Employee Benefits are not Reward

Maybe a controversial statement but employee benefits are only one part of reward and are not, as is often the case, the only part of how you reward employees for good performance and/or to attract, motivate and retain.

The CIPD defines reward as ‘Reward is about designing and implementing strategies that ensure workers are rewarded in line with the organisational context and culture, relative to the external market environment.’


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So, it’s not all about cash…well not for all employees.  As people, we are different and what engages and motivates us to be the very best we can at work differs dependent on individual preferences.

Reward does include:

1. The cash

Salary, commissions, bonuses, incentives etc.

2. Employee benefits

Ones which can be selected by employees are better to hit that ‘we are different’ marker.

3. Non-cash/non-tangible things like…

Positive leadership, organisational culture, development opportunities, recognition, and within that of us as a ‘whole’ person and increasingly – and in particular for the Gen Z/Millennials – the type of organisation worked for and whether that has ethical, sustainable and governance (ESG) principles; that can be the organisation’s approach to environmental challenges, to the equality, diversity and inclusion needs or commitment to wellbeing and mental health.

There is a great quote from Machiavelli which defines it for me – ‘Friendship bought with money and not with greatness and nobility of mind is paid for, but it does not last and yields nothing’.

That said, a well communicated and effective Employee Benefits provision can be an investment with a good return. 75% of employees are more likely to stay with their employer because of their employee benefits package (Willis Tower Watson survey 2019). But employee benefits portals are a necessity for organisations as one place to access and understand employee benefits; and the pandemic with working from home (which is substantially continuing) has confirmed that.

Multi-generational workforces

A key focus for reward now is to be able to recognise and have the flexibility to engage with multi-generational workforces as, now, up to 4 different generations at work from the Baby boomers to Generation X to Millennials/Generations Y (the first digital natives) and now Generation Z (or iGen as they have been called due to a life never without tech).

Whilst we are all people, the one key difference between all of these groups are the different methods of communication they use/prefer. Baby boomers had to rely on face-to-face relationships and therefore are more engaged in real life communities, younger generations create their communities online via social media instead and expect instant access via any device. This impacts on what reward methods are chosen as different life stages and expectations (hence having the ability to choose what benefits are wanted is key), and how reward is communicated and accessed.

With competition for the best people still increasing, pre pandemic we had the lowest unemployment for 45 years, and those of us recruiting have seen the challenges now, it is important for any employer to look at reward overall and communicate it effectively to remain in the game.

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