With the goal of retaining talent, this HR professional saw an opportunity to rejuvenate her organisation’s rewards strategy.
Bianca Elder CPHR, HR advisor at Insurance Brands Australia, identified an opportunity to improve her company’s employee rewards program by introducing a total rewards strategy.
“In an effort to reduce turnover figures, the People and Wellbeing team wanted to focus on a strategy that was going to help with retention, motivation and attracting top talent,” she says.
After conducting surveys and interviews with a sample group of employees (including the senior leadership group) to understand the current awareness of the rewards and benefits available to employees, Elder concluded that a strategic framework was needed to provide a holistic rewards offering.
Her goal was to incorporate a rewards philosophy that would guide future initiatives and ensure consistency with the organisation’s strategy, culture and values. She also determined that clear and consistent communication of the holistic offerings through the appropriate channels would be essential to the total rewards strategy’s success.
This initiative turned into her capstone project to achieve HR certification via AHRI’s Practicing Certification pathway, which she went on to pass with a high distinction.
Total rewards transformation
Before diving into a new strategy, like any strategic HR professional Elder started by getting a lay of the land.
Her assessment of the existing reward system identified two significant gaps in the program. Firstly, the company was offering a great deal of rewards that managers and employees didn’t know existed. Her initial surveys revealed that 71 per cent of Insurance Brands Australia’s employees wanted a better understanding of its reward program.
“It wasn’t that we needed to create a suite of offerings. It was about elevating what we had and maturing our People and Wellbeing service to provide easily accessed and flexible benefits that are valued by our employees,” she says.
Secondly, she identified that the company’s reward system didn’t place enough emphasis on employees’ welfare.
“We recognised that we needed to focus on creating a positive and healthy work environment. It’s not just about salary – there’s a whole breadth of offerings in place.”
In order to address this, Elder set out to implement a total rewards strategy, which she describes as a holistic approach that recognises the physical, psychological and financial needs of the workforce.
Through her research, she came across WorldatWork, a global association for HR management professionals dedicated to elevating employee experiences and driving organisational performance through rewards, education, leadership and community.
One of its total rewards models aligned with Insurance Brands Australia’s strategy; it was simple and provided flexibility for future organisational growth. Based on this model, Elder created a bespoke total rewards strategy that included a clear framework to roll out the program.
“Our total rewards strategy has five key elements: remuneration, benefits, recognition, development and wellbeing,” she says.
“There is plenty of research demonstrating the correlation between people’s experience and organisational performance, so I knew if we could get these five key elements right and communicate them effectively through the business, we could improve our employee experience and our performance.”
“We needed to focus on creating a positive and healthy work environment. It’s not just about salary – there’s a whole breadth of offerings in place.” Bianca Elder CPHR, HR Advisor, Insurance BrandS Australia
It’s about more than money
Taking Insurance Brands Australia’s rewards program from ad hoc offerings to a total rewards strategy required a carefully structured approach. Before implementing the program, Elder presented her project to the organisation’s leaders to get their buy-in.
“It’s about understanding your business goals, drivers and outcomes, and then finding a solution that’s going to help you get there. Then, it’s about communicating those findings to the leadership group so they know how it ties to the bigger picture,” she says.
By involving management in the conversation and demonstrating the value of the initiative, Elder was able to get the project over the line with the full support of her organisation.
Once the details of the total rewards program were agreed upon, Elder created complementary educational resources via the company’s intranet, resulting in a greater understanding of the company’s rewards philosophy and offerings.
Her communications plan resulted in an increase in uptake for some of the company’s lesser-known benefits.
“For example, one of the benefits we offer is an initiative called “Helping Hands”, which encourages our employees to take two days of leave each year to volunteer their time to a charity of their choice.
“It was a dormant benefit, but now it has been brought to life, with employees proudly sharing photos of themselves at charity events on our internal communication platform,” she says.
“Another example is our novated leasing options, providing a significant financial benefit for our employees with a potential to save around $5000 per annum.”
To future-proof the program, Elder implemented an ongoing series of surveys to capture the employee experience at key milestones of the employment life cycle. These surveys increase the organisation’s capability to continually evaluate and improve its total rewards offerings over time.
“We’re seeing an increase in uptake and employees knowing what’s available to them,” she says. “The rewards program has evolved in a really great way since it was implemented.”
Her advice to HR professionals taking on a similar project comes down to three crucial steps: understand your organisation – in particular its strategy and goals – listen to your employees in order to create a truly valuable rewards offering and then communicate the strategy effectively through the right channels.
Elder’s HR experience gave her a unique perspective on the theory behind rewards and recognition, and enabled her to make the most of her AHRI certification course.
“Commencing the certification with prior HR experience and working in the industry while studying means you’re not just learning theory and methodology and saying, ‘One day I can apply that.’ You’ve got the maturity, experience and avenues to apply that knowledge with best practice, especially if you have been in an organisation for a couple of years.
“Understanding the organisation’s operating rhythm allows you to tailor the learnings gained, not only to improve the employee experience, but to help achieve business objectives.”
A version of this article first appeared in the April 2023 edition of HRM Magazine.
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