Workforce Strategy: Bringing Diversity to Total Rewards Plan

By Vince Guerra
  • Apr 28, 2023

Strategic alignment encompasses many facets of an organization. Aligning strategy with values, products, markets and other areas of your organization takes a lot of intentional work. When companies lose this focus, it opens up the door to subpar behavior such as implementing too many initiatives or making decisions based on the status quo (we’ve always done it that way).


The same can be true with a company’s Total Rewards Plan. Often times Diversity is touted as a company value, but employee benefits, PTO and other rewards offered by the company reflect what’s important to the few making the decisions. To avoid this trap, it’s important to look at your employee base from multiple angles. 


With that in mind, here are four ways to move beyond the “one size fits all approach” and add diversity to your Total Rewards package by viewing your workforce from different angles.



1.    Generational – We tend to think the most important benefits for a company are what is most important to our peer group. However, a 49 year old will be focused on retirement planning and caring for their elderly parents, while a 29 year old will be interested in dependent care for their toddler and student loan repayment. There are volumes written comparing Boomers, Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z, but the differences are real and need to be explored when creating a Total Rewards strategy.


2.    Geographic – It is easy for most Americans to see the geographic differences between an employee living and working in Southern California as opposed to rural Georgia or West Texas compared to New York City. The cost of living and cultural expectations are vastly different. Now begin to add employees in the Czech Republic or Mexico, and it becomes more important than ever to align corporate values and Total Rewards. The complexity increases making it more difficult to understand what’s important to employee bases around the world. What’s more, communicating rewards across various countries and cultures poses obstacles that need to be addressed.


3.    Socioeconomic – Many well-meaning companies get excited about offering a high deductible health plan so that their employees can begin saving through a Health Savings Account (HSA). The logic is sound. Employees will be better healthcare consumers and if they are healthy they will benefit from pre-tax contributions saved over time. The reality is that many employees can’t afford to contribute to their HSA. They lack the disposable income (and/or knowledge) to see the value in setting money aside. This can lead to small medical issues becoming catastrophic events or chronic illness because the employee felt they couldn’t afford the doctor’s visit when the illness first occurred. 


4.    Data – Getting data from industry benchmarking reports and (even better) building company benchmarks through employee surveys should guide a company’s total rewards strategy. Data breaks up “group think”. Data also keeps a few strong opinions from dictating what rewards should be offered thus preventing the tail from wagging the dog. 


Bringing diversity to a Total Rewards Program isn’t about focusing on one group to the exclusion of another.  Nor is it about trying to appease everybody. Organizations need to move beyond these narrow viewpoints of diversity. Rather than viewing diversity as a two dimensional square, it should be viewed as a three dimensional diamond that features many different vantage points. This diverse thinking leads to a Total Rewards package that appeals to employees across generations, demographics and pay scales.