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5 Ways To Increase The Effectiveness Of Your Total Rewards Programs During a Crisis

4 min read
Total Rewards Programs - Increasing Effectiveness During Crisis.

Your company’s Total Rewards program is a critical part of your corporate culture and a key driver of employee engagement and organizational performance. During a crisis, how should your Total Rewards plan be adjusted?

The encouraging news – there doesn’t have to be a significant or enterprise-wide change to ensure your current programs can pivot to maintain their effectiveness. In some cases, adjustments may actually increase your employee’s sense of well-being.

Here are actions you and your managers can take to adjust your existing Total Rewards program and better meet the needs of your employees and organization during this crisis:

1. Think Creatively About Pay

Clearly, the cost of labor is one of the largest expense items on a company’s income statement. When a crisis like COVID-19 strikes, many companies are quick to forecast their cash flow to make some difficult decisions like a Reduction in Force or layoff. However, these options can negatively impact a company’s ability to be successful as it exits the crisis period. Instead, first consider the following options:

Furloughs – Offering time off without pay but with benefits allows your company to manage payroll costs without losing employees in the long run.
Rotating Furloughs – Presenting rotating furloughs so the unpaid time off is shared among a larger employee population. Some companies are utilizing furloughs at a reduced salary to help both the employees and company manage through the pandemic.

Temporary Salary Reductions – Several larger firms like GM and Ford have reduced the salaries of their leaders by 25% – 50% for a period of time. Most will pay back the lost wages in a lump sum fashion and in one case, the company will pay for interest, too.

2. Leverage Employee Benefit Plans

Employee Assistance Plans – EAP’sare one of the most underutilized benefits in corporations today. The amount of stress and uncertainty is impacting us all, and access to mental health professionals is a beneficial way to address your employee’s concerns in a confidential way. If you have a current EAP, work closely with your plan Administrator to communicate their services for all employees on a more frequent basis.

Free Credit Counseling – Many countries sponsor agencies to provide quality financial education and coaching for people to improve their lives and financial well-being. In the U.S., most states offer this, or you can visit for information on a national level. In times like these, everyone can benefit from some free advice.

Voluntary, Unpaid Vacation – Before resorting to an involuntary solution, offer employees the opportunity to self-select to take an unpaid leave.

Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) – On April 1, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor announced new actions on how American workers and employers can benefit from the protections offered by the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act. You can find the latest information at the Wage and Hour Division website page.

3. Promote Work-Life Balance Programs

Flexible Hours and Alternative Work Schedules – Especially now, many employees are working from home and their work environment is their home life. However, to help separate the two, consider offering flexible hours of work or different work week schedules like 4×10 schedules to help accommodate their personal and family needs. In order to help “flatten the curve,” some companies use this alternate work schedule to reduce the amount of exposure employees were having during their normal work week.

Employee Well-Being – Wellness exercises and models help ground ourselves into the present and provide more focus on those things that matter most – our health, spirit, mind and heart.

Extended Leave of Absence – Several companies are offering extended paid and unpaid leave in the event of a quarantine or caring for an ill family member.

4. Continue With Learning & Development Discussions

Conduct Scheduled or “Just-in-Time” Developmental Discussions – There’s nothing more comforting than to know that some things are still “normal,” including holding normally scheduled developmental reviews. Also, you can use this time to check-in with them on a personal note and reflect with them what they’re learning by operating in this crisis mode. As best-selling author Martha Beck has said, “I really do think that any deep crisis is an opportunity to make your life extraordinary in some way.”

5. Stay Connected and Recognize Strong or Essential Performance

Frequent Face-to-Face Communications – Stay connected with your team and individuals through video conferencing as a way to “check-in” on how they’re handling things during this pandemic and provide supportive and encouraging direction about the business. If your company has a video conference tool, use it…often. If not, you can get access to free services like Zoom, GoToMeeting or Being present and checking in on them as human beings is a powerful way to recognize them as an important part of your team.

“Spot Rewards” – Especially for employees operating in an “Essential” position, consider offering them “spot rewards” as a form of recognition for their services during this crisis. You can either provide personalized services or gifts (like providing lawn service or sending them a week’s worth of groceries) or cash bonuses with a personal note of gratitude.

Say “Thank You” – This needs to be from your heart and with specifics about what actions or behaviors you recognize. These two short words go a long way.

Note: due to the dynamic nature of our current regulatory environment, we encourage you to check with your employment attorney to ensure all your pay practices are aligned with governmental guidance and policy.

Many people are suggesting this may be the “new normal.” Whether it becomes that or a version of what we’re dealing with today, your current Total Rewards program is adaptable enough for you to get more creative in helping motivate, engage, recognize and retain your employees now and when we successfully get through this pandemic.

Author: Dave McKeon, Practice Lead – Human Resources Consulting Services

Dave McKeon has over thirty years of experience in Human Resources and business consulting. He has worked in both publicly traded and privately held organizations including Hewitt Associates, Frito-Lay, and Ameritech. Dave holds an M.S in Labor and Industrial Relations and a B.S. in Psychology from Michigan State University.

Contributor: Wayne Kriemelmeyer, ECC Affiliate Consultant

*Executive Coaching Connections LLC was acquired by Ariel Group in 2022. They are a global people and organizational development advisory firm that has successfully supported the biggest companies, public, private, and family-owned, and their most senior executives for more than 20 years. They are best known for their proprietary, 8-step coaching methodology which incorporates a holistic approach proven to drive desired results.


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