It’s been said many times that people are a company’s most valuable resource—valuable in the results that they deliver, and valuable with regard to the investments you make in compensation and ensuring they are successful.

Recruiting, hiring, and retaining the right people is a critically important investment for every organization. As a human resource professional, how you provide value through reward programs and compensation tools has a significant impact on your organization’s employee lifecycle and your employer brand.

Read further to understand how to:

  • Use compensation and reward practices as a talent attractor
  • Differentiate your employer brand with compensation and reward flexibility
  • Simplify reward currencies and the mechanics of your pay practices

The traditional stages of the employee lifecycle include recruitment, onboarding, development, recognition/retention, and separation, aka “offboarding.” And while tactical execution of these areas is important, it all starts with a more holistic philosophy that should inform your approach to successful employee lifecycle management.

The New Employee/Employer Paradigm: Employee First

It’s no secret that people expect more than ever from the brands they do business with. Customers want personalized experiences and service, and their brand impressions are shaped by the employees with whom they interact, and even by the outcomes of those working behind the scenes.

Your employees have immense power to create incredible customer loyalty and play a significant role in your long-term success – but only if you invest in their success first.

So, what does that look like? The answer is as wide-ranging as your staff itself. People’s lifestyles, their career needs, and values are more varied and complex than ever. Embracing an “employee-first” philosophy means understanding and being more responsive to evolving employee needs, embedding flexibility into your strategy and systems, and understanding the true cost of a legacy approach.

In some cases, your employees may not even be employees anymore. The dramatic rise of contract and gig workers has changed the way we manage, compensate, and reward the workforce, and requires a more nimble and multifaceted approach.

Even among traditional employees, there are more part-time, seasonal, and remote employees than ever before, all of whom need to be managed, compensated, and rewarded.

Rather than look at these factors as burdens, HR professionals have an opportunity to differentiate their brand and shape programs to embrace the needs of the modern workforce.

Curating Compensation and Rewards to Align with the Employer Value Proposition

Once you’ve aligned your organization around the value you bring to your employees, how do you bring that to life with meaningful compensation and rewards?

Sure, we all strive to offer competitive salary and benefits packages, but we must stay focused on our employee-first philosophy to be more responsive to current workforce needs and remain competitive. By using compensation and reward practices as a talent attractor, you can have unparalleled success in today’s tight labor market.

Focusing solely on salary and bonus structure is no longer enough

You’ve probably heard the saying “what gets measured gets managed,” but what about “what gets rewarded gets repeated”[1]? Aligning your compensation and rewards programs with your employees’ values is essential to feed the connection between the right behaviors and strong results. In doing so, you have an opportunity to differentiate your employer brand and attract like-minded candidates that will thrive in your culture.

Many younger workers want more time off and are willing to sacrifice pay to get it. Others want to feel like they are part of a team, see that they are contributing to a meaningful cause, or be recognized for their work. In fact, timely and meaningful recognition is a currency all on its own.

As organizations adjust to a new generation of preferences and values, implementing manageable, sustainable employee compensation plans and reward programs are key. This may include ditching complicated and expensive branded merchandise programs, increasing the frequency of smaller recognitions at company meetings or events, and embracing a “multi-currency” program, where employees are rewarded with their choice of time or money.

Employees might have a choice of additional paid time off, or spot bonuses and incentives that are paid instantly to an employee’s company branded prepaid card.

Related: 5 ways to take costs out of your compensation and reward system

Managing the employee lifecycle from an “employee first” perspective also requires awareness of several emerging factors that should be a lens for refinement of your current reward and compensation programs, including:

  • Where your staff works: In your office? Can they be remote? Are they on job sites? Can you offer flexibility to work non-traditional hours? The ability to recruit and hire talent from around the country or across the globe can be a game-changer – especially for organizations who have been challenged to find top-tier talent in their local market. But managing remote employees requires a different philosophy and a different set of tools, which can include more travel, or the use communications technology like video conferencing or Slack to stay connected, or electronic payments solutions that ensure employees in different markets receive payroll or incentive payments in a timely, secure manner.
  • When (and how much) they work: A forty-hour work week doesn’t appeal to every segment of the market, and I’m not just referring to the stereotype that millennials don’t want to work as many hours as other generations do. Candidates that could be a great fit for your organization might need more flexibility to manage family obligations, to be successful as a part-time student, or could be someone who offers their services on a “gig” basis. Can you accommodate them? This could be a huge benefit to your organization and might include offering job-sharing, part-time employment, flexible hours, or contractor roles.

Maintaining a healthy employee lifecycle means embracing change and flexibility

There are numerous factors that complicate today’s workforce — especially when it comes to managing compensation plans and the employee life cycle. Considering how the engagement drivers for your workforce impact your business before you recruit, or hire is essential in managing a healthy employee lifecycle. By incorporating the economic and cultural values of employees, and finding new ways to accommodate their diverse needs, you’ll be better equipped to be more responsive to today’s dynamic workforce.

[1] John E Jones, 360 Degree Feedback, p 155.