The Six Big “C’s” of Total Rewards

Another year, another Total Rewards conference ended. Also another chance to indulge in my favorite post-conference pastime, looking back and trying to tease out key themes and takeaways.

As a presenter this year, and with a few related obligations, I didn’t get to as many sessions as I would have liked – but I dedicated my travel time home from Orlando to looking through the handouts from a number of those I missed in an effort to upload as much conference information as possible.

And so, I present my take – and the six C’s of total rewards.

  • Communication. Of course, this was the lead theme for me and my Compensation Cafe colleagues Dan Walter and Margaret O’Hanlon as we made our case that Everything We Do in Compensation is Communication during our own conference session. I also noted a few other presenters, particularly those sharing case studies, highlighting an effort to embed communication earlier in the reward process. We can, and must, get better at this. Particularly interesting was the fact that several presenters, including Pat Flume from PwC, who shared her firm’s journey to redesign its reward and recognition efforts, talked about engaging with the external media as a key communication step. More on that in an upcoming post.
  • Careers. What does it take to be a total rewards superstar? As part of the conference, WorldatWork rolled out the results of a new census of the profession, aimed at answering the question what differentiates top performers among total rewards professionals? If you haven’t yet had a chance to check it out, get the report and results here. Very interesting reading.
  • Contextual and Conditional. Data provided by Kenexa and discussed in the session Why is Compensation Foundational to a Great People Strategy highlighted the fact that pay matters – a lot – but it matters in the context of (and the success/satisfaction it delivers is conditional on) other elements and intangibles, from exciting work to education/career growth to being part of an environment of truth.
  • Careful and Committed. Several presenters emphasized the importance of a careful, well-planned and committed process in order to take an organization to a new reward state. Key advice from Delta Emerson from Ryan LLC who presented Converting a Culture: Shifting Focus from Face Time to Results: “Measure twice, cut once” and “Do not panic or abandon the plan at the first sign of trouble.” We must learn to have faith in ourselves and in the journeys we undertake to make rewards better.

On a different and final note, I so enjoyed the chance to reconnect with many old friends, make a few new ones, and go face-to-face with several people I’d only known “virtually” before. Special shouts out to Compensation Cafe alumnae Doug Sayed and Becky Regan.

And – of course – it was a blast to hang out and present with colleagues Dan and Margaret.

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Another great conference!

This was originally published on Ann Bares’ Compensation Force blog.

Ann Bares is the Managing Partner of Altura Consulting Group. She has over 20 years of experience consulting in compensation and performance management and has worked with a variety of organizations in auditing, designing and implementing executive compensation plans, base salary structures, variable and incentive compensation programs, sales compensation programs, and performance management systems.

Her clients have included public and privately held businesses, both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations, early stage entrepreneurial organizations and larger established companies. Ann also teaches at the University of Minnesota and Concordia University.

Contact her at


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