Total Rewards

A great total rewards program is better for business and your employees

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Total rewards need to be part of your business and people strategy.

Total rewards are much more than base salary and incentives. They include everything of value that the organization provides its employees, and is an integral part of your business and people strategy.

The best designed total rewards program attracts, motivates and keeps the right talent—from entry level to the C-suite. It shapes your culture and your reputation. And it balances the needs of the business with what people actually want.

It sounds straightforward—but business environments are shifting. Economies are volatile. What people need and want from their work is changing. Career paths are more dynamic than ever and new jobs and roles are constantly emerging.

We have the compensation and benefits data to make sure you’re always paying fair—no matter the job, industry or location. More than that, we have comprehensive rewards benchmarking backed by expertise, so you’re not wasting your resource budget on the wrong rewards. Instead, you’ll offer people total rewards (financial and non-financial) that engage and motivate them to go above and beyond—better for both them and for your business.

2023 Salary Benchmarking and Compensation Data Now Available

Benchmark your organization against others, design a competitive compensation strategy, retain your best talent and get 2023 pay data.

How we can help

Our clients use our trusted job evaluation methodology to evaluate the size of their roles and to support the design of new ones, if needed, by building everything from job documentation, job family descriptors and complete career paths. We’re by your side for the whole talent journey, giving you a full view of what you’re spending and what value you’re getting back — a complete picture that’s hard to find anywhere else. Our comprehensive global reward databases provide clients with the most relevant and timely information available to ensure that clients are aligning their reward levels to appropriate external markets.

Attract, motivate and retain talent with the right compensation and benefits strategy

  • Ensure leaders are aligned on the go-forward total rewards strategy
  • Create a strategy that optimizes what your organization needs relative to what your employees want
  • Establish a strategy that informs the most effective workforce structures, manages costs and makes sure you’re getting pay right for all of your employees
  • Ensure that your benefits programs reflect the intent of your organization
  • Help your people understand the value of their roles and the rewards they receive

Make sure your total rewards systems are internally fair and externally competitive

When you’re paying fairly, both internally and externally, it makes people more productive and they have greater trust in your leadership—making your teams more engaged, reducing turnover. Drawing on our market-leading work measurement methodology, our knowledge of engaging reward program design, and knowledge of local, national and global regulations, we help you:

  • Build total rewards programs for today’s changing workforce that values transparency and equality
  • Ensure your rewards programs are competitive with relevant external compensation markets
  • Investigate potential pay gaps across employee groups
  • Design compensation strategies that offer sustained pay equity over the long term
  • Confirm that you're truly paying for performance and encouraging your teams to help your organization grow

Align your total rewards programs with your business and people strategy

  • Create short term and long term variable pay plans that link pay to your organization’s priorities and performance
  • Use a mix of total rewards tied to your business and people goals—including both financial and non-financial rewards
  • Scale your approach so you can adjust programs depending on your business performance and current market conditions
  • Ensure that your programs are effectively communicated and that change is effectively managed

Total Rewards: A Korn Ferry Buyers' Guide

Finding the right balance to attract and retain talent requires a comprehensive and flexible approach to Total Rewards

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FAQs for total rewards

What is total rewards?

When we say “total rewards,” we mean everything with value that a company gives employees in exchange for their work. So, a total rewards program includes compensation elements, such as base salary, long- and short-term incentive pay, bonuses, stock-based awards, commissions and temporary pay. (This is what we refer to as “total compensation.”)

But a total rewards program also consists of benefits and nonfinancial rewards and employee recognition. Benefits may include health insurance, vision and dental insurance, retirement plans, vacation time, long-term insurance, disability insurance, financial counseling and more. Nonfinancial rewards include wellness programs, flexible working practices, training and career development. Noncash rewards are particularly meaningful in times of uncertainty and change.

Employee recognition programs are a type of reward that also plays an important role in employee satisfaction and retention. Recognition can take many forms, including recognition for length of service, accomplishments, noteworthy long-term customer service and much more. Rewards can include thank you notes, gift certificates, staff appreciation events and anything else you think would help employees feel valued.

When total reward programs align with your organization’s culture, they can be powerful tools for talent engagement. In fact, they often have a bigger impact than compensation programs.

Why is a total rewards strategy important?

A total rewards strategy shows how much your organization values its employees. Showcasing your total rewards strategy to current and prospective hires has a number of benefits:

  • It attracts top talent
  • It creates a more loyal and engaged workforce
  • It promotes a positive workplace culture
  • It strengthens employee performance
  • It helps you retain current employees
  • It shows that you care about your employees’ job satisfaction
  • It demonstrates that you want to invest in your employees’ growth

All of these benefits make it more likely that employees will be happier in their work. In turn, that leads to employees who are more productive and less likely to look for employment opportunities elsewhere.

Do companies need total rewards strategies?

Yes - money can’t buy employee engagement. But a total rewards strategy that includes both financial and nonfinancial components is a critical part of building an engaged workforce. Well-designed total rewards programs attract, motivate and retain the right talent at every level of your organization. This is why companies should opt for total rewards programs over traditional compensation and benefits programs.

Total rewards programs also play an important role in your organization’s culture and reputation among employees and prospective hires. To be competitive in today’s market, organizations need rewards strategies that rival those of their peers. But they also need flexibility. The more flexible your total rewards program, the more you can cater to the individual needs of your employees.

Investing in a total rewards strategy also incentivizes employees. When you build a total rewards strategy, you reach employees who aren’t as excited about traditional compensation and benefits programs. And when you link benefits to performance, you’re raising performance at both the individual and organizational levels.

Employees who feel that they’re contributing to the organization’s overall value will feel greater purpose in their work. They’ll also feel more committed to your organization.

To ensure companies get the most value from their total rewards programs, they must communicate the value of these programs to employees. Personalized reports that show employees what they’re receiving demonstrate that you’re investing in them beyond a biweekly paycheck.

What is a total rewards program?

A total rewards program is a strategy designed to build a motivated, engaged workforce consisting of top talent. A total rewards program includes all forms of monetary and nonmonetary compensation and benefits for employees. A typical total rewards program consists of five elements:

  1. Compensation: The pay given to employees in exchange for their work. This pay can include base salary and wages, variable pay, cash bonuses, stock options, paid time off and more.
  2. Benefits: Basic types of employee benefits include health insurance, dental insurance, vision insurance, disability insurance, long-term care, leave plans, retirement plans and employee discount plans.
  3. Recognition programs: Promotions, awards, and verbal appreciation are ways that organizations can formally and informally recognize employee performance and motivate future performance.
  4. Training and development programs: These programs help employees develop skills for their current role and prepare them for career advancement opportunities.
  5. Wellness programs: These varied programs may include flexible working options and employee assistance programs. Also in this group are employee resource groups that serve as social hubs for employees with similar backgrounds or interests. Additionally, these programs include diversity, equity and inclusion programs and volunteer opportunities.

In short, a total rewards program is a comprehensive package of an organization’s benefits, rewards and incentives - all the ways your company rewards employees for their hard work.

What are the benefits of a total rewards program?

A total rewards program is beneficial to organizations in a number of ways. Here are just a few.

  • It strengthens candidate recruitment. A total rewards program attracts top talent and encourages employees to do their jobs efficiently.
  • It personalizes your approach to talent engagement. By offering a variety of benefits, both financial and nonfinancial, you can better address the needs of individual employees.
  • It helps you retain top talent. A robust total rewards program ensures that your employees feel highly valued. Salary increases are, of course, welcome. Yet, when you invest in training and coaching to develop them for future roles, employees feel excited about their future with the organization.
  • It improves employee productivity. Knowing that their employer has committed resources to their future boosts employee morale and engagement. A happy employee is a more engaged employee.
  • It builds goodwill. Appreciating employees with more than a paycheck goes a long way toward building a loyal workforce. And those employees are more likely to spread the good word about your organization’s culture. That can get candidates and customers alike interested in your organization.

Why do companies use total rewards?

Employers want to be known as an employer of choice. And today, competitive compensation isn’t enough to woo employees. Total rewards programs are a way to show employees how much they’re appreciated. That’s because they go well beyond financial rewards and address more of employees’ individual needs.

Current employees and prospective hires want to know that their employer is interested in their growth. Employees whose employer is investing in their well-being are more likely to feel connected to their employer. In turn, they’re more likely to be more productive. They’re also less likely to look elsewhere for employment.