If you are one of the millions of Americans who has been working from your home office or your kitchen table for the last year, you know this truth: The working world will never be the same. The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally shifted the way we work, our expectations about work-life fitand our relationship with our employer.

Realizing this, employers are considering their next steps carefully. What are employees’ new expectations? What will keep them happy and motivated, whether they are in the office or at home? How can organizations continue to attract and retain talent?

The biggest question may be thetotal rewards package. How should employers manage compensation, benefits, and the other elements of total rewards in this new working world–and how does our recognition of a ‘hybrid’ work environment change that? The answer won’t be throwing new benefits into the mix, nor more compensation. New hires, for example, will immediately be asking how much of their job they’ll be performing from home. It will likely be a strategic move into considering what individual employees really want–with more moving pieces than ever.

A workforce without walls changes the Total Rewards dynamic

Although the number of people working remotely skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of people working remotely has increased 140 percent since 2015. And a small percentage of global companies are fully remote, with no HQ office anywhere. Even in traditional companies, one survey reported that 96 percent of employees would be happy to continue working remotely at least part of the time.

Once an organization allows its workforce to move permanently outside the office, the culture of work changes. Workers stop building the costs of commuting into their day or their budget. They may be less distracted by coworkers or lunch breaks. On the employer side,the competition for talent increases when you draw from a larger pool of national talent. And workers’ expectations on pay, benefits and corporate culture change as well.

At the same time complexity increases for employers, so too does the number of options and range of opportunities. HR departments and those working on building Total Rewards packages need to change and adapt too to meet the needs of new workers who may not live locally or may be attracted by different incentives (comp, benefits, flexibility). The corporate culture will certainly have to shift online, but it may also need to shift its values somehow. Employers should undertake a strategic examination of what makes sense for them and what sets them apart to helpshift their Total Rewards package to better suit a Workforce Without Walls (WWW).

Personas for total rewards

A one-size-fits-all approach fits no one, and that is true now more than ever. Organizations should consider persona analysis: a method of deeply analyzing employee populations to account for nuanced populations and changing needs of the workforce. It’s no longer enough to group workers into “Boomers” or “Millennials.” Considering more specific groupings is more important and useful, especially when it comes to a workforce without walls (an analysis that works equally well for larger and smaller organizations).

Begin the analysis by looking at detailed census data.Geographic details and demographics are important as a baseline, but employee information–such as role, tenure, pay and benefit choices–can provide a more well-rounded picture. It may be worthwhile identifying the specific needs of executives or principals as well as the new hires, who may be recent graduates or experienced professionals.

Employee goals and motivations are most relevant when developing a Total Rewards platform. For example, when it comes to the critical function of attracting new talent, consider these two general new hire categories:

Most young new hires–no older than 25–still rely on their parents’ health plan. They may be interested in student loan debt relief or mentoring opportunities rather than retirement benefits and health savings plans. And when it comes to workplace achievements, they may seek out public recognition. Looking at these individuals through a WWW lens might suggest that working from home won’t provide the “public” exposure they seek.

The majority of “middle-stage” new hires are in a different place. They may be buying houses or starting families. They are looking for larger salaries to support their new responsibilities, but the WWW lens will be equally important to this employee population because they also needflexibilitywhen it comes to working from home. They may be especially drawn to wellness and employee assistance programs for a variety of reasons.

Of course, individual employees are different and may not fit the persona your organization identifies. But the personas make it clear that using data to develop insights into the employee (or potential employee) base can be eye-opening. In fact, understanding employee goals and motivations can lead to the development of a Total Rewards program that improves employee engagement, attracts, and retains talent, and positions your organization for working beyond the office walls.