Skip to main content

Delivering total rewards in a post-pandemic world

Employers should leverage a strategic total rewards package for a competitive advantage in an extended tight labor market, one that demonstrates a great employee experience (EX), a supportive culture, and the full value of the employer’s holistic rewards scheme.

Evolving workforce trends that employers must adjust to

While the labor market has experienced some softening, the US unemployment rate has held steady and below 4% for more than 2 years. Consequently, many organizations have employed a workforce that is distributed across the country and even around the globe. And their diverse employees are increasingly working a hybrid schedule of both in-office and remote workdays. In fact, today 40% of employees work remotely or via a hybrid model, up from 7.9% in 2019.

Plus, the overall workforce continues to evolve in yet another way.  The disruptions of the “Great Resignation” and “Great Reshuffle” of the recent past is transforming into the Great Stay, a time when employees are settling into their new roles and prioritizing job stability, work-life balance, and meaningful employment over constant change and turmoil. This puts additional pressures on organizations to both manage the existing workforce models that include a complex composition of geographically distributed employees, part-timers and contractors -- with a culture that attracts, retains and nurtures through total rewards programs that enable workforce-centricity, flexibility, wellness and empowerment.

These factors along with a changing business landscape present new challenges to HR, and they’re joined by yet another trend: 96% of employees are dissatisfied with workplace technologies. This should be of great concern, considering the new workforce models have made work technology more essential than ever. Remote work and even collaboration between distributed in-office employees rely absolutely on technology. Harvard Business Review (HBR) goes as far as saying that in a hybrid work world, an organization’s technology defines its employee experience (EX). Employees are also consumers. And their consumer experiences have been gradually changing their expectations and increasing their frustration when it comes to the technologies they use at work. If you follow HBR’s line of thought, this means nearly all employees are dissatisfied with their EX.  

Consider your own experiences with brands you love. Likely, the ones that provide you with the most seamless experiences – that empower you to quickly access any information you need to solve any issue you have – are your favorite brands. You’ll stay loyal to them for a good long while. Now consider your employees and ask yourself: 

  1. Is it easy for them to access information on each benefit that factors into their total rewards?  

  1. How many platforms must they use to access them, and how many login credentials do they need to remember?  

  1. Once they log in, does the technology perform well and can employees use the information to make informed and critical decisions? 

Keep these questions in mind while also remembering that your employees are likely more stressed than ever, both mentally and physically. Seventy-seven percent of Americans are worried about money – which is evident by the fact that collectively, Americans owe  $1.13 trillion on their credit cards, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York – as rising pricing have largely caused consumers to spend down their savings and lean on credit cards to make ends meet.

To top that off, at least one in five American’s began putting off health care appointments during the pandemic. Those decisions impacted chronic diseases and overall health which have, in turn, affected healthcare costs today and into the future as economic uncertainly looms.  In fact, those ages 35 to 44 have reported the most significant increase in chronic health conditions since the pandemic—58% in 2023 compared with 48% in 2019. And while those aged 18 to 34 still report the highest rate of mental illnesses at 50%, those 35-55 experience the highest rate increase to 45% from 31% in 2019.

It’s more crucial than ever to help your employees understand, engage with, and ultimately take advantage of their total rewards. Employers that do strengthen their employer value proposition through integrated health, wealth, and wellness programs are more likely to both retain their employees and empower their workforce’s overall productivity.

The keys to a successful total rewards program

Total rewards go beyond wage compensation and even traditional benefits. This makes your total rewards package the perfect avenue to deliver an EX that appeals to all workers. Consider whether your current total rewards program is truly working for your employees, not only including whether it meets their needs but also whether they can understand, access and utilize each type of reward. 

Strategically design the right total rewards package 

It may be time to rethink your total rewards program—and plan for a way to continuously improve it. Do its components meet your employees’ current needs? Keep in mind, for instance, that 65% of office workers say that work flexibility is more important to them than salary and other benefits. Listen to employees and assess the rewards you offer. Look into what employees use most—and what they hardly use at all. Then consider whether there’s anything you could add to better support them.  

As you evaluate your program, consider the following categories: 

  • Physical health and wellbeing 

  • Financial wellbeing 

  • Mental wellbeing  

  • Lifestyle and flexibility  

  • Compensation 

Listen to employees and look for ways to evolve benefits in these categories. For instance, a traditional 401(k) plan focuses on the financial wellbeing category, but some employers are going a step further by making financial planning available to employees. And organizations that offer HSAs have the opportunity to make them visible alongside employee 401K plans. This helps employees make the best contribution and investment choices both for today and for long-term retirement planning. 

Similarly, employers have offered more benefits flexibility. Like the health reimbursement account (HRA) model that allows employees to get reimbursed for qualified expenses, many employers are adding lifestyle saving accounts (LSAs) that empower employees to make more personalized choices that benefit them most, from massage therapy to yoga classes to doggie daycare. When it comes to compensation, some employers are going beyond salary and bonus schedules, offering optional stipends or reimbursements (think gym memberships or running shoes) to support their employees’ overall wellbeing. 

Deliver total rewards in a simple way and continually educate employees  

Once you feel confident about what your total rewards program offers, consider how to best deliver it to employees. Here are some best practices our panel shared for total rewards delivery: 

  • Communicate to your employees with clear, concise information about what your program includes.  

  • Annual enrollment is a great opportunity for employees to not only focus on traditional benefits selections but also evaluate their financial choices. Employers can help their employees by highlighting how their decisions in each category can influence each other in a holistic financial picture.  

  • While annual enrollment offers an obvious spotlight on total rewards, don’t limit your discussions to just that time of year. Instead, create a communication plan that supports and educates employees on total rewards throughout the year.   

  • Train managers company-wide on your total rewards program and involve them in your regular communication plan. Help them understand how to use total rewards as a retention and engagement tool that enriches employees’ lives. As they identify specific employee needs, especially during regular employee coaching sessions, support managers with a forum for feedback and specialized questions. 

  • Make it possible for your employees to access each component of their total rewards in one place—ideally within an intuitive platform that pulls all benefits information and their individual data together. Using next-gen technologies that integrate various employee benefits into a single experience isn’t just more convenient for employees but can also better inform their decisions based on their holistic picture.  

Work with a partner that can help you deliver your total rewards experience, pulling all pieces together into a single platform. This helps you create a meaningful experience for employees, helping them make informed decisions and easily take action when needed. While building this experience, your partner should not only create a simple, easy to read employee dashboard, but also plan for the platform to be modular. Doing so provides flexibility to expand and streamline the benefits you offer, allowing your company to continue adjusting its total rewards program as employee needs change. As with any challenge, you can take each step one at a time. With your partner, decide what version 1.0 looks like and ask for guidance in creating a roadmap that safely and efficiently brings data together for a single view.  

To learn more about how benefits can be reimagined to support ever-changing market dynamics and workforce expectations, check out our paper Solving the new benefits puzzle (