What are the new business melodies orchestrating reward management?

Learning lessons from 25 years of the Centre for Excellence in Strategic Rewards

Xavier Baeten

By Xavier Baeten

Professor of Reward & Sustainability

01 July 2022

In 1996, Professor Xavier Baeten founded the Centre for Excellence in Strategic Rewards as an inspiring network that helps reward and HR professionals explore the broad spectrum of reward management and helps them futureproof their reward policy. During a celebration for the 25th anniversary of the Centre, over 100 HR and Comp & Ben leaders gathered to take a deep dive into the transforming business context and its implications for reward management. The main takeaways were summarised in a white paper.

25 years of the Centre for Excellence in Strategic Rewards

Reward management – get out of your comfort zone

Ivan De Witte, CEO of our Chair Partner Hudson, brought in interesting insights on how to reward football players from his role as Chairman of KAA Gent. Companies are losing their best people, moving away and earning up to 20% more somewhere else. Our traditional systems of remuneration are too old-fashioned to deal with this challenge. According to Ivan De Witte, football teaches us that short-term bonuses are more motivating, whilst long-term bonuses are more based on retention and only work for C-level. He also talked about the paradox of fairness: the more unequal you pay talent, the more you can drive the organisation towards equality.

3 challenges in reward management

Over the last 10 years, companies have invested to design a (formal) reward strategy, and it became a strategic topic in the boardroom. The biggest struggle, yet at the same time the most important achievement, is that CEOs and executive committees are now convinced that reward policies are an important lever to realise their mission. This requires a broader skill set from reward professionals than merely technical expertise. Xavier Baeten (Professor of Reward and Sustainability at Vlerick Business School) and Bert De Greve (Director Talent Management at Hudson) see 3 challenges:

  • Invite all stakeholders to the table
  • Convince your CEO to pay more to fewer people
  • Move towards purposeful rewards

3 dichotomies in reward management

During a panel discussion, Professor Xavier Baeten debated with experts from the field at argenx, Orange Belgium and Claeys & Engels on 3 dichotomies:

  1. Personal approach versus standardisation
  2. Collective recognition versus individual differentiation
  3. Rewarding now versus rewarding in the future

Refreshing practices on non-financial rewards in a fast-growing organisation

Finally, Nele Van Damme and Sofie Liekens from Upgrade Estate talked about how they engage, value and reward their diverse workforce of some 110 employees.

  • People work for money, ... but show loyalty when they feel trusted, connected and recognised
  • Lifelong learning in the Upgrade Academy is an all-you-can-eat buffet of learning content that makes the investment tangible.
  • Stimulate bottom-up innovation and let people shine and take leadership.

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Xavier Baeten

Xavier Baeten

Professor in Reward & Sustainability