Total rewards – what’s in there for you?

Total rewards – what’s in there for you?


BABU JOSE KALLIATH Human Resource Director Region Office Far East Countries

Novo Nordisk

The Indian economy has grown significantly over the last decade and offers many options to young professionals looking to chart a dynamic career. However, when I interact with many career aspirants in pharma and biotech sectors either currently working or studying to enter these sectors they seem to be unsure of their decision or reason to join / remain in a company.

What governs your decision today to join/remain in a company? Is it the compensation? Or is it career opportunities? Or the work culture or benefits provided by the organisation?

While pondering over this question you will realise that it is often difficult to single out on any one component individually. In reality it is often a combination of these components, which determine the complete satisfaction. It is the right mix and balance of these four components of total rewards namely compensation, benefits, career opportunities and training and work culture which leads to an engaging experience.

Total rewards perspective is where both the monetary and non monetary elements are considered as a return to the employees in exchange for their time, talents and efforts in driving business results in the company. It stems from the organisation vision and mission, its purpose and reason for existence. It is also strongly aligned to the business and people strategy.

While most companies offer most of these components within the total rewards philosophy, the difference is in the weightage/ importance given by each company to these individual components. An aspect that an employee needs to remember is that to implement each of these components it costs the organisation and therefore if an organisation is providing greater importance to compensation then it needs to balance its costs by cutting down on either benefits or career opportunities or training investments on employees. One of the common pitfalls that employees make during the early part of their careers is by being myopic to their short term needs (which in most cases would be compensation) and arriving at a decision rather than taking a balanced perspective to the total rewards.

To help understand the perspective of total rewards let’s compare this with an analogy of you taking a decision on which college to join for your higher studies.In your final decision towards deciding on the college, would you go by any one factor or a right mix of all four components; cost, benefits, career and learning and culture?

When companies choose to move beyond cash payments and look at employee rewards as an investment, they make the important shift by asking themselves, “What are we investing in? This often enables organisations to embrace a concept of total rewards and generate ideas that reinforce their core purpose as a company. A company in the pharma space has invested hugely in employee wellness and benefits, thereby tying in its rewards programme with its mission of ‘changing diabetes’.

Let’s understand these four components of total rewards

Culture: Work environment or work culture is usually an outcome of organisation’s management philosophy. Today biotech and pharma organisations are giving importance to work life balance, employee dialogue/feedback systems, encouraging diversity, emphasis on promotions for internal talents, importance not just to performance but also to process and employee’s development. While most career aspirants usually check on company ranking, products, sales turnover and salary quite often, it is the culture which is often neglected as they are less tangible and perceived as less important. However it is culture which impacts them most in their daily work environment. The other three components (compensation, benefits, career and training) impacts employees either monthly, quarterly or annually.

Comparing this with the analogy of the college, if you were studying in a college which had a non- supportive faculty coupled with an abusive learning culture and where decisions are made based on personal biases rather than merits. Would you be satisfied studying there inspite of the other three components present in adequate proportions?

Aspirants should ask the following questions:

  • What are the values of the company and how does the company ensure they are practiced rather than been preached?

  • What are the follow up and monitoring mechanisms in place to ensure that the culture is aligned?

  • Are the rewards and recognition programmes governed in a fair and transparent manner?

  • Is the promotional process merit-based?

  • How does the company ensure business ethics and morality in the workplace?

  • What are the exhibited behaviors of managers and senior management?

  • Is employee opinion and feedback solicited? Are they considered important?

  • Is time and energy invested towards improving the company culture?

Career and development:

A unique aspect with pharma sector is the immense opportunities it provides for career growth and the developmental initiatives driven by the organisation. There are many an example within the industry wherein people have joined organisations at the entry level (Medical Representative) and rose up to be the CEO of the same company. Today many an organisation is investing in career development programs, affiliations with business schools/ universities for distance learning courses and building robust process around capability building, talent management and succession planning.

In summary, the fundamental truth is that in all organisations ‘

X’ amount of money is earmarked for rewards, however is upon individual company’s discretion to decide whether they would invest the money into all four components or some of them and also in what proportions. This is a conscious decision you need to make before joining any organisation, as this will facilitate you having a fulfilling and life changing experience.