5 Takeaways From WorldatWork Total Rewards 2018

Maggie Wenthe
Maggie Wenthe

2018 Total Rewards Conference

Were you in Dallas for WorldatWork’s Total Rewards Conference? If you were, you know it lived up to the hype!

Not only was it a really good time (have you ever been to an event where the association’s CEO donned a custom-made, corporate-branded suit?), it was equally enlightening and inspiring.

The four-day event honed in on the challenges today’s human resources professionals and organizational leaders are facing, and presented expert insight related to the management of them.

According to Deloitte’s Josh Bersin, talent itself is the #1 issue for CEOs currently. The #1 solution? Culture. Specifically, the fact that a strong culture match is a must for top talent in today’s market.

From a topic-specific perspective, total-rewards content reinforced the idea that zeroing in on the employee experience—holistically—measurably impacts achievement of KPIs like retention, recruiting, wellbeing and more.

But that’s just scratching the surface. For more specific employee experience insights, read on. My top five takeaways are below. Do you agree?

1. The whole employee experience is definitely where it’s at—but it has a long way to go.

According to Stanford’s Jeffrey Pfeffer, the workplace is the biggest source of stress today in America. Not a huge surprise.

Furthermore, a bulk of the workforce suffers from financial illiteracy, and potential employees are actively seeking organizations with a focus on citizenship and purpose.

An employee experience that’s holistic by design caters to all of that. It accounts for your diverse workforce and the things that matter to your people, and creates an environment that infuses them into the workplace. But how can you find out what matters to your people? It’s simple: ask them.

2. After a few months, monetary raises retain no impact.

And even though we as employees say cash motivates, study after study shows that our actions indicate otherwise. According to Bersin, a host of more intrinsically based factors like recognition, belonging and knowledge, as well as accomplishment and career development, are in fact more motivational and impactful for the long-term.

The reality is, your people are all motivated differently, and sometimes they don't know how they’re motivated. That’s one reason to constantly evaluate and evolve your culture—and, by association, your employee experience.

But, go about it strategically. It’s important to note that "culture" isn't ping-pong tables and an on-site bar. Rather, a strong culture zeroes in on the things that actually matter to your people—it’s not just offering the next workplace fad.

3. Promotions “up the ladder” aren’t necessarily the way to employee retention.

Many employees are actually realizing that management isn't their forte. More than that, there aren't enough promotions to go around.

Conversely, challenging your people in a way that creates a sense of meaning (and then recognizing employees’ efforts) is key to retaining top talent. Tasking workers with new and meaningful assignments creates interesting work—another major checkbox top talent is looking to check off their list. According to Tom Gimbel, founder and CEO at LaSalle Network, “We all want to work for a meritocracy and be awarded for the good work we're doing now.”

4. Reskilling is imperative.

In all industries. So plan for it now. As AI and other robotics take over parts of the workforce, demand for management of the machines is set to increase.

Therefore, while technology may in fact be replacing employees in certain capacities, it’s creating need in others.

But it’s critical that brands leverage AI and other robotics in the right areas.

How? By focusing on how tech can be used to simplify the way employees work, thus empowering them to replace tactical tasks with strategic objectives.

Related: How can employers combat the growing skills gap while retaining their current workforce? A company’s ability to upskill creates a significant competitive advantage in our increasingly technology-driven world. Find out how to upskill your workforce.

5. Hiring individuals who are a good fit for your culture and values is paramount.

Of course, the first question that comes to mind is, “But how do you know?”

Let me tell you.

To know if an employee will be a fit, it’s critical to clearly understand your organization’s culture and values first. You need to know its strengths and weaknesses, then use them in recruiting the right people to get the right fit.

Then, the harder part. You need to be willing to say goodbye to the employees who aren’t the right fit.

The overarching takeaway from WorldatWork Total Rewards 2018?

We all need to give ample attention to the employee experience. Holistically. An intentional, connected employee experience is the path to employee loyalty and, ultimately, all-out advocacy. And that’s a game changer for your brand in more ways than one—but it most certainly has the ability to transform top talent acquisition and retention.

Maggie Wenthe

Maggie Wenthe

Maggie strives to help the world understand the power behind personalized motivation that aligns people with business goals to drive powerful results. As the leader of Marketing Strategy at ITA Group, she analyzes market trends to develop world-class solutions that help Fortune 1000 companies motivate and engage their employees, channel partners and customers. She is certified through the Incentive Marketing Association, the Enterprise Engagement Alliance, as well as Pragmatic Marketing Level VI. Between marketing and three little boys, Maggie doesn't have free time. But when she can find a few minutes, she loves listening to audiobooks on marketing, business and sci fi thrillers.