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The Impact of Rewards Programs on Employee Engagement

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  • Dow Scott, Ph.D., Loyola UniversityTom McMullen, Hay Group

    WorldatWorkJune 2010

    The Impact of Rewards Programs on

    Employee Engagement



  • 2010 WorldatWork Any laws, regulations or other legal requirements noted in this publication are, to the best of the publishers knowledge, accurate and current as of this reports publishing date. WorldatWork is providing this information with the understanding that WorldatWork is not engaged, directly or by implication, in rendering legal, accounting or other related professional services. You are urged to consult with an attorney, accountant or other qualified professional concerning your own specific situation and any questions that you may have related to that.

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  • WorldatWorkSurvey of Rewards and Employee Engagement


    The Impact of Rewards Programs on Employee Engagement June 2010 Dow Scott, Loyola University Chicago Tom McMullen, Hay Group Mark Royal, Hay Group Mel Stark, Hay Group WorldatWork INTRODUCTION In response to the economic crisis, employers are concerned about keeping employees engaged after they have suffered through wage freezes, lost bonuses, increased work demands and downsizing. Motivating employees under these circumstances while recognizing that once the economy improves top talent may leave for other opportunities has created a new corporate battle cry: employee engagement. Although a variety of definitions can be found, employee engagement is typically described as a high level of employee involvement, commitment to the organization and job satisfaction. Engaged employees value, enjoy and have pride in their work. They are more willing to help each other and the organization succeed; take additional responsibility; invest more effort in their jobs; share information with other employees; and remain with the organization than employees who are less engaged (Lazear 1989; LePine, Erez and Johnson 2002; Riketta 2002, 2008). Finally, employee engagement and related variables, such as commitment and cooperation, have been found to be associated with organization performance (Harter, Schmidt and Killham 2003; Macey and Schneider 2008; Schneider, Macey, Barbera and Young 2009) Although the primary focus of engagement efforts has mostly been on team-building programs, employee opinion surveys and nonfinancial rewards, egalitarian pay structures have been found to be related to employee cooperation, involvement, satisfaction and commitment (Bloom and Michael 2002; Levine1991; and Pfeffer and Langton 1999), all of which have been used as proxies for employee engagement. However, these studies do not examine specific pay practices used by compensation professionals or attempt to relate pay programs specifically to employee engagement. The authors survey explores this gap and determines how total rewards programs and employee engagement are related. It also helps determine whether total rewards programs are associated with organization performance by focusing on the following:

    Which reward policies and practices are associated with employee engagement? Does involvement in the development of pay programs enhance employee engagement? Is employee engagement associated with organization performance?

  • METHODOLOGY A sample of 6,300 WorldatWork members, primarily total rewards professionals, was invited to participate in The Impact of Rewards Programs on Employee Engagement study. The survey was open from Dec. 15, 2009 through Jan. 12, 2010. A reminder to complete the survey was e-mailed half way through the survey period and again just before the survey closed. The survey required approximately 15 minutes to complete. There were 736 WorldatWork member respondents from around the world; the 12% response rate is considered good for a survey of this type. As shown in Figures 1 and 2, respondent demographics indicated a diverse sample that represented small to large companies from many different industries. However, the diversity of respondents from other countries was limited, and the breakdown mirrored the WorldatWork membership proportions of the countries represented. The majority of respondents represented organizations from the United States (55%). Canada and Western Europe had the next largest representation at 7% and 4%, respectively. There were few respondents from the United Kingdom, Eastern Europe, Asia-Pacific and the Middle East. And several respondents did not specify a country. Participating organizations were fairly evenly distributed by size. Approximately 19% of organizations had less than 1,000 employees; 20% had between 1,000 and less than 5,000 employees; 18% had between 5,000 and less than 20,000 employees, 14% had 20,000 employees or more.

    Figure 1: Survey Respondents by Organization Size (Number of Employees)






  • Figure 2 shows a diverse range of industries represented by the respondents. The largest representation was from professional, scientific and technical services (17%), followed by finance and insurance (10%), manufacturing (10%), and health care and social assistance (7%).

    Figure 2: Survey Respondents by Industry

    The research findings are presented in Tables 1 through 5, which group the statements to which participants responded into variables. This grouping was based on similarity of content and analyses indicating that the compensation professionals responded to the statements in a similar way. Each table reports the individual statement that made up the variable, the mean (average score) and the percentage of compensation professionals that responded to each answer choice. Factor and coefficient alpha analyses were used to determine the degree to which the statements that make up the variable were related (Questions related to these analyses can be directed to authors Royal and Scott.) Each table also presents mean (average score) for the variable, standard deviation and the coefficient alpha. A coefficient alpha score above .7 indicates a strong relationship among the statements. In other words, respondents who either agreed or did not agree with one statement tended to respond in a similar manner to the other statements defined by the variable. Table 6 shows a correlation matrix based on variables listed in Tables 1 through 5 and some individual statements to which the compensation professionals responded. Table 6 also reports the descriptive name of the variable or individual statement. These statements are numbered so the correlation between variables can be identified in subsequent columns. In the diagonal, the scores in parentheses are the coefficient alpha scores indicating how related the statements were which made up the variable for the correlation matrix (also shown in Tables 1 through 5). The statements in the variables can be found in Tables 1 through 5. Of course, the correlations for individual statements do not have a coefficient alpha score. Note that all correlation scores over .10 are significant.









  • FINDINGS Findings are presented in the following sections and in their respective tables:

    Encouraging Employee Engagement with Total Reward Policies and Programs Degree of Employee Engagement Impact of Total Rewards-Driven Employee Engagement Programs on Organization Performance Employee and Supervisor Involvement in the Development of Pay Programs.

    Encouraging Employee Engagement with Total Reward Policies and Programs As shown in Table 1, the extent to which organizations used methods to specifically engage employees varied considerably. For example, 44% of the organizations indicated that they explicitly included employee engagement in their organization strategy, whereas 31% said they did not. Seventeen percent were equivocal saying they neither agreed nor disagreed with the statement. However, 60% of the respondents indicated that they used variable pay to reward employee engagement; based on the authors experience, this seems high. Given its seeming popularity in the literature and press, it is surprising how few organizations have taken even basic steps to encourage employee engagement. As shown in Table 1, the respondents strongly agreed or agreed that:

    Engagement levels fostered by line managers are an important factor in evaluating their performance, (37%)

    Employee engagement performance metrics are incorporated into variable pay programs in our organization, (60%)

    Our organization has a specific definition of employee engagement, (53%)

    Employee engagement is explicitly included in our organization strategy, (44%).

    The .80 coefficient alpha score indicates that organizations that take any one of these actions are likely to take the other actions as well to encourage employee engagement. By the same token, those that do not take one of these actions do not take other actions to encourage engagement. Furthermore, as shown in the correlation matrix reported in Table 6, organizations that follow these practices are more likely to indicate that their total rewards strategies are effectively engaging employees (r= .47); are more effective in fostering high levels of employee engagement and motivation (r = .