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The Changing Face of Reward

amanda lennon

Story by
Amanda Lennon HR Director and employment lawyer, Astralis HR Solutions

Business people clapping hands during meeting in office for their success in business work

Amanda Lennon, HR Director and employment lawyer, Astralis HR Solutions takes a view over reward for HR and considers the influence of the next generation.

Since the COVID19 pandemic and employers’ efforts to bring employees back to the office (usually on a hybrid working basis, where one or more days per week are spent working from home), the face of reward at work has changed. The pandemic seems to have been the catalyst for employees to be more assertive about their working conditions and how they wish to be rewarded for their contribution to the business. This means that employers who wish to remain competitive in the market have had to rethink their total reward strategies to attract and retain the best talent. 

Whilst the ‘Big Resignation’ hasn’t really happened, the pandemic has helped employees show that productivity and commitment doesn’t have to be decline through working from home, indeed the opposite has been proven in many cases. Employees spend time working at home that they would otherwise have spent commuting, so many are working longer hours than before. At the same time this enables employees to achieve more of a balance between their business and personal lives. Therefore it would come as no surprise that the workplace is now very different to the pre-pandemic days. This also means employees are looking differently at how they are rewarded for the work they do. The flexibility that working remotely brings is supported by recent changes in the law to recognise that employees have lives, and indeed responsibilities, outside of work. This includes the right to request flexible working now being a day one right (as opposed to a right that begins only once the employee has reached at least 6 months’ service) and the new right to carer’s leave (which gives employees the right to unpaid time off to care for a dependent with a long term care need, such as elderly relatives and others who rely on the employee for care). Both of these rights were introduced in April 2024, showing that the government has noticed the reality most employees face nowadays. 

Next generation priorities

Employees are also looking to employers to keep abreast of their needs, and the pandemic started to put that into the spotlight. Not wanting to return to the office (at least full time), seeking more balance in their lives (to juggle work and home responsibilities) and focusing on mental health and wellbeing are now front of mind. But, with the next generation entering the workforce, what is needed to obtain and retain employee loyalty will come further to fore. If my children are anything to go by, the next generation know their rights and are not afraid to assert them. Traditional pay and benefits packages are already no longer sufficient for most employees – they want more flexibility, better hours and better ways of working. Employers should listen carefully to what their employees want, especially the leaders of tomorrow who occupy today’s early careers positions, to remain competitive and attract the best talent in the market. The next generation don’t want to wait years to be promoted, strive for more work/life balance, they know about computers more than most and have the skills and mindset to take emerging technologies forwards on a level we haven’t yet fully understood. 

The most innovative employers will already have strategies in place which consider how their businesses must adapt to remain sustainable in future. The same applies to reward strategies – employers should find out from their employees at all levels of the organisation what interests them in terms of their benefits, ways of working, work locations, and career ambitions to ascertain how they can align their reward strategy to their future business plans, keep employees motivated to succeed and continuously develop their workforce. 

Here are some top tips for employers to stay ahead of the game:

  • Whilst some benefits will be standard across the organisation, consider your workforce in departments, sectors and at each level of seniority. What is attractive to employees in one sector or area in the business may not appeal, or require different consideration, to those in others. Flexible reward and an ability for the employee to opt in and out of benefits is a good way of offering something for everyone, tailored to their preferences
  • Many employers conduct anonymous pulse surveys to understand the mood of their workforce. Include questions not only on pay, benefits, ways of working but whether they have caring or other responsibilities outside work will help inform your reward strategy. It also helps demonstrate you are considering your employees as human beings with a life outside work too. 
  • Looking at what your competitors are doing is a good idea to ensure your business can keep up with the current market. But the best companies are looking far beyond that in terms of the direction they will go in, in future. Will the company expand into new markets, and will new technologies be needed to sustain or grow the business in future such as AI? This information will be crucial in determining which skills sets will be needed in future, and therefore how your reward strategy should support your talent and development strategy. 
  • Small things count, no matter how large or small the company is. Praise for a job well done, saying thank you and recognising achievements in team meetings can often be as important to how your employees feel about their employer as bonuses, commission or other benefits that would normally be associated with reward. 

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