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Not So Totally Rewarding

Wednesday, August 1, 2012
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Companies spend lots of money on their total rewards programs -- the combination of pay, benefits and development opportunities that keep employees sticking around. Yet a recent survey from Aon Hewitt finds that, despite those investments, few companies seem to be getting much out of their programs so far.

Aon Hewitt's Total Rewards Survey of about 750 organizations reveals more than half (58 percent) use total-reward programs to foster employee engagement, while 48 percent want the programs to strengthen their ability to retain and attract top talent. However, 60 percent describe their employee-engagement levels as low and two-thirds say it's either holding steady or trending downward.

"Our studies suggest there's a significant divide between what employers think employees want and what the employees actually want," says Peter Gundy, a managing director at Towers Watson in Stamford, Conn.

Companies tend to rank base pay, organizational mission and being rated as a "best place to work," respectively, as the things valued most by employees in terms of what drives them to join and stay with an organization, he says. Conversely, employees tend to value job security, base pay and healthcare benefits most.

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Aon Hewitt analyzed the total-rewards programs of companies it identifies as "high performers" -- having the highest levels of innovation, engagement and revenue -- and compared them with the rest of the surveyed companies. According to the results, top performers distinguish themselves by articulating clear strategies and goals in their total-rewards programs, using data and input to drive decision-making, connecting the program to the business and employees, and defining the effectiveness of their programs differently.

"The data suggests leading companies understand that attraction, retention and motivation ... should be disaggregated," says Richard Kantor, senior vice president in Aon Hewitt's human capital consulting division.

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