Why You Should Present Total Compensation to Candidates

When working to recruit and retain nurses, it’s important to communicate why your organization is a desirable place to work.

One way to relay why you may be a more attractive choice than competitors, is to convey a full picture of all the perks you offer to employees.

Total compensation is also known as total rewards, as some in the recruiting profession use these terms interchangeably, said Frederick P. Morgeson, PhD, editor of the Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior and a Eli Broad Professor of Management at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich.

“The term total rewards is my professional preference as it provides a broader perspective,” Morgeson said. “Total compensation has more of a focus on pay — formal monetary base pay. Total rewards encompass not only salary — hourly, overtime and bonus pay or bonus structures — it also includes a portfolio of formal benefits, such as the healthcare plans being offered, vacation time given and flexibility in scheduling.”

Compensation is not just what you take home in your paycheck, said Sylvia V. Francis, CCP, SPHR, SCP, total rewards manager at the Regional Transportation District in Denver.

“All benefits that your employer offers to you have a cost, which the employer pays and is part of your annual compensation from the organization,” Francis said.

There are other benefits in addition to pay rates, health plans, vacation time and scheduling options.

“Additional benefits are short- and long-term disability plans that are being offered, matching contributions for 401k, 403b, 457b and 401a plans and pension plans, if applicable,” Francis said. “Generally, the cost of benefits equates to an additional 32% of compensation.”

Francis gives her recruiters the option to include a Candidate Total Compensation Statement when making a job offer.

“This has been a successful tool in closing the deal,” she said. “We also send out annual Total Compensation Statements to our current employees.”

Even though Francis’ organization does not recruit nurses, she said, “I find that just like everyone, base/incentive pay, health insurance and time off are the most important factors in snagging a candidate.”

Articulate informal rewards to candidates

Pay, benefits and scheduling are the formal side of the total compensation picture.

“There is a whole other element that is often neglected and overlooked,” Morgeson said. “That is the informal rewards an employer offers. Informal rewards, if they exist, need to be described when recruiting prospective job candidates and also communicated to existing employees. Then, you need to deliver them.”

Informal rewards are the characteristics of a job that enhance the enjoyment one derives from the work, Morgeson said.

He added the existence of a work environment that provides employees with the following qualities is essential for successful recruitment and retention:

  • Meaningful work that enhances employees’ self-respect and self-esteem
  • Employees who feel they make a difference and have a positive impact on their patients and others with their work
  • Engaged managers and supervisors who regularly provide feedback to employees about the quality of their work and tell them when they do a good job
  • Managers and supervisors who routinely relay to employees the positive impact they have on patients and others
  • Maintaining a staff of engaged workers, which creates a good team culture and positive work environment for everyone

“If you have informal rewards, you need to talk about them to potential job candidates and current employees, especially when competing with other organizations that may be offering higher pay for both new and experienced staff,” Morgeson said. “Doing so can help decrease nursing turnover and improve retention rates.”

Think out of the box about total compensation

Thinking broadly about your organization’s approach to creating a good work environment is also part of informal rewards.

“While some staff want to make their work their life, other staff members want to have more of a work-life balance,” Morgeson said. “This is where offering flexible scheduling can help. If you only offer set schedules for everyone, why can’t you offer flexible schedules to some staffers who want them?”

Morgeson advises organizations to examine why they continue to practice certain set schedules and protocols.

“If your answer is, ‘This is how we’ve always done it,’ this may not be the way you want to continue – especially if you have a turnover problem,” he said.

Even a small decrease in your turnover rate can save the organization money.

“Let’s say 100 people resign and 50% of this turnover is due to factors you cannot change, such as when staff move out of the area, or retire,” Morgeson said. “Of the other 50% of your staff that resign, you can possibly make in difference and decrease this number. If 50 people leave and it costs you $25,000 to replace each person, it adds up fast and becomes a large amount of money. If this 50% is leaving due to a poor work environment, bad managers and a lack of teamwork — these are things you can change and improve on.”

High turnover rates in the context of nursing is a big problem.

“We know from studies that high turnover adversely affects clinical outcomes for patients and increases readmission and mortality rates,” Morgeson said. “A lot of turnover leads to staff who don’t know each other as well, teamwork is not as good, communication and collaboration suffer, and temporary or new staff don’t know hospital systems as well.”

A challenge for recruiters is to clearly articulate the value proposition of the organization.

“You need to maintain an awareness of your local labor market, recruit well, consider the monetary and non-monetary rewards you offer, and communicate the value for prospective employees of coming to work with your organization,” Morgeson said.