An employer’s cultural appeal – and its profitability – can suffer from implementing the wrong sort of reward. But finding and implementing the right compensation and benefits (C&B) strategy can improve your organisation’s brand as well as its bottom line.

That was the core message from an expert panel at the South China Morning Post’s recent HR conference in Hong Kong. The panel – comprising Professor S. Noorein Inamdar, associate professor of practice in management at CUHK Business School, Simon Gluyas, employee insights practice leader for talent & rewards at Willis Towers Watson, and Dr Alexander Chiu, chief operating officer of the newly opened Gleneagles Hospital in Hong Kong – agreed that C&B a useful tool for organisations and that good communication and transparency are essential.

One way HR can start building a strong C&B policy is by improving its communication with all levels of the organisation, said Professor Inamdar. HR can get ahead by partnering with the CEO and CFO on a strategic level so that it can take on a leading role.

“Learn how to partner with all the different departments. That way, you can serve them better,” she said.

HR should also communicate clearly to employees about all of the C&B benefits available to them, which will help encourage retention, she advised.

Transparency is key, agreed Gluyas, who said he had run numerous surveys on pay and found that a lack of clarity and understanding of pay structures can lead to dissatisfaction and perceived unfairness.

Chiu cited a practical example of instituting fairness. “Designated car parking is the worst thing ever,” he said. Doctors argue about whose space is covered and where the space is located. At Gleneagles, Chiu instigated a simple policy: all doctors get a parking space, but no-one gets a designated space.

The timing of communication is particularly important, especially in a new organisation, he added: “We try to resolve problems as soon as possible. If you don’t deal with it, it becomes bigger and bigger. Then it becomes the culture.”

C&B today operates in a wider social context where people have become used to personalised service and customisation in other areas of life, said Gluyas. That means reward needs to become more individualised and can no longer be a one-size-fits-all solution. He recommended policies that are very transparent, carry no surprises and that aim to support individual employees.

Showing personal concern can be more important than anything, said Chiu. He recounted an incident involving a staff member who was injured in a recent fire on Hong Kong’s MTR [underground rail]. Senior management visited the employee at the hospital where he was being treated, and the employee burst into tears with emotion.

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