Benefits and Compensation

Comprehensive ‘Total Rewards’ Survey Details Employers’ Use of Various Programs

The relative popularity and effect of 176 different types of employee rewards programs were detailed in a survey by the Human Resources (HR) association WorldatWork. Inventory of Total Rewards Programs & Practices compiles the results of a 2016 survey that yielded responses from 730 organizations in the United States, Canada, and elsewhere.


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“This is the most comprehensive prevalence survey that WorldatWork has ever done, and it provides a broad look at what total rewards programs are being offered today,” said Alison Avalos, WorldatWork senior manager for research and certification, in announcing the results. “This will become an annual survey, allowing our membership and total rewards professionals to follow trends in total rewards program usage by major industry, sector, and company size.”

The total rewards examined in the survey range from traditional benefits with nearly universal use, such as defined contribution plans (98%) and dental plans (99%) to brand new boutique financial wellness ideas such as student loan debt repayment (4%).

The report classifies respondents by size, sector, and location, along with metrics such as voluntary turnover, labor costs, and employee engagement. More than two-thirds are in the private sector (split about evenly between publicly traded and privately held companies), with the remainder consisting of nonprofits (16%) and public-sector entities (14%).

Categories of rewards, each broken down by percentage adoption within size and industry categories, include:

  • Health and wellness plans;
  • Paid and unpaid time off;
  • Retirement benefits;
  • Other benefits and perquisites;
  • Base pay policies;
  • Bonuses, commissions, and other incentives;
  • Recognition awards;
  • Development opportunities;
  • Caring for dependents;
  • Culture initiatives and community involvement;
  • Financial wellness programs; and
  • Workplace flexibility.

For example, 74% of respondents indicated they offer free parking or a parking subsidy, and 45% offer commuter/transportation benefits. Company cars were offered by 42% of the organizations surveyed, and car allowances by 51%.

In the wellness area, 65% of respondents offered a participatory wellness program, 32% offered an outcome-based program, and 63% offered health coaching. Most offer a health risk assessment and/or biometric screening, and 27% indicated they are using wearable technology to encourage wellness results.

“The current workplace landscape is competitive, and it is more important than ever for employers to develop total rewards packages that attract high quality candidates and drive employee satisfaction and engagement,” said Greg Wolf, managing principal at Compdata Surveys & Consulting, which collaborated on the study. “An understanding of current market trends is the baseline HR professionals need to develop the right combination of total rewards to satisfy their organizations’ needs.”

The demographics of the survey sample and respondents are similar to WorldatWork’s membership as a whole, according to the report. The typical WorldatWork member works at the managerial level or higher in the headquarters of a large North American company.