United Kingdom

Benefits trends: reviewing and communicating total reward

Helen Payne, Strategic Consultant
Sarah Robson, Strategic Consultant

In our fast paced and ever-changing world where people change jobs every five years on average1 and recruiters can send messages to your employees 24/7, ensuring that your employees understand the total value of their package has never been more important.

Woman on a laptop

According to Aon’s Benefits and Trends Survey 2020, the top three reasons employers gave for wanting to increase their employees’ understanding of total reward were to:

  • Increase awareness and engagement
  • Get employees to appreciate the total value of their benefits
  • Improve retention rates

We work with a wide variety of organisations across all sectors and sizes, and we encounter the same issue time and time again:

Employees don’t know what benefits they have and don’t appreciate the value of them.

Communicating total reward is important; employees can be tempted to move employer for very little increase in actual salary and sometimes what you find is that they don't appreciate the wider picture of how much their benefits they get are worth.

It can be quite alarming given the amount firms spend on benefits and rewards to how little awareness employees have of their total value. Employees who have access to TRS (total reward statement) have a more transparent view of their overall package – with a clear overview of their companies’ investment in benefits. Sharing all this information in one place via TRS drives benefits and wellbeing engagement – and can help to boost retention.

So, how can employers effectively communicate total reward?

Be strategic

As with any project, employers need to look at what they’re trying to achieve before developing to a solution. Total reward statements can be used to improve employee satisfaction and retention generally, but can also help resolve specific challenges, such as:

  • Retaining employees in a specific business area with high turnover
  • Reducing large numbers of benefit queries to HR
  • Countering negative messages, such as pay freezes
  • Harmonisation of benefits post merger

A well-designed total reward statement could help address all these issues.

However, there is a need to be honest. Companies need to make sure they are offering something in line with or, ideally, better than the market. Benefits benchmarking can help provide insight on how companies are positioned. Then, they need to showcase it effectively – if the organization is only offering statutory benefits, then a total reward statement is probably not the right solution.

Use the right tools

Making information as accessible as possible drives employee engagement. This is often more easily achievable with digital methods as employees are increasingly use their personal devices to access work-related benefits.

Almost one fifth of employers who responded to the Benefits and Trends Survey still communicate their total reward statements via paper (16%). This may be the right approach if the company has a large offline population or has data to show that a document sent to home addresses would have a bigger impact.

Unsurprisingly, on the whole, the use of digital total reward statements is increasing. Around 37% of employers communicate total reward online via a website and 9% via online via an app. We are also seeing the early adoption of total reward videos, which we think could be the next big trend.

Make an emotional impact

To make an emotional impact, messages and timing of total reward statements are key. Some benefits, such as agile working and onsite facilities are hard to put a value on – but provide a real differentiator so need to be included in the total reward message.

Keep the message simple; too many technical details make people switch off and put the information to one side to read later. Whereas reading or watching something personalized with visuals – like infographics or a video – is more impactful.

We need to move away from traditional dry and boring benefit communications.

TRS is highly likely to stay around, however it may evolve into including even more in the statement. Employees are redefining what ‘benefits’ are and we are seeing more holistic views of what the overall rewarding experience is like working for a company – including salary, pension and benefits – but also including non-traditional benefits such as dress down, flexible working and other more modern benefits in the workplace.

Making an emotional connection can also help convey the true benefit of your reward package. You’ve got to make employees understand why a benefit is important. A testimonial from a colleague about how their health screening helped them identify a problem early and do something about before they became ill is much more impactful than just saying you get an annual funded health screening.

Measure success

A big advantage of presenting total reward digitally is that success can be more easily tracked. With paper-based communications, you can’t tell how many people have opened it. You don’t know who's read it, and you don't have a clue what they've done because of it. With a digital method, it is much easier to demonstrate return on investment by seeing who has watched or read it.

The final step is changing employee behavior as a result of total reward communication.

With a personalised video we can embed a link within the video itself, when an employee clicks on the link it takes them to the benefit portal where they can make choices, for example increasing pension contributions.

As well as these quantitative methods of measuring success, you can ask employees for feedback using surveys and focus groups. Ultimately, you know that total reward communications have been successful when they make a positive change to employee behavior that impacts the original objectives set out at the start of the project.

Make mental health a key focus for your organisation - take survey


For more information or to discuss any of the issues outlined in this article, please get in touch by emailing us at [email protected] or call us on 0344 573 0033.


Aon UK Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England and Wales. Registered number: 00210725. Registered Office: The Aon Centre, The Leadenhall Building, 122 Leadenhall Street, London EC3V 4AN.