WorldatWork Study: Total Rewards Pros Are Satisfied with Their Pay and Purpose
Workspan Daily
August 04, 2023
Key Takeaways

  • Total rewards pros on the move. The WorldatWork study found that 62% of total rewards professionals have taken on new roles since 2020.  
  • A higher level of pay satisfaction. Compared to the general workforce, total rewards professionals tend to have a much higher satisfaction with their pay, with 55% indicating they were very or extremely satisfied with their compensation. This likely has to do with their unparalleled visibility into an organization’s pay systems, philosophies and methods of compensation determination.  
  • A certain skillset is required. Respondents emphasized the importance of problem-solving (94%), communication (91%) and relationship building (88%) as the most essential skills for total rewards professionals. While analytics also garnered substantial recognition, other technical skills such as labor market navigation (71%) and general technical expertise (81%) were perceived as less vital. 
  • High aspirations. More than one-third (37%) of professionals expressed their ambition to grow and transition into total rewards leadership roles. Furthermore, 20% expressed interest in becoming Chief HR Officers, showcasing a broader interest in the entire field of human resources. 

Total rewards professionals find significant meaning and purpose in their careers, which allow them to utilize their skills and abilities to the fullest.  

This was a main finding in WorldatWork’s “2023 Total Rewards Professional Career Study,” which surveyed 776 total rewards professionals about essential skills and career aspirations.  

Participants in the study mainly occupy mid- to senior-level positions (80%) with the remaining 20% split among executive roles (8%), emerging-level roles (6%), and consulting roles (6%). About half (53%) hold supervisory responsibilities. The survey highlights the diverse nature of daily tasks for these professionals.   

The survey also revealed that 62% of respondents have taken on new roles since 2020, and more than half (55%) of respondents said they were very or extremely satisfied with their compensation, while just 3.3% said they weren’t satisfied with their pay.  

Those pay satisfaction numbers are significantly higher than most professions. “One theory is that the increased rate of job mobility in the last year was accompanied by well-negotiated compensation packages.” said Marta Turba, vice president of content strategy at WorldatWork. “But beyond this, we know that satisfaction with pay is closely related to the transparency of how pay decisions are made in an organization.”  

Turba added that total rewards professionals have unparalleled visibility into an organization’s pay systems, philosophies and methods of compensation determination, which likely contributes to their own pay satisfaction. It also highlights that when these professionals establish objective and competitive rewards systems, it can influence the pay sentiments of the entire workforce, she said.  

Essential Skills  

Given the strategic complexity of many total rewards jobs, a wide array of skills were identified as critical for success. Respondents emphasized the importance of problem-solving (94%), communication (91%) and relationship building (88%) as the most essential skills. While analytics also garnered substantial recognition, other technical skills such as labor market navigation (71%) and general technical expertise (81%) were perceived as less vital.  

Course: International Remuneration: An Overview of Global Rewards 

Notably, the survey unveiled a significant gap between the perceived importance of these skills and respondents' self-assessment of their proficiency. The gap exceeded 10 percentage points in several areas, including strategic acumen, communication and financial acumen. The changing social and business environment demands that total rewards professionals continuously improves their skills.  

“Technical skills remain essential to success, but the current business environment calls for a wider range of solutions to meet the long-term effects of changes in employee sentiment and a tight labor market,” Turba said. 

Respondents displayed a mix of interests in their future career arc, with about 35% interested in further specialization within the total rewards space, while 20% aimed to broaden their skills into other functional areas. Additionally, nearly one-third (32%) envisioned themselves in leadership positions within their current organization or profession, while around 6% are looking toward retirement, and another 7% had unique career plans outside of these categories. Among those planning retirement, almost half (42%) expressed a desire to continue playing a role in total rewards through board service, teaching or consulting work.   

Career Aspirations  

More than one-third (37%) of professionals expressed their ambition to grow and transition into total rewards leadership roles. Furthermore, 20% expressed interest in becoming Chief HR Officers, showcasing a broader interest in the entire field of human resources. 

Most respondents expressed satisfaction with their career accomplishments as well as their current job roles. Confidence in their ability to excel in their current roles was a prevailing sentiment among total rewards professionals. While 25% are still developing the skills they need to excel in their current roles, more than 30% stated that they possess the skills required to handle more demanding duties.  

Course: Global Compensation Immersion Program 

Continuing education holds paramount importance for total rewards professionals, with an overwhelming 95% agreeing that it is essential or important to getting training and developing new skills throughout their work life to keep up with changes in the workplace. The study's insights are expected to guide professionals in making informed decisions about their focus on skill development in the future.  

“Professionals equipped with agile problem-solving and authentic communication skills have emerged as top performers in the field,” Turba said. “To enhance organizational outcomes, there is a growing demand for aptitude in cross-functional partnership and initiative leadership, as well as insights derived from workforce analytics, which have the power to shape personalized rewards systems and enhance people experiences.” 

Editor’s Note: Additional Content 

For more information and resources related to this article see the pages below, which offer quick access to all WorldatWork content on these topics: 

Related WorldatWork Resources
UPS to Hire 100,000 Holiday Workers
Setting Compensation for Digital Nomads
As Union Activity Rises Nationwide, There Are Positive Ways to Manage It
Related WorldatWork Courses
Sales Compensation: Foundation and Core Principles
Advanced Excel Skills for Compensation Professionals
Sales Compensation: Advanced Implementation and Program Management
Be the First To Know

Get the latest news and insights in our weekly e-newsletter — featuring our most up-to-date Workspan Daily articles — delivered straight to your inbox from WorldatWork's experienced publications team.