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Total Rewards: A Panacea for Chaos

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Scott Cawood, Ed.D., CCP, GRP 
WorldatWork President and CEO 

WorldatWork is turning 65 next year, a time when many in the United States are considering retirement. However, at WorldatWork, we’re doing just the opposite. We are heading into start-up mode to be able to deliver the absolute highest value to the total rewards profession. Our goal is to be a bold, agile and innovative thought leader in the total rewards space.

Before joining WorldatWork in May 2017, I was at W.L. Gore and Associates. Gore is known for some pretty unique cultural aspects: They don’t have bosses. They don’t use titles. There are no reporting structures. No job descriptions. This experience shaped my early thinking about organizational structure — or lack thereof. Fast-forward to today when many organizations are reducing their focus on formal hierarchy and strict adherence to job titles and descriptions. This is a good thing because it helps organizations perform at the speed needed to compete in today’s fast-paced, technically driven workplace. This, too, is where I will be taking WorldatWork.

I vehemently dislike red tape. It saddens me when people rely on titles as a way to get things done. At the core of any organization is its people, not a bunch of titles. I want a very flat organization where you’re never restricted to whom you’re talking to. As I always tell people at WorldatWork, “Go to the person with the answer, not just the person with the title.”

Organizations constantly need to be morphing and evolving into different spaces, both in how we work and in how we navigate the external environment. When I first joined WorldatWork, I realized within a short period we had to change. And change we did. While at times chaotic, we redesigned WorldatWork, including nearly every process, team and function. Deep down I knew the organization could perform better. I knew it was capable of doing more. Our members and our people are quite extraordinary. We did what many thought impossible in such a short time. 2018 was the most successful year in the history of WorldatWork. We are proud of this achievement and are eager to both lead and serve in a new capacity.

The Employee Experience
I’m really thrilled to be part of an organization doing work that adds a lot of value to both organizations and the individuals within those organizations. I think you’d agree that you never find, hire, keep and grow your people without the use of total rewards. They are, without a doubt, my absolute favorite part of the employee experience. They too are the most critical part of the employee experience to get right.

You never have a life moment without having a total rewards response. You get married: There’s a total rewards response. You have a baby, take a transfer: There’s a total rewards component. You get a promotion, get a raise, get a new job — all of these things are more successful when you have a total rewards component in place.

We have the ability in the total rewards space to impact all of life’s biggest moments. When you take a moment and think of the impact you can have on so many people, it really does become an honor to serve in this profession.

Creating the Extraordinary
If I could wave a magic wand, I would change the one-size-fits-all approach that we tend to use to design our pay, benefits, wellness, performance and recognition plans. I like programs that are designed to be legally compliant and fair, but that also reach each individual where they are. We all have different life experiences and are motivated by different things. I love programs that reach the individual, even though we build and implement them for large groups of people.

Rewards programs, when optimally designed and delivered, signal to employees that you care about them. You care about what they’re doing, the way they are doing it, the ideas they have, and what they get for delivering outstanding work. Rewards reinforce that you deeply value who they are and what they do.

All leaders should be more focused and skilled in how to deliver rewards programs. It isn’t just a TR or HR function. Everybody has somebody they report to — even if you’re a gig worker, you connect with someone inside the organization. Those conversations — from feedback to recognition — are part of the opportunity to reward and recognize what is important.

When you’re out driving and you stop for a moment and let someone pull in front of you — the minute you do that, what are you looking to have happen? You’re looking to see if they wave, and when they do, you feel amazing. You’re like, “Oh, I’m awesome!” and you go about your day feeling you made a difference.

That is a rewards moment. And, how total rewards work. It’s an elevated moment in time where something magical happens and it compels you to be a little bit better, different, take a higher road, or give a little bit more for the organization. Rewards moments tell you a lot about who you are and who your organization really is.

The world is changing and it often feels like too much. Yet, I find a well-designed rewards program a panacea for the chaotic pace of the world. So, next time you’re out driving and you let somebody pull in front of you, look for the wave and see how good you feel. From there, take that moment and turn it back onto your employees, co-workers and organization. Make the difference I know we can.


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