The Total Rewards Approach is Vital

I get a gift basket each year from my financial advisor, with something for everyone. My wife goes for the pistachios, I go for the chocolate-covered stuff, and my daughters pick away at all of it. Employers face the question of what to put into their rewards gift basket, given the available budget. We try to cater to all, don’t we? What is the key? We must consider the full spectrum, we must take the total rewards approach.

Total Rewards is everything an employee receives in return for their work. It includes compensation, benefits and a broad range of partially tangible and intangible rewards (such as work-life, recognition and growth opportunity) that enable organizations to attract and retain talent and align efforts behind the vision and mission and strategy. Why do we include intangible within rewards? One very big reason and one very small reason:

  1. Big psychological impact–consider the power of team recognition, being trusted to work flexibly, a learning opportunity, having a mentor, a respectable job title, being empowered. Lack of these accounts for a large number of resignations, agree?
  2. Very small cost–unlike salary, allowances, bonuses and incentives, health insurance and retirement which comprise the largest overhead expense category for most organizations, intangibles cost very little, sometimes nothing at all.

Total rewards concepts take compensation and benefits to a new level, building upon basic objectives (internally equitable and externally competitive, or attractive v affordable) to multi-dimensional, adding behavior change (join, stay, perform, grow, innovate, etc.) as specific outcomes to which specific reward practices can be aligned. How do we compete for talent without getting into a salary “bidding war” which no one can afford? The answer is: take the total rewards approach. You still must compete on salary, but for many people, the benefits, work-life and other areas can be a tie-breaker as long as pay is “enough.”

Sopar Marpaung, CTRP, Head of Human Resources at Indonesian steel maker Gunung Raja Paksi says “In traditional minds of people, the talents will still look at the total cash they’ll take home every month before they decide to join you or not, UNLESS the “Package” is promoted and branded as their life or career solution in the mid- to long- term. In a business perspective, rewards impact should be measurable like an investment of happiness, engagement, and productivity of people.”

“Rewards impact should be measurable like an investment of happiness, engagement, and productivity of people.”

Sopar Marpaung, CTRP

Look at the whole package, not just pay:

  • benefits can be made more inclusive, more flexible, more compassionate–these can cost money, but there are ways of saving to offset this cost
  • work-life goes way beyond working from home and includes anything we do to help people with life apart from work
  • recognition seeks to ensure model behavior is noticed and appreciated. Costs range from nothing (“thank you, well done!”) up to about 1% of payroll for cash or merchandise recognition programs
  • growth and development opportunity tell candidates you offer a career, not just a job. Career opportunity represents future compensation.
  • learning literally feels good. Research* finds release of pleasurable neurotransmitters in connection with learning
  • performance is what creates employment and income opportunity for all, and we drive the alignment of rewards to support it
  • finally, the work itself–meaningful work, achievement, being challenged–these are what motivate, according to Herzberg’s two-factor theory

Can you afford not to take the total rewards approach? Can you compete on salary and benefits alone? There are at least 100 specific reward practices to consider. (See What’s in Your Rewards Toolkit)

Learn the art and science of total rewards, get real behavior change, and ease the task of attracting, retaining and motivating your talent.


Virtual Live Certification is Here

In normal times, people prefer live classroom training over virtual live. In these pandemic times, however, it seems people have warmed up to live virtual learning, and as a courseware developer, instructor and assessor, I am warming up to it as well.

I recently completed a 3-day Certified Total Rewards Professional (CTRP) certification workshop for a client’s HR/C&B staff located in 11 cities across 7 countries, using Zoom. We spread the class over 5 weeks, running sessions from 2:00 to 5:30 pm weekly, in three groups of about 17 people each. This size works well, as it gives participants a peer group large enough to pick up a range of ideas from one another, but small enough for shy people to get to know one another and share freely. We ran the exam on the 6th week. We had nearly perfect attendance.

The advantages of virtual learning with Zoom, include:

  • gallery view, so everyone can see everyone, critical on day 1 so give people a human to human experience
  • breakout rooms for small group (3 to 6 people normally)
  • chat was used to capture notes from breakouts or other discussions such as personal learning objectives shared during introductions
  • private chat can be used to discreetly answer specific questions someone may have
  • recordings which benefit those who had to miss anything, including the review session prior to the exam
  • edited recordings can be provided to the client for future use by new staff doing C&B work
  • breaks can be a little shorter – we did 10 minute tea breaks in the morning and afternoons

Group Photo CTRP HRD virtual 4-6 Aug 2020Last week, I completed another virtual CTRP workshop with my fantastic event partner, HRD-Future over 4-6 August. They registered 18 people from Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Philippines and Thailand. Except for the person in Thailand, we were all in the same time zone, so running the event in three consecutive days was no issue. Had this been a physical class, it would not have happened since the numbers would be too small to justify the use of a hotel or for my travel costs. We were able to provide a discounted fee to participants due to these savings. But the quality was just as good, when you weight the advantages above against the disadvantages of not being able to see each other face to face.

We’ve certified 66 people in the last few weeks. Globally we now have 280 people holding either CTRS, CTRP or CTRF certifications. If you do a search in LinkedIn on CTRS or CTRP, you will see a growing list of people proudly showing their credentials in total rewards.

We have virtual certification workshops scheduled for Bangladesh (starting 28 August in half-day sessions) and in the Philippines, which will run August 31 to September 2, in three consecutive full days. 

Spread the news, we’re as busy as ever.

For information on upcoming certification events, use the emails as below. Pricing and scheduling is up to my partners who understand the needs of their local customers best.

Philippines – HRMBSi – Freddi Marquez –

South Asia – WARD – Rupak Zaidi –

Thailand – CSR Consulting – Easra Disorntetiwat –

Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, or other locations – HRD-Future –

Introducing the CTRF™ Roundtable Series

Entering 2020, we have conferred 213 certifications to reward practitioners from 10 countries. It’s not mainly about numbers, though. What we are doing is intended to extend certification opportunity to all those who wish to achieve it, making certification accessible at various career levels, which is why we are excited to introduce the Certified Total Rewards Fellow™ (CTRF™) Roundtable series.

Is CTRF right for you?

The CTRF certification is intended for rewards leaders, whether in a top or regional rewards/C&B role, or in a top/regional HR role with responsibility for compensation & benefits. If you have responsibility for compensation and benefits for Asia, ASEAN, or just a few countries, and have a minimum of eight (8) years of experience or direct involvement in rewards, this is right for you.

Currently there are nine accomplished individuals with the CTRF designation, consisting of current or former CHROs or equivalent, and current or former regional (APAC or ASEAN) heads of rewards/C&B. Since we did not have an event-based certification pathway for CTRF, these nine individuals have been awarded CTRF designation by the ATRI Industry Panel for being advocates and champions for total rewards throughout their extensive careers, and for supporting professional development and certification for rewards professionals. They include:

Mr. Federico R. Marquez, Jr.
Ms. Lynette Ng
Ms. Vivencia A. Chavez
Ms. Beth Nasol
Ms. Liza Sichon
Ms. Mitzie Antonio
Mr. Ramon Segismundo
Dr. Fermin A. Diez
Dr. Mark Bussin

Their current or former company/firm affiliations include many highly respected and well-known organisations such as Nestle, Sanofi, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, St. Luke’s Medical, Mercer, AonHewitt, PLDT, HP, Meralco, PMAP, Singapore Management University, and others.

What is the CTRF Roundtable Series?

The Roundtable series provides a way for regional HR or rewards leaders to achieve certification by attending two separate 1-day events. The two 1-day roundtables are scheduled within the same year but are spaced apart, because regional leaders are often unable to take two full consecutive days away from work.

No exam is required. No one will read PowerPoint slides to you. You already know the rewards field very well. Rather, participants will give-and-take in two full-day roundtable gatherings with their peers, and join facilitated conversations around the following topics:

  • regional and global rewards–building the function, harmonising rewards, developing the rewards team;
  • executive compensation–directors and senior management remuneration, working with the CEO and Rem Committee, development of long-term incentives and total rewards design;
  • global mobility–driving smart policies and practices for expatriates, locally hired foreigners, permanent transfers, localisation, and related issues such as local talent pipeline, sustainable cost, retention of talent
  • total reward strategy–understanding business strategy and talent strategy and translating them into a rewards strategy, segmenting your workforce and reward strategies for each, change management and communication
  • Other issues faced by rewards leaders such as business continuity, flexible work arrangements, retaining key talent, alternate forms of work/gig economy, etc.

In many cases participants will have strength in some of the above areas, while they may lack significant experience in others. We will seek to determine your strengths and learning priorities at time of registration.

Who will facilitate the roundtable?

CTRF Roundtables will be co-facilitated, by two ATRI industry panel members, or CTRF holders. Our first roundtable will be held in Singapore on 3 April, 2020, and the scheduled facilitators are Tom Farmer and Lynette Ng.

Anything else?

Yes, we will hold these events in 5-star hotel boardrooms and provide lunch and latte (or tea or whatever you prefer) throughout the day. We will adhere to the health screening protocols that may apply at the time, to address virus concerns. No one with a fever will be allowed to participate, for everyone’s benefit.


Click below to see the event flyer, and contact HRD-Future for more details.

Hope to see you there!

Brochure – Certified Total Rewards Fellow (CTRF)Certification Roundtable Series

ATRI Total Rewards Congress 2

Over 250 total rewards advocates met in Manila this week to challenge our thinking in the age of agile. We checked our hardwired assumptions about pay, jobs, performance, AI, HR analytics and even insurance brokering. New approaches, models and mindsets were on the menu for two full days. In between it was all about relationship building.

Speakers and Topics


The Chairman for the Total Rewards Congress 2 was Mr. Federico “Freddi” R. Marquez Jr., DPM, CTRF, co-founder of ASEAN Total Rewards Institute, past president of Compensation Management Society of the Philippines.

The keynote address was given by Mr. Gerry Plana, President, People Management Association of the Philippines and CEO, Investors in People, Philippines.


Global speakers included

  • Dr. Fermin Diez, Adjunct Faculty, Singapore Management University, on HR Analytics for All
  • Lynette Ng, CEO of Talent Code Global and former head of Talent Management for Sanofi APJ, on AI-Powered Pay Decisions–Are We There Yet?
  • Rosaline Chow Koo (CEO of CXA Group) on Breaking the Broker Mold–The CXA Story
  • Yong Fei Tan of Willis Towers Watson, on Mapping the New Total Rewards Journey
  • Tom Farmer, Managing Director, Freelance Total Rewards and owner/Co-founder of ASEAN Total Rewards Institute, on Shaky Pillars: Checking our Sacred Assumptions about Pay

The event featured fantastic local speakers from the Philippines, including

  • Michelle Cordero-Garcia of Dexcom, formerly President, People Management Association of the Philippines (PMAP) on No Sugarcoating: What are the Realities of Total Rewards in the Philippines
  • Eric del Castillo, HR Country Head, General Affairs and IT, Nissan Philippines, on Total Rewards in the age of Digitalization
  • Susan la Chica of Willis Towers Watson on The Agile Employer: Innovating Benefits for an Evolving Workforce
  • Drew Fernandez, VP Chief People Officer, Coca-Cola Beverages Philippines, on Building a Purposeful and Human-Centered Employee Value Proposition
  • Beth Nasol, DPM, CTRF, SVP HR for Energy Development Corporation and President Compensation Management Society of the Philippines, with closing Call to Action: Innovate, Imagine, Revision!

Above all, the event gave everyone a chance to meet new friends and greet old friends, building relationships, learning and growing. After all, what could be more rewarding than being with your community and learning at the same time?

Let the world know you’re certified!

In the last 12 months, 100 people have been certified by ASEAN Total Rewards Institute, from eight countries. Word is getting around. So don’t keep it a secret if you are now certified. I have posted a video on this website, under Certification, showing you how to update your LinkedIn profile. Take 5 minutes to update your profile now! Go to Display your Certification on LinkedIn.

“Congratulations on your certification!”

That sounds nice, right? But it would sound even better coming from your boss, your colleagues, managers at your company and of course your friends and contacts at other companies who use LinkedIn.

So don’t keep it a secret. Let the world know!

Tom and Freddi


Total Rewards Certification is Growing!

2018 was the year ATRI certification really took off. In 2017, we certified 24 people who had flown from the Philippines to Singapore for our first certification workshop. In 2018, we held certification workshops in Philippines, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore, adding 67 people to the roster of ATRI-certified total rewards practitioners. Be sure to check out our photo gallery to see those who have been certified.

With a total of 91 people, we enter 2019 with scheduled workshops in these four locations, and plans to enter other locations within the region. All certification opportunities are now offered through a 3-day certification workshop format, although it is OK to break up a workshop if you can only attend 1 or 2 of the 3 days. In this case, you can take the remaining 1-day module(s) on a future date.

All ATRI certification workshops are offered through our partners:

On behalf of our entire industry panel and local partners, we wish you a happy, healthy, peaceful and purposeful 2019, and we hope to see you soon!

Tom Farmer headshot                  Freddi

Thomas A. Farmer             Federico R. Marquez, Jr.

Co-founders, ASEAN Total Rewards Institute

Total Rewards: Learn, Get Certified

We have posted three new pages to this site, describing the three levels of total rewards learning and certification offered through ATRI’s affiliates. We are busy creating and refining material, exams and logistics for implementation of these certifications, in the Philippines, as well as Malaysia and Hong Kong, in coming months. Be sure to check this site frequently for updates!

Use the menu (under Training and Assessment) , or click below, for more on the three levels of learning and certification:

Certified Total Rewards Specialist

Certified Total Rewards Professional

Certified Total Rewards Fellow

Applying Total Rewards: Philippines

Hear total rewards explained for the Philippines context by Tom Farmer, co-founder of ASEAN Total Rewards Institute™, during a live TV interview with Michelle Ong of ABS-CBN News Channel, Manila, Philippines, on July 6, 2018:


This link will take you to the ANC Early Edition facebook page and play the interview video:

Welcome to ATRI!

On behalf of the ATRI Industry Panel members, we are very excited to welcome you to the ASEAN Total Rewards Institute website, and wish you great success in your journey to greater competence as a total rewards professional! Continuing education is a privilege and we wish to share a quote from Mahatma Ghandi:

Live as if you were to die tomorrow… Learn as if you were to live forever.”

On July 21, 2017, thirty HR professionals from the Philippines flew to Singapore to attend ATRI’s Total Rewards Certification Workshop. Fifteen were certified as Certified Total Rewards Specialists (CTRS), demonstrating competence in the core compensation and benefits disciplines, through participation and passing a written examination. An additional six experienced practitioners were recognized as Certified Total Rewards Professionals (CTRP) as well, based on a combination of written exam results, interviews and industry panel member nomination. Two were recognized as Certified Total Rewards Fellow (CTRF) based on verified industry experience, achievement and demonstration of competence in key advanced areas, as well as approval by two industry panel members. Several others completed the workshop for learning purposes.

From this, we now continue the journey of building the ASEAN region’s own certification for total rewards, starting with the Philippines, and soon extending to other ASEAN nations.

Be sure to sign up using the Contact link to receive news and resources to help you grow as a total rewards professional.

It is our honor to assist you in your growth as a total rewards professional!

–Tom and Freddi


Tom Farmer headshot                  Freddi

Thomas A. Farmer             Federico R. Marquez, Jr.

Co-founders, ASEAN Total Rewards Institute