How to create a Reward and Benefits Strategy that is flexible enough to support employees of all ages

March 15th 2023 Reward Reward Strategy
Chris Andrew
By Chris Andrew

When it comes to Reward, we live in exciting times. The speed and capabilities of today’s cutting-edge tech makes it possible to explore exactly what employees want and need from Reward, and to create and evolve genuinely inclusive Reward programmes in response. 

But while tech provides the ‘at-pace’ insight and analytics, creating an inclusive Reward strategy – one that is flexible enough to support employees of all ages - relies on a far more traditional tool. Effective, ongoing, two-way communication. Here’s how to build your pathway to success...

Start by understanding your baseline. 

Age is a lens through which to view and understand your workforce. It’s – broadly – useful, in that it enables you to think about the financial issues that may be prevalent within a particular cohort. Those under 50 may be more interested in childcare. Those over 40 may be more concerned about their pensions. 

But these assumptions may also be counterproductive. A pension may not be the primary financial concern for older employees. For example, in 2015, the Citizens Advice Bureau found that debt was a significant focus for many aged over 50

So, it’s vital to remember that any lens through which an organisation views its workforce –age, gender, ethnicity, location – offers only a blurred picture. Within those broad demographics are huge variations in terms of what individuals want from their Reward, and why. 

That’s why a successful Reward strategy always starts with one thing. ListeningTrue flexibility grows in organisations that seek to understand employees as individuals. So, stop and listen to your people. Run surveys. Hold focus groups. Ask what your people value most, and least. And work to identify any specific gaps to inclusion that exist within your current Reward programme. 

Ensure you reach everyone across the business.

For this activity to be effective, it needs to encompass everyone in your organisation. Make sure your messaging and branding feels authentic and relevant, and think about the channels and formats you are using. Tailor the messaging to the different channels and repeat the message in a variety of ways to ensure that it lands. 

The other critical point about this drive for engagement is that you must respond and act on the feedback you receive. Reflecting and acting on what your people have communicated demonstrates that you have heard and understood. 

Align your decisions with your organisational values.

So, a truly inclusive Reward strategy starts by gathering data. Once you have that, what’s important is to assess how, where, and why you want to invest your efforts. To simplify this process, use your company purpose and values to guide your decisions. 

As an example, if your organisation stands out for its commitment to diversity, you may want to prioritise Reward opportunities that enable flexible working patterns, enabling employees to fulfil caring duties and their professional commitments. If you are dedicated to wellbeing, you may want to prioritise holistic health opportunities for employees. 

The key to this is meshing what employees want, with your organisational values. Think about how you would communicate each Reward decision you’re making to reflect both factors. 

Think fluidity.

The final point to consider in creating an inclusive, flexible Reward strategy is the need for personalisation. How and where can you open Reward up to give employees genuine choice over what they receive?

Key hallmarks of a mature organisation are two-way respect and trust. Reward reflects that when it moves away from ‘This is what you’re given’ towards, ‘Here’s what we offer. Here’s why we offer it. And here’s how we support you to make the best choices for you.’

The goal should be that employees understand what they receive, why they receive it, and can navigate the consequences of their benefits choices. 

This approach requires you to create a Reward strategy that you can fully articulate and explain. Why does pay increase by this amount at this level of the business? What level of skill does an employee need to reach that pay grade? How can they develop and demonstrate that skill? How do I take ownership of my pension options? Why do you offer these benefits and not others? 

This may well be an uncomfortable door to open in the short term, but over the long term a transparent Reward strategy - founded on equity - drives a productive and invested workforce. 

So, as you’re creating your Reward strategy, stress-test it along the way. Does anything feel inequitable? Are there aspects you would struggle to communicate openly? Those are red flags. 


The takeaway? Listen, then strategise: always think about how you would communicate your Reward choices.

Chris Andrew
By Chris Andrew