Benefits Evolution—Easing Clients into Total Rewards Transformation Through Stakeholder Buy-In

The manner in which company benefits are viewed by both employers and employees continues to evolve, and the demands from both for exceptional delivery of service continues to increase.  To answer this call, consultants are increasingly delivering benefits consulting capability from a holistic perspective. Total rewards, which encompasses compensation, health benefits, retirement benefits, and employee experience, among other factors, has become the norm for many companies.  

In the war for talent, benefits packages can make or break a company’s success in its recruitment capability.  However, not all companies are prepared to take on the holistic transformation often needed to achieve gold standard rewards offerings. As such, consultants geared toward the development of total rewards must also tread cautiously with clients not quite prepared to undertake that level of transformation.  Stakeholder buy-in for successful implementation of total rewards is key, and forced change without an evolution of client mindset can lead to failure.

Leaders in benefits consulting services recognize the need to be holistic, yet discrete. A broad sword, and also a scalpel. Indeed, benefits consulting client engagements are often still discrete in their desires.  Clients may seek to just alter their retirement benefits while leaving compensation strategies the same, or alter health benefits offerings without interest in development of wellness programs. Often, clients do not come to consulting firms seeking a full revamp of all benefits, as it can be a massive and daunting undertaking.  

So how do consultants get their clients into the total rewards transformation mindset? Incrementally.  Savvy consultants assist clients by understanding what they want, and translating those wants into what the client actually needs. A pitfall consultants must be wary of is overwhelming clients that have a singular objective by jumping right into total transformation of a massive part of their internal operations and employee offerings.  In order to avoid this, while at the same time slowly shifting client mindsets about benefits transformation, leaders of consulting services demonstrate process and cost optimization in benefits through small steps.  

If a client seeks retirement benefits strategy alteration, consultants provide it, while at the same time showing how, in minor transformative ways, cost savings can be realized through increased transparency, shared services, or other small innovations that are easily implemented.  

Demonstrated value add of transformation in benefits through small change, low risk strategies whets the appetite of clients. The appeal of potentially considerable cost savings by taking minor transformative strategies and applying them to other benefits areas becomes more readily received through this method, and consulting engagements achieved through this manner often evolve into that holistic transformation opportunity, with a client fully engaged in the process and enthusiastic about the results.  

Total rewards from an employee offering and operational optimization standpoint can be very appealing on paper, but clients can still be reticent to undertake large-scale transformation, apprehensive of the risks and unsure of its efficacy for their specific business.  In taking the long road, demonstrating value in small increments, consultants can lead their clients to a total rewards transformation mindset, confident that stakeholder buy-in will ensure the effective adoption of the transformation and the success of the strategy.


Matthew Merker is a Senior Analyst, Management Consulting Research for ALM Intelligence and focuses on Operations and HR Benefits research.

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