By Juan Pablo Gonzalez

Being a leader in an organization going through a major transformation is no easy task. Neither is being a follower. While at some level, employees may recognize that “change is the only constant in life,” they are less likely to find solace in this quote from the Greek philosopher Heraclitus than they are to hope that the things they count on at work won’t change.

Successful engagement is accomplished through in-person and virtual messaging. Speeches, webcasts, emails and, most importantly, one-on-one conversations between employees and their supervisors are the “go-tos” for communicating change. Often overlooked during transformation, rewards programs are uniquely powerful communications tools as they represent the quintessential opportunity for employers to “put their money where their mouth is.” Doing so requires thinking ahead to identify the rewards implications of transformation. While this is not always the first thing leaders think about, doing so can be relatively simple and begins by considering three questions that are in the forefront of employees’ minds as they internalize messages about change:

  1.  What is important now? Are priorities different than they used to be?
  2.  What is my role in the change? What do I have to do?
  3.  What’s in it for me if I contribute to the change?

The first step in determining the degree to which rewards are aligned to support change is to assess the degree to which the answers to the three questions above have changed. This need not be a drawn-out exercise; simply summarize the answers to the questions and their rewards implications in two columns.

While this example may seem straightforward, consider that changes in rewards often lag organizational evolution and changes in strategy. It is common for leaders to change strategy and even clearly communicate the answers to the three key questions, without ensuring their rewards programs are aligned. This is often nothing more than benign neglect. It is not that leaders don’t see the connections and the importance of alignment — it’s just that these issues only come to light once a change effort is launched.

Organizations undergoing change have many opportunities to leverage rewards to support the change and demonstrate to employees the personal benefits of transformation. For example, new, more rewarding career paths will support faster development of the high-priority capabilities an organization needs to compete. Employees who demonstrate new capabilities will be rewarded with a meaningful base pay increase.

Managers who embrace a new rewards program will see their administrative burden lightened and the performance of their team improve.

This article was excerpted and edited from Using the Right Rewards Program to Help Your Talent Management Program Fuel Transformation, The Talent Management Handbook, Third Edition. © 2018 McGraw-Hill Education. All Rights Reserved.

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