants who represent a variety of industries such as healthcare, nonprofit, financial services and education / government. They range in size from less than 25 employees to nearly 3,000 employees, and revenues range from less than $5 million to over $3 billion. The majority of the participants are headquartered in Omaha, Lincoln and Sioux Falls.

What Did We Find?
While these organizations might not be offering chef-prepared meals or unlimited PTO, our survey results indicated that most are starting to implement non-traditional benefits. Key findings from the survey include:

  • 68% have a casual dress code
  • 68% plan to deliver sexual harassment training in 2018
  • 64% have a tuition assistance / reimbursement program
  • 57% offer a PTO plan, only 39% offer separate vacation and sick
    leave plans
  • Of the 15% of organizations who offer additional parental leave beyond what is required by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 44% of those provide some pay for parental leave
  • 23% have a financial wellness program

Our survey also validated that companies plan to enhance their total rewards strategies by implementing the following programs in 2018:

  • Financial wellness
  • Parental leave
  • Student loan repayment
  • Tuition assistance / reimbursement

The survey revealed that 60% of organizations said cost was the biggest challenge to implementing new programs, followed by a lack of staff to administer programs (12%) and a lack of commitment from management (9%). Other challenges identified were culture, time and employee participation.

Where Do You Stand?
Assessing your total rewards strategy and comparing it against emerging benefit trends can help you build a stronger program. If you are ready for a comprehensive review of your total rewards strategy and to understand how it compares to the market, contact our HR Consulting Team. We can customize a benchmarking report to help you build the most effective total rewards strategy.

Our next Hot Topics in HR and Benefits Survey will launch in June 2018. All participants will receive a complimentary copy of the results in early October to assist with 2019 planning. If you are interested in learning more, please contact Andie Gordman at, or Ashley Thomalla at

¹Hirsch, Arlene S. “4 Ways for HR to Overcome Aging Workforce Issues.” October 11, 2017. Accessed on March 1, 2017 at

This article originally appeared in the 2018 | ISSUE ONE of the SilverLink magazine, under the title “Total Rewards Strategy | New Workforce New Benefits” To receive a complimentary subscription to the SilverLink magazine, sign up here.

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