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Top 6 Takeaways from Total Rewards 2016

While at WorldatWork’s Total Rewards conference in San Diego this week, my colleague and I visited a local spot called The Cat Café. And it’s exactly what you would expect—a place where you drink coffee and play with cats. There are rules, though. You can’t pick up the cats. Only 8 people are allowed in the room at once. And noise must be kept to a minimum.

I’m sure there are people who find The Cat Café a bit bizarre. But for cat lovers and cats, it’s perfect (or should I say purr-fect?). And one could argue that The Cat Café succeeds in what most of us in HR strive for—to create a safe and comfortable environment that attracts, retains, and rewards people that are passionate about our companies.

With that mind, here are 6 takeaways from the conference that I thought would most resonate with our readers as you think about your people strategies this year:

1. Feelings matter. In Mel Robbins’ opening keynote, she focused on practical motivation strategies. People do things either because they feel like it or they’re pushed. To push ourselves, we can apply Mel’s 5-second rule: “If you have an impulse to act on a goal, you must physically move within 5 seconds or your brain will kill the idea.” It helps to count backwards from five. And to get people to feel like doing things at work, Mel stressed the importance of appreciation: “When you start publicly cheering for people, they cheer back.”

“When you start publicly cheering for people, they cheer back.” @melrobbins #totalrewards16

2. Embrace counter culture. Everyone is talking about ditching the annual performance review, which raises legitimate questions about how to pay for performance. In their session Annual Salary Increases: Is the Juice Worth the Squeeze?, Juan Gonzalez (Axiom Consulting Partners) and Bruce O’Neel (CSG International) gave some suggestions. First, it’s important to build coaching and continuous feedback into your culture and to have an enterprise recognition program. They also suggested putting budget back into the hands of managers and breaking goals up into bite-size chunks so employees are rewarded along the way, not just annually. One key point: “It’s more cost-effective to reward an employee at the time they achieve something than replace them when they leave.”

It’s more cost-effective to reward an employee when they achieve something than replace them when…

3. Let it go. My favorite keynote was delivered by Tim Gard at the Celebrate the Profession breakfast on Tuesday morning (sponsored by Globoforce). He had the room cracking up before 9 a.m.—which is no small feat. Tim’s message was simple but powerful—we have a global workforce, but we all laugh and smile in the same language. It’s what makes us human. He also gave a tip for rolling with what the day brings. When something good happens, acknowledge it with a “woohoo!” When something disappoints you, acknowledge it with a “bummer.” Then move on!

4. The future is fluid. 85% of c-level leaders believe that organizational re-structuring will be an ongoing process in the future—this according to data Korn Ferry Hay Group gleaned from companies on Fortune’s most admired companies list. In this kind of environment, measuring and rewarding work “fairly” will become increasingly important. According to the survey, the top three non-financial rewards in 2025 will be supporting employees’ growth and development, providing a sense of purpose and meaning, and providing a strong employer value proposition.

5. Culture follows trust. Culture is not built on free food and ping pong tables (although it can’t hurt). Tony Bond from Great Place to Work® argued that trust is the fuel behind creating a great workplace and culture. And to build trust, best companies focus on providing workers with resources, autonomy, connection, and information. For example, at best companies, the average annual training and development hours for salaried employees is more than 90 hours. How can you start building more trust in your organization?

Trust is the fuel behind creating a great workplace and culture. #totalrewards16 @GPTW_US

6. Get the right cutting edge mix. Gerry Ledford from USC’s Center for Effective Organizations shared data from a recent survey of 244 organizations that have adopted one or more of three cutting-edge performance management practices: ongoing performance feedback, ratingless reviews, and crowdsourced feedback. One key finding was that crowdsourced feedback will become even more important in the future because it is, “more efficient and less artificial than an annual review.” It’s also easier to implement with social technology.

Crowdsourced feedback is easier to implement with social technology. #totalrewards16

What I heard more than anything else this week is the need for greater transparency and customization—to push back against traditional, top-down reward strategies. By doing so, organizations can remain competitive in the marketplace and create cultures more focused on employee growth and development.

Did you attend the conference this year? Which sessions were your favorites? What were your top takeaways? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter @Workhuman.

Top 6 Takeaways from #totalrewards16


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