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From Where We Sit

HR as total reward steward

American management guru Dave Ulrich has identified nine competency requirements for Human Resources (HR) to win as an organizational function.

These competency requirements are divided into three major sections: enabling, strategic, and basic competencies.

Total reward stewardship is one of the three enabling competencies. Total rewards is a notion that defines all possible means for employers to attract, motivate, and retain their people.

Total rewards include financial and non-financial compensation and benefits, which include even just the perceived value of the employment relationship.


Total rewards include compensation, benefits, performance, recognition, work life effectiveness, and development.

For rewards to be considered effective, they have to be employee-specific, visible, equitable, and cost-effective.
From among these qualities of effective rewards, employee-specific is the hardest to meet, considering that each employee has a unique set of needs.

The realities of each employee differ from one another, making it administratively challenging to come up with employee-specific total rewards.

The steady rise of the gig economy makes it all the more difficult to put in place a total rewards scheme that will be attractive, exciting, and meaningful to employees and potential employees.

The closest means of achieving employee-specific total reward design is to look at the general realities among the four generations present in the workplace today.

Dr. Stephanie Thomas of Cornell University came out with a study that shows these general realities as shown and discussed below.

Here is how Dr. Thomas segmented generation by year of birth: Traditional covers those born from 1930 to 1945; Boomers are people born from 1946 to 1964; Gen X birth years are from 1965 to 1978 and Gen Y are individuals born between the years 1979 to 1990.


Traditionalists clamor for appreciation, and would most likely appreciate something that will help them remember good times.

For them, certificates, medals, plaques, trophies, and the good old “perfect attendance” and/or “best in something” awards will be a hit.

Generation X and other generations see these types of incentives as a thing of the past and would be dismayed having it.

Traditionalists would still be excited to receive a gold watch with the company’s logo by the time they retire.
Baby boomers would choose recognition anytime of the day. For them, being distinguished from the rest is important. Providing baby boomers with a prime parking slot that everyone can see as an incentive is very attractive.

Gen Xers want their incentives to be tied to performance. They want to be rewarded for a job well done.

As for Gen Y, constant feedback is necessary. Providing this generation with immediate incentives such as movie tickets or Starbucks gift certificates will surely matter. Gen Yers are very collaborative, and aligning incentives with this innate trait, such as a group karaoke night or a day in a theme park, will be truly appreciated. Eyes of other generations will certainly roll if you give them group incentives, as they will view it as a complete waste of money.


True to their name, traditionalists would not want anything than traditional benefits packages. Health benefit packages with dependent coverage, life insurance, retirement plan, leave benefits, car plan, and easy access to
loans would be most appealing to them.

Boomers will decide to join an employer based on benefit packages. They will agree on a pay cut for a better benefits package. Similar to the generation before them, baby boomers are at home with typical benefit packages. The only difference is that they want higher coverage for health and insurance, higher limit for car plan and loan, and more leave benefits.

Choices are what Gen Xers will ask for. Uniform benefit packages are a turn-off for this generation. They want independence and personal decision as to what benefits they will enjoy. They do not want to be dictated upon what benefit package will work for them, as they want to take responsibility for designing and developing their own benefit packages.

Generation Y is for creativity in benefit package design. Flexible work arrangements, flexible benefits, wellness benefits, education subsidy, gadget benefit, and free breakfast or lunch are very attractive to this generation. Unique and creative benefits are most appealing to them.


Intrinsic rewards will work well with traditionalists. It is important for them to get a sense of fulfillment for doing their jobs well.

On the other hand, extrinsic rewards, such us higher salary raise, fancy titles, and publicly announced awards are what boomers are looking for.

Freedom and independence are what you can give as rewards to Gen Xers. They want to have a say on which project to work on first, when to work on it, and where to work for it.

Meaningful work is the greatest form of reward for Generation Y. They want to make sure they are contributing to making the world a better place. They want to look at things beyond the surface, and they want to put deeper meaning on what they do.

Base salary pay increase

Traditionalists are very loyal to their employer. Because of this, a salary that is competitive with regular adjustments aligned to their cost of living will be enough to make them happy.

It is perfectly normal for boomers to compare their ranks within the organization’s hierarchy. Thus, it is imperative for them that their pay is aligned with their rank and that of their coworkers. Tenure for them should be rewarded, and salary increases should be equitable.

Jumping from one employer to another is typical for Gen Xers. You need to make sure you provide salary that is competitive to your market, because they will move out if they get a better offer from elsewhere. They want their raises to be tied to how well they work on assigned projects.

Gen Y’s collaborative nature will make them openly and freely share information about salary and increases. It is important that your salary structure is characterized by equity and fairness. This generation will likely act together if they have the slightest thought that your pay is inequitable. They would probably do an exodus if they feel that you are giving inequitable base pays and unfair increases.

With all these significant differences across generations, it will appear that being a total reward steward is mission impossible.

HR is the overseer of total rewards, but it is not just HR’s sole responsibility. Total reward stewardship should be a shared responsibility with your line people.

Some guidelines to keep in mind in balancing total reward expectations are: Communicate uniquely with each generation as they prefer, accommodate employee differences in coaching, create workplace choices in compensation and benefits when possible, provide flexible leadership and adapt to what works with each generation, respect and reward competence and initiative, take necessary steps to enhance employee satisfaction and loyalty, and build and promote a learning environment to attract and retain a diverse set of individuals.


Published by The Manila Times dated 12 September 2018