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Modernizing total rewards to drive human capital sustainability

Total Rewards|Future of Work|Integrated Wellbeing
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By John Bremen and Amy DeVylder Levanat | May 21, 2019

In this article, John Bremen and Amy Devylder Levanat discuss the trends that have motivated organizations to focus on a more deliberate and personalized talent experience.

The world of work has changed and shows no signs of going back. To the contrary, it suggests an uptick in speed and evolution.

Freelancers represent more than one-third of workers in the United States, and some estimates expect that figure to increase to more than half of workers by 2027.

Consider that freelancers represent more than one-third of workers in the United States, and some estimates expect that figure to increase to more than half of workers by 2027. And those freelancers are reskilling at almost twice the rate as traditional workers. Add to that a talent shortage brought about by demographic shifts due to generational transitions in both senior and entry-level roles in organizations:

  • The large Baby Boomer generation (75 to 80 million) is retiring at the rate of one every nine seconds between now and 2029, according to USA Today Money.
  • The much smaller Generation X (61 to 66 million) accounts for 51% of leadership roles globally, according to the Conference Board Global Leadership Forecast.
  • Millennials (74 to 79 million) are now the largest generation in the United States’ workforce, representing more than one in three workers, according to Pew Research.
  • The smaller Generation Z (60 to 65 million) is entering the workforce out of secondary schools and universities in large numbers.

Throw in that 65% of children entering school today will end up in jobs that don’t exist yet, that robotics and AI are practically mainstream, that the virtual workplace is institutionalized, and it’s clear that the future is here.

Throw in that 65% of children entering school today will end up in jobs that don’t exist yet, that robotics and AI are practically mainstream, that the virtual workplace is institutionalized, and it’s clear that the future is here. Amid this seemingly nonstop cycle of disruption at a constantly increasing velocity, many are asking: Is this pace sustainable? Perhaps more importantly, what happens to the ability of people and organizations to keep up in a productive, engaged and focused state of well-being?

Sustainability is defined as the ability to maintain a certain rate or level. While often associated with environmental factors, sustainability applies in the broadest sense to individual, team, corporate and societal performance. How can organizations maintain pace, productivity and desired outcomes without losing sight of health, well-being, quality of life, quality of products/services, quality of relationships and the importance of the most basic human interactions? Effectively addressing each of these areas results in human capital sustainability.

Defining one’s individual purpose — and understanding an organization’s or initiative’s broader purpose — begins to create a greater sense of clarity, confidence in tomorrow and an appetite for broader, longer-lasting impact.

In the July 2018 issue of Workspan, in “Purpose, Certainty and Modernized Total Rewards in an Era of Disruption,” the authors addressed the paradox that society faces between the continuously increasing rate of change and, simultaneously, people’s increasing need for certainty — a craving for a sense of affirmation that tomorrow will be OK despite ongoing disruption. With this desire for certainty comes a desire for purpose — an understanding of the “why.” Why are we here? Why are we doing this? Defining one’s individual purpose — and understanding an organization’s or initiative’s broader purpose — begins to create a greater sense of clarity, confidence in tomorrow and an appetite for broader, longer-lasting impact. In turn, this sets the stage for organizations to create programs that support a sustainable work ecosystem not only for today’s talent, but also for the talent of tomorrow.


In “The Future Is Now: Work and Rewards in Evolved Organizations,” published in the March 2018 issue of Workspan, the efforts by evolved organizations to modernize their talent value propositions and total rewards programs was discussed. These modernization efforts continue to develop — with strong interest coming from boards and the C-suite — and are centered on three data-driven themes that focus on talent and performance sustainability:

  • Purpose: Purpose-driven companies outperform the market by 42%, according to the Conference Board Global Leadership Forecast, and institutional investors have taken notice.
  • Well-Being: The cost of ill-being is $2.2 trillion annually in the U.S. (12% of GDP), according to the Global Wellness Institute. Other reports put the number at more than $3 trillion annually.
  • Dignity: Roughly 60 million individuals in the U.S. have faced some form of harassment, according to the RFK Foundation Workplace Dignity Initiative. One in three workers is unsure whether it’s safe to speak up at work, and one in three women (ages 18 to 25) reported having been sexually harassed. 98% of employees acknowledged being a victim of workplace bullying at some point in their working life. Add to this the impact of dignity erosion that comes from job displacement, where long-tenured talent is losing -- and will continue to lose -- jobs as a result of AI, automation, robotics and the overall changing nature of work.

In this article, published in the May 2019 issue of Workspan magazine, John Bremen and Amy Devylder Levanat discuss these trends that have motivated organizations to focus on a more deliberate and personalized talent experience.

The article is reproduced here with the permission of WorldatWork.

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