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What Is Your Employee Rewards Story?

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We are living in a time of story-telling, more than ever before. With the rise of mobile phones and social media, the world is telling their unique and colorful stories through pictures, videos, music, short write-ups and more, every day. This brings to mind a question when we talk about employees: What is going to be their “Rewards Story”? What are organizations offering as the Rewards Story? What are employees saying about their experience in the workplace? The way employees are rewarded affects their performance, how they collaborate, learn and develop, treat customers and represent the organization in the public domain as brand ambassadors. Anything that contributes to the employee’s positive experience and connection in the workplace is part of their Rewards Story. From the employer’s perspective, the concept of an employee’s Rewards Story can be viewed in terms of the employer’s approach and belief as to how its employees should be paid, how it will differentiate for performance and results, how it will reinforce desirable values and behavior, its plans for staff development, etc.


If an organization’s Rewards Story is compelling enough, it will reflect in the words, actions and attitude of its employees, wherever they might be. A compelling Rewards Story is therefore at the heart of strategy execution.

An organization’s Rewards Story is not a matter of documentations hosted on an intranet or hung in strategic places in the office. The Rewards Story comes alive only when it lives in the heart of employees and they have embraced it because they see how they create value and how they get rewarded for it. It is a practical thing that must speak for itself.

So, if you are one of those organizations that only think of salary increases when the issue of employee rewards comes up, it is high time to adopt a broader and more strategic approach. This will give you a great opportunity to take delivery, performance and behavior at your organization to the next level and to grow the business in a sustainable manner.

That employees are an organization’s greatest asset can only become a reality if the employer believes in it and takes action to demonstrate it. In other words, if you do not believe your employees are key to your success, they won’t be! To illustrate how employees will continue to make a difference and represent an organization’s competitive advantage in tomorrow’s world, it is predicted that the quality of employees is what will create the much-needed differentiation between organizations and brands.

Organizations that have recognized the power of a compelling Rewards Story have leveraged video clips and other media, where their employees narrate their own stories. Such clear and engaging clips have provided many organizations with powerful tools for attracting prospective candidates who can easily relate with the organization’s approach to rewards and what the business expects from them in return. Some organizations also allow candidates to interact with selected staff, to see for themselves how their Rewards Story comes alive. This has helped prospective hires make better decisions as to whether they want to be part of the organization’s Rewards Story — or not. Generally, an organization’s recruitment process presents a huge opportunity to tell the world its Rewards Story. This can contribute to attracting people who share the values and vision of the business.

The Millennial Challenge

Today's business world includes Millennials, and to keep this cohort engaged, there are several things that employers must do differently to enhance their Rewards Story. Employers must engage more to better learn and connect with Millennials. Millennials are expressive and really value a listening ear. Therefore, they appreciate an employer that provides such a platform, in whatever form that works best for both parties. Because this new generation thinks differently, one can expect a lot of new perspectives and ideas to be shared at such forum, including feedback on which rewards offerings are working or need to be reviewed. The employer also has the opportunity to help the Millennial employee better understand business realities and the principles behind its decisions and policies. Also, employers must recognize the other interests and passions of its employees so they can find ways to support or promote their pursuits. The sense of fulfillment and support derived can translate to better employee engagement at work. The potential result of this is a healthier, higher-performing workforce with a better Rewards Story to tell the world.

In addition, employers must find creative ways to enhance their brand using different social media platforms. Imagine a situation where the employer and employee converge to tell the world their compelling stories. Employers must celebrate their products, people and values on social media. This will enhance their Rewards Story. To tap into this opportunity, a dedicated hand must be engaged to push the organization’s social media strategy. Also, the organization must have a clear strategy for engaging the community and leveraging and channeling the passion and interest of its people to give back and help build the society. The resulting fulfillment and dignity can add to the organization’s Rewards Story.

Humanizing the Workplace

Part of the employee experience that integrates with the Rewards Story is the work environment. The ambience and aesthetics must be inspiring, attractive and comfortable, and employers must invest in this. Above all, the human element of the work environment and the daily interactions on the job, must be positive and based on values such as respect for the individual, collaboration and support. Employees must feel connected and valued and look forward to working daily, if their Rewards Story is to be worth telling to the world.

In this era of scarce talent, prospective employees that can help organizations drive change will be attracted to, passionate about and committed to employers that have a compelling Reward Story. What is a compelling Rewards Story? It is one that effectively loops in the business focus with what the organization would offer the people that help to achieve it, including how it would identify key contributors to the results achieved. The linkages must be clear, unambiguous and continuously reinforced. If most employees unify behind an organization’s Rewards Story, the organization will perform at its best.

About the Author

Boluwaji Apanpa is senior manager, compensation & benefits practice, at KPMG Nigeria.

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