Image shows Theresa Harkins-Schulz, Inspirus SVP of Product and Customer Experience, speaking at the Total Rewards conference in front of attendees.

4 Key Takeaways from Total Rewards 2024

June 3, 2024

Inspirus recently had the pleasure of attending the 2024 Total Rewards conference in Cincinnati, Ohio. This three-day conference brought together over 2,000 HR professionals to explore and educate the latest Total Rewards trends and insights.

Throughout the conference, we were impressed by the esteemed speakers and sessions WorldatWork organized, including our own Theresa Harkins-Schulz, whose session, “How an Impactful Employee Recognition Program Deepened White Castle’s Employee Engagement,” received high praise and sparked engaging discussions. 

As an exhibitor at the conference, we had the opportunity to connect with many Total Rewards professionals across varying industries, gaining valuable insights into how human resources (HR) professionals and leaders are navigating the challenges of today’s modern workforce. We’re excited to share these new learnings with our clients and community to support them with building thriving workplaces. Here were the hottest trends we heard in our discussions: 

Key Takeaway #1: HR is Buried in Administrative Tasks

Throughout our many conversations at the conference, we repeatedly heard one challenge: total rewards and other HR professionals are bogged down by program administration. The day-to-day responsibilities of HR professionals often include managing employee benefits, processing payroll, handling compliance issues, and coordinating various reward and recognition programs, among many more. Each of these tasks, while critical, involves meticulous attention to detail and tedious processes. As organizations scale, the complexity of implementing and maintaining these programs and processes also increases. 

Recognizing this challenge, HR professionals are seeking innovative solutions to alleviate their administrative burden. New technologies, such as artificial intelligence (A.I.), and integrating HR platforms can aid HR professionals in automating these tedious tasks, freeing up their time so they can focus more of their time and energy on strategic initiatives.

Key Takeaway #2: There is a Need for Robust Analytics and Reporting to Connect Initiatives to Business Outcomes

HR initiatives are essential for fostering a positive workplace culture where employees can thrive. However, in times of economic uncertainty, these programs are often scrutinized for their cost-effectiveness. As we navigate this economic downturn, many HR professionals are being tasked with demonstrating how their initiatives and programs impact their company’s business results.

This emphasizes the need for robust analytics and reporting capabilities. When HR professionals have access to real-time analytics and reporting, they are better equipped to align their initiatives with the strategic goals of the organization. With these key insights, they can move beyond anecdotal evidence and present compelling data-driven stories that highlight the success and return on investment (ROI) of their programs.

Key Takeaway #3: Manager and Leadership Involvement is Challenging but Key to Program Success

Throughout our discussion at Total Rewards, it became clear that engaging managers and leaders is both a persistent challenge and a critical factor in the success of HR initiatives. Total Rewards professionals spend much time identifying, organizing, and maintaining programs to help support their people and company. The problem is some of these programs can only go so far without the active participation of managers and leaders. Why? Because their participation signals to employees that these initiatives are important and valuable.

Many HR professionals are searching for strategies to proactively get managers and leaders to support and participate in their initiatives. As mentioned in takeaway #2, utilizing platforms that provide real-time analytics can empower HR teams to validate and communicate the importance of their programs to help get buy-in from key stakeholders.

Key Takeaway #4: Total Rewards Professionals are Searching for Strategies to Increase Program Adoption

With the current low unemployment rate of 3.9%, retention is a top business challenge in 2024. In fact, 60% of CEOs report retaining and engaging their employees is their top priority for 2024, according to a study by Chief Executive. Total Rewards professionals are supporting this mission by offering not only competitive salaries but also desirable employee perks.

The problem is: getting employees to utilize these various perks and benefits has proven to be challenging. For Total Rewards programs to be effective, employees must be aware of, understand, and use the benefits available to them. Unfortunately, we heard from many Total Rewards professionals that driving the adoption and usage of these programs can be difficult. 

Addressing Today’s Challenges with Employee Recognition

At the Total Rewards 2024 conference, our own Theresa Harkins-Schulz took the stage to share the latest insights and findings on how employee recognition is driving tangible results and empowering organizations to combat today’s challenges.

Here are the highlights from her sessions:

Addressing Burnout: The Impact of Recognition on Employee Experience and Retention

Burnout is rampant in 2024. Research from Aflac reports that almost three-quarters of employees are experiencing at least moderate stress, and over half (57%) are experiencing moderate burnout.

Burnout is a state of physical, emotional, or mental exhaustion caused by prolonged stress, often related to work or personal life. In today’s fast-paced, always-connected world, individuals face increasing demands and pressures, making them more susceptible to burnout. Factors like remote work, extended work hours, and blurred boundaries have contributed to this issue.

When employees feel burnt out, they are less likely to be engaged, perform their best at work, feel a sense of belonging, and stay committed to an organization. That’s why tackling burnout head-on is critical.

Although combatting burnout requires a multi-faceted approach, one effective strategy that organizations can use is implementing recognition programs. When done right, these programs will celebrate all the moments that matter most to employees, increasing their satisfaction at work and fostering a stronger sense of purpose and belonging. These two factors are key to proactively preventing and addressing burnout.

For more information on how recognition combats burnout, download the presentation here.

How an Impactful Employee Recognition Program Deepened White Castle’s Employee Engagement

Chip Stalter, the Director of Compensation at White Castle, teamed up with Theresa Harkins-Schulz at Total Rewards to discuss the remarkable success White Castle has experienced in improving employee engagement through comprehensive recognition programs. 

White Castle, a renowned fast-food chain in the United States with over 10,000 team members, partnered with Inspirus to strategically implement recognition programs aligned with its four core values – results driven, family inclusive, continuous crave, and moment motivated.

Since implementing Inspirus, Stalter has witnessed a direct correlation between sending employees recognition for their milestones, achievements, and life occasions and increasing employees’ engagement and productivity.

For more information on how White Castle improved engagement with recognition, download the presentation here.

If you are interested in learning how you can drive positive business outcomes through employee engagement and recognition strategies, book some time with our specialists to see how we can help you elevate the employee experience and drive real change within your organization.

Graphic shows an image of Inspirus Connects Celebrates on the left. On the right, it says" Employee Rewards Made Easy. Recognize and reward the moments that matter most in the employee experience. With Inspirus Connects, you can: offer rewards from 2,500+ brands, send a customized digital card, automate reward distribution. Streamline rewards with Inspirus."