guestXM – by Black Box Intelligence

How to Develop a New Strategy for Total Rewards

It's 2018, and it's time for restaurants to break away from traditional thinking and develop new total rewards programs that fit employees' needs.

Revolutionizing Employee Engagement: Tailoring Total Rewards for Maximum Impact

Employee engagement isn’t just a number anymore. It’s a powerful metric that drives your company’s profitability, customer satisfaction, brand, and reputation. Employees require purpose at work and support in their personal lives. Meanwhile, executives must balance this need against shareholder value and profits.

It’s time for us to break away from traditional thinking and realize that total rewards are no longer a one-size-fits-all proposition. Here are some total reward options that can serve a wide range of employees’ needs.

Easy Total Rewards Programs

There’s usually a lot of low-hanging fruit in our organizations. It’s right there in the field, ready to be picked. But you’ll never find the orchard if you don’t leave the corporate office. Programs that work for executives, GMs, and corporate employees probably won’t work for an hourly employee who works in your restaurant.

Simply ask your employees for some suggestions of basic solutions that would make a difference for them. The best way to do this is in focus groups. Go visit a team, or have representatives come to the corporate office for a special meeting. If you have a large organization, consider a pulse survey at a select number of locations. For easy fixes, ask survey questions about having the right tools for the job, uniform comfort, innovation, and basic work/life issues.

Here are some examples of what simple conversations or surveys may yield:

  • Bus passes
  • Discounted gym memberships
  • Rewards for suggestions
  • Extra rewards for suggestions that are implemented
  • Candygrams for peer-to-peer recognition
  • Company branded “bucks” that managers/peers can give out to recognize and reward excellence, assistance, etc. This program will help your managers focus on catching people doing things right, instead of focusing on what’s going wrong. You can even measure it by how much “currency” is rewarded over some time. Employees can trade those bucks in for company-logoed merchandise, gift cards, etc.


Whatever you do, take action on the focus group or survey. If you can’t implement something, explain why. Post the suggestions and assign them a color (red/yellow/green) depending on their feasibility (impossible/in progress/completed). And, don’t forget to use your focus group participants as program ambassadors to promote buy-in. After all, it was their idea to begin with.

Moderately Difficult Programs

These options may be a little more complex to implement or could require a bit more budgeting.

These programs support education initiatives:

  • College Gateway for America offers low or no-cost degrees by using federal aid dollars. This is an excellent option instead of traditional tuition reimbursement.
  • Consider implementing a student loan reimbursement
  • Help employees get connected with the right resources for financial planning, navigating the college application process, and other help through Get Schooled.
  • Consider offering English or Spanish as a second language. Rosetta Stone has an effective enterprise system.

Innovative pay and benefits initiatives might include:

  • Pay employees at the end of each shift with Instant. This process can also help minimize manager’s involvement in payday issues and also minimizes the risk of keeping cash on the premises to pay servers.
  • Assistance for parents, including adoption assistance, donor leave, fertility benefits, paid maternity leave, and breast milk shipping.
  • Insufficient sleep quantity/quality can lead to issues at work and beyond, so consider offering sleep studies.


Purpose-Driven Options

Laurence D. Fink, the founder and chief executive of BlackRock, recently informed business leaders that their companies need to be profitable and contribute to society if they want to receive BlackRock’s support. You can meet Mr. Fink’s challenge by finding a place for charitable giving in your total rewards strategy.

Work and life are inextricably linked, and employees want solutions that support their whole life. They also want their lives and work to be purpose-driven. Here are options that support employees’ charitable contributions and are very personalized:

  • Help your employees support their alma maters by providing matching gifts to educational institutions.
  • Encourage participation in charities by offering matching gifts and grants:
    • Offer matching gifts for charitable contributions to qualifying organizations.
    • Offer employees the opportunity to apply for grants for volunteering time to a qualifying charitable organization
    • Offer your volunteer leaders who serve on the board of directors of a qualifying organization the opportunity to apply for grants, secure donations in kind, and/or a matching gift program.


Cutting Edge Options

These solutions may be a bit more complex, but they’re not impossible.

  • Establish a 503(c) for scholarships for employees and their children, or to support community initiatives.
  • Allow employees to donate their PTO to other employees who need more time off due to a personal or health issue.
  • Offer pay instead of time off.


Look outside your traditional industry for other options. Many service, retail, and tech organizations have used these programs for over 20 years. With some research, networking, and input from your employees, you can create a winning strategy for total rewards that drives retention and engagement.

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