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The Great Evolution of Total Rewards Programs in the Midwest: Trends and Statistics

In the ever-changing landscape of human resources, Total Rewards Programs have become a pivotal aspect of employee satisfaction and retention. For HR leaders at privately-held companies in the Midwest, understanding the evolution of these programs is crucial for maintaining a competitive edge. Total Rewards Programs encompass everything from compensation, benefits, work-life balance, recognition, and career development opportunities. Here is a look at how these themes have evolved over time and the current trends shaping the future of Total Rewards.


Initially, Total Rewards Programs were heavily skewed towards compensation and traditional benefits like health insurance and retirement plans. In the 1980s and 1990s, the primary focus was on competitive salaries and standard benefits. Companies aimed to attract talent by offering the most substantial financial packages. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 1990, nearly 80% of private industry workers had access to employer-sponsored health insurance and retirement plans.

Shift Towards Holistic Approaches

Entering the 2000s, the emphasis began shifting towards a more holistic approach. This period marked the introduction of wellness programs, flexible work arrangements, and more personalized benefits packages. A survey by World at Work in 2005 found that 53% of companies had implemented wellness programs, reflecting a growing recognition of employee health and well-being as a crucial component of Total Rewards.

The Rise of Work-Life Balance

Moving into the 2010s, work-life balance became a major theme. The explosion of technology enabled remote work and flexible schedules, which became highly valued by employees. The 2019 Gallup State of the American Workplace report highlighted that 54% of employees would leave their job for one that offers more flexible work time. This trend pushed companies to innovate their Total Rewards Programs to include remote work options, flexible hours, and greater support for family and personal life.

The Impact of COVID-19

COVID accelerated many of these trends, forcing companies to rethink their Total Rewards strategies. Remote work became a necessity rather than a perk, and mental health support emerged as a critical component. A 2021 survey by Mercer showed that 94% of employers made changes to their health and well-being offerings in response to the pandemic. There was a significant increase in the provision of mental health resources, with 88% of  companies expanding these benefits.

Current Trends and Future Directions

Today, Total Rewards Programs are more dynamic and personalized than ever. Key trends include:

  • Personalization and Choice: Employees now expect customized benefits packages that cater to their individual needs.
  • Focus on Mental Health: Mental health support has become a non-negotiable aspect of Total Rewards.
  • Increased Financial Wellness Programs: With rising financial stress among employees, financial wellness programs are gaining traction.
  • Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility : Companies that actively engage in sustainability and community-focused efforts see higher employee satisfaction.

The evolution of Total Rewards Programs reflects broader societal changes and the shifting priorities of the workforce. For HR leaders in the Midwest, staying abreast of these trends and continuously adapting their strategies is essential. By offering a comprehensive, personalized, and values-driven Total Rewards Program, companies can not only attract top talent but also foster a loyal and motivated workforce.

For more insights on how to develop and refine your Total Rewards Program, feel free to contact us.