Revitalize your total rewards by clearing the clutter

Duplication, disconnects create confusion while eroding value

By Claudine Kapel

We all understand the principle of clearing clutter. You start by openly looking at what you have in place and asking some tough questions to identify what to keep, what to fix, and what to discard.

This exercise is not only good for getting rid of physical clutter – it can also help clear the detritus that may be undermining the value of your total rewards offering.

And as with any clutter-clearing exercise, when you identify and address what’s not really adding value, you create a shift that allows for time, attention and resources to be more effectively directed to the elements that offer the greatest benefit and return.

One simple test for clutter is to collect or be mindful of feedback or complaints from leaders, managers or employees about programs that seem unclear, overly complicated, administratively burdensome and/or just not adding value.

It helps to start with a complete inventory of the various programs, policies and practices in place today. It may surprise you to see just how many elements are on the list. As a first step, consider whether you may have too many programs trying to accomplish the same thing.

How many incentive plans do you have in place? What about performance management tools or competency models? Do you have multiple policies covering the same subject area?

Of course, sometimes it makes sense to have more than one program or policy. They may be tailored for different employee groups (salaried versus hourly) or tied to different types of desired results (annual incentives versus sales incentives).

But organizations sometimes add new programs or embellish existing ones in a bid to capture evolving performance expectations without necessarily trimming back on what was there before.

Over time, this can result in either very complex program designs or the creation of multiple programs with overlapping objectives, particularly with respect to compensation and performance management.

In such cases, the decluttering process can lead to programs being consolidated or simplified so they focus on the critical few things that matter most. This will make programs both easier to administer and easier to understand.

Sometimes a review of what’s in place today will highlight programs that have passed their best before date. These programs may have been effective in the past but have lost their alignment with evolving organizational objectives or business and market realities. As a result, they’re not helping the organization move forward and may not even be fully utilized.

Some programs may need to be refined or redesigned to bring them back into alignment. Others may need to be discarded as clutter.

Some key questions to consider include:

  • Do incentive plan designs and measures still make sense given today’s business objectives and priorities?
  • Has the base pay structure remained in step with organizational and market changes? Does it reflect the jobs in place today? Does it reflect competitive market practice?
  • Is the performance management process well utilized? Is it effectively connecting employees and the business? Are there any tools such as competency models that have grown dusty from lack of use?

While it takes time and effort to ensure an organization’s total rewards offering is firing on all cylinders, the space created by clutter clearing will help give rise to a more powerful and compelling employment proposition that is also easier to manage.

Claudine Kapel is principal of Kapel and Associates Inc., a Toronto-based human resources and communications consulting firm specializing in the design and implementation of compensation and total rewards programs. For more information, visit

Claudine Kapel

Claudine Kapel is principal of Kapel and Associates Inc., a human resources consulting firm specializing in compensation design, performance management, and employee communications. Claudine is also the co-author of The HR Manager’s Guide to Total Rewards and Straight Talk on Managing Human Resources.
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