The CTRF Roundtable Series is Here

Eight highly accomplished HR/Rewards leaders gathered virtually on 1 April 2022 to stretch themselves around the topic of total rewards strategy. Following presentation of ATRI’s competency framework for “Drive Total Reward Strategy” we had an honest conversation about what it takes to be effective in helping our organizations change course from less effective to more effective, on matters involving pay or benefits.

Tom Farmer, owner and co-founder of ATRI, and Lynette Ng, Group Head of Rewards for Goto Group and ATRI Industry Panel Member (and CTRF) together co-facilitated the session, to allow the participants, together having over 100 years experience in HR, to share their successes and challenges in building and presenting a case for change in rewards practices.

Lynette, a self-proclaimed “blackbelt in straight talk” delivered some key insights into change management such as when to play your cards to get the change that’s needed while giving business leaders what they need, and keeping everything relevant to the people affected. Tom and Lynette contrasted two approaches toward transparency and communication philosophies, with Tom describing the “need to know” approach and Lynette describing a very open approach, for example, taking pay questions at the Town Hall.

A hypothetical case study was presented (based on real experiences) for breakout group discussion, followed by sharing of potential solution elements and approach.

Including ‘Drive Total Reward Strategy’, the five sessions will include the following topics:

  • A. Drive Total Reward Strategy (TRS) on 1 April 2022
  • B. Manage and Develop Regional or Global Rewards (RGR) on 29 April 2022
  • C. Design and Manage Executive Compensation (EC) on 20 May 2022
  • D. Reward Gig, Remote, Agile and Mobile Work (GRAM) on 10 June 2022
  • H. Total Rewards Hackathon (HACK) on 1 July 2022

No PowerPoint slides were used. The entire four hours were spent in discussion, only referring to the list of 7 essential total reward strategy competencies. Participants were based in Malaysia, Philippines, China and Singapore.

HRD-Future is the host for the CTRF Roundtable Series, bring people from across ASEAN and the greater Asia Pacific region, for an enriching exchange of experiences that reflect different business environments. Contact Elbee Lim at regarding the series, which is fully booked for H1 and is taking registrations now for H2 2022, which starts 12 August 2022.

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.


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