What ‘Rise of the Individual’ Means for Compensation

Josh Bersin offers up ways to address employees' new mindset through total rewards.
By: | May 25, 2018 • 3 min read
individual

Of the many developments impacting today’s workplace, few are more significant than the rise in the power of the individual.

That was one of the principal messages of Josh Bersin’s opening keynote at WorldatWork’s 2018 Total Rewards Conference, held May 21 through 23 in Dallas. (Bersin, founder and partner of Bersin by Deloitte, will be retiring from Deloitte next week, though he still intends to remain active in the field.)

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Bersin told those attending the conference—which attracted roughly 1,200 attendees, mostly working in the areas of total rewards and compensation—that the single event that perhaps opened the floodgates to this ascension of power took place in 2010, when JetBlue Flight Attendant Steven Slater announced he was fed up with his job and exited his plane by way of the emergency slide. The incident was recorded and went viral. When isn’t it and doesn’t it, these days?

“What’s happened since then is we have had a flood of people saying to their employers, ‘I’m not going to take it anymore,’ ” said Bersin, in his speech titled “The Rise of the Individual in the New World of Work: A New Generation of Rewards.”

It used to be that employees would hook their careers on to their company, he said; but nowadays, a person’s career is independent of his or her employer. Because people are moving from role to role or job to job these days rather than up the corporate ladder, he added, employers must find ways to engage and reward them doesn’t necessarily include a promotion.

At Deloitte, Bersin said, “we move people around all the time and they don’t get a promotion. They get a new assignment, they get a developmental assignment, they learn something new, sometimes have two or three jobs at the same time. Do we pay them for that? Do we reward them for that? … . Those are the things we’re going to have to think about.”

Bersin, a regular speaker at HRE‘s HR Technology Conference, cited Unilever as an example of a company that’s trying to address this shift, referencing its personal-purpose program, in which every individual has a personal-purpose statement that talks about both his or her career goals and personal aspirations. Employees, he said, are taught through coaching sessions how to create such a statement.

So, what does all this mean to the compensation and rewards community? Bersin suggests that the rise of the individual is going to require professionals in the field to do a better job aligning their strategies to the needs of the individual.

“This revolution of rewards” hasn’t happened yet, Bersin said. When people were asked by Deloitte researchers whether they would recommend their rewards program to others, the net-promoter score was -15. “This is really low,” he said, adding that Deloitte has previously measured the net-promoter scores for HR, learning and recruiting—and while some are negative, they have never been this low.

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In his talk, Bersin specifically recommended several strategies aimed at helping those in the profession move the needle here.

First, he said, the rewards process needs to be more agile. “One of the things [Deloitte’s] research found … is that the companies which revisit their rewards and the recognition more frequently are outperforming those that do it once a year.”

They also need to be more holistic, he said, noting that Deloitte’s research revealed that companies that think about financial, physical and spiritual well-being as part of their rewards program are 11 times more likely to have high-performing outcomes—so, employers need to expand the concept of the rewards beyond just pay.

David Shadovitz is editor of HRE. He is also co-chair of the HR Tech Conference and chair of the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference. He can be reached at [email protected]