May 5 2022

How to Get Credit for Non-Salary Benefits: The Total Rewards Statement

A couple weeks ago, I blogged about some innovations we’d made in People practices around basic benefits. But that post raised questions for me like “Why do you spend money on things like that when all people care about is their salary? When they get poached by another company, all they think of it the headline number of their base compensation, unless they’re in sales and think about their OTE.”

While that is hard to entirely argue against, one thing you can do as you layer in more and more benefits on top of base salary, you can, without too much trouble, produce annual “Total Rewards Statements” for everyone on your team. We did this at Return Path for several years when we got larger, and it was very effective.

The concept of the Total Rewards Statement is simple. At the beginning/end of the year, produce a single document for each employee – a spreadsheet, or a spreadsheet merged into a doc, that lists out all forms of cash compensation the employee received in the prior year and also has a summary of their equity holdings.

For cash compensation, start with base salary and any cash incentive comp plans. Add in all other classic benefits like the portion of the employee’s health insurance covered by the company, any transit benefits, gym memberships or wellness benefits, 401k match, etc. Add in any direct training and development expenses you tracked – specific stipends, training courses, conferences, education benefits, subscriptions, or professional memberships you sponsored the employee attending. All of that adds up to a much larger total than base salary.

If you have some other program like extensive universally available and universally consumed food in the office (or a chef, if you’re Google), you could even consider adding that to the mix, or perhaps having a separate section for things like that called “indirect benefits” so employees can see the expenses associated with perks and investment in their environment.

Finally, put together a summary of each employee’s equity. How many options are vested? Unvested and on what schedule? What’s the strike price? What’s the value of the equity as of the most recent financing? What’s the value of the equity at 3 other reasonable exit values? Paint the picture of what the equity is actually likely to be worth some day.

Yes, you could do these things and still lose an employee to Google or whoever offers them $50k more in base salary. It happens. But if you’re doing a great job with your culture and your business and people’s roles and engagement in general, having a Total Rewards Statement at least makes it easy for you to remind employees how much they *really* earn every year.