TR2050 interviews Billy Schultz, Mars: “People need to feel valued – that won’t change in the future.”
Member Interview

We speak to Billy Schultz, VP Global Rewards, Mars, about his career in HR and what he believes is most important for shaping the future of rewards.

Two decades in to a career knee-deep in human resources and workplace culture, Billy Schultz still exudes an enthusiasm and passion for the profession that he has seen change significantly over his own working life.

“When I graduated, I was focused on looking for a job with one great company, where I’d stay for my whole career. The total rewards offering was strong: fixed pay, bonus, and a pension, with a predictable career trajectory and long-term financial security. Looking back now, it almost feels archaic.”

The Total Reward landscape today

The approach to total rewards is now markedly difference. The focus is on more sustainable and performance-driven pay models, shared responsibility for healthcare and retirement, more focus on variable pay (both annual and long-term), and a bid to align talent with the corporate value proposition.

Billy says: “I don’t recall hearing the term ‘employee value proposition’ much twenty years ago, but now, creating a winning value proposition is central to any company’s strategy. And, it’s not just enough to offer great pay and benefits; those are the ‘table stakes’ to attract and retain talent. Companies need to think well beyond just total rewards to differentiate their employee value proposition.”

There is also more dynamism in the pay structures, as companies are constantly reconsidering how they reward staff as the world changes, while continuing to tackle the inherent biases that come to the surface. Indeed, Billy posits that some of the key shifts in how we work and how staff are paid were instigated by organisations themselves, which subsequently changed social and cultural attitudes to work and pay.

Considering change

The evolution Billy has witnessed in how organisations approach pay is clearly continuous, suggesting industry is poised to adjust as required. Does that mean they’re ready for the vast changes expected over the coming 20-30 years?

“No!” he exclaims. “We already face so many challenges with the world today in how we pay and recognise workers. Even things like job titles are contentious – I was a Business Analyst early in my career, while my university contemporary in financial services was a Vice President. I already felt like I was behind! Job titles can influence how you feel about your value, especially your relative value compared to other industries or companies, so how do companies take that on board?”

One approach is transparency which, on the surface, is positive – this has likely been a contributing factor in narrowing gender pay gaps and providing more trust in pay processes and outcomes.

“However, there are consequences when you know how much everyone around you gets paid, it can change how you feel,” he says. “People may start chasing a number or chasing a job title rather than seeking a role they enjoy with a company that has values that align with their own.”

Feeling valued is a touchstone Billy returns to regularly; it’s clearly central to his whole approach to pay and reward. The importance of human psychology can often be overlooked by large companies but it’s something that has absorbed Billy’s mind since an early age.

“I initially wanted to be a Child Psychologist,” he explains. “I was interested in how the brain works and fascinated by child development, and how the early influences combine with genetics and background to shape the person that emerges.” It led him to Cognitive Studies at Vanderbilt University, but he added Human and Organizational Development as a more practical option for his career when a mentor pointed out how many years of schooling would be needed to pursue psychology.

Fortunately, his additional major has proved to be ideal for the career that followed. “It’s still a pretty unique programme to Vanderbilt and was all about finding solutions to human problems in organisations.” Ensuring staff feel valued, recognised and fairly rewarded are powerful solutions to so many problems – and it’s something Billy has striven to help companies deliver as his career has developed along with our changing world.
Automation – and the need for re-deployment

Training and skills development is going to be central to working culture in the future as AI and automation increasingly infiltrate the workplace. As a ‘people person’, Billy is sharply aware of the potential negative impact:

“I’ve read articles about how quick-service restaurants and coffee companies are developing new technology to significantly reduce the time required to prepare food or drinks and serve customers. We see it happening everywhere – self-checkout instead of cashiers, robots in warehouses, self-driving taxis – but we need to redeploy those workers. The companies that will win are the ones that leverage digitalisation and AI but also keep focused on ‘how do our people continue to play a key role’?”

Billy has suggestions for meeting these challenges amid the advancement and use of technology. “Companies should be identifying what skills they will need to meet future business needs and consider how best to attract that talent – hire from other companies, develop internally, contract, or outsource.”

He recognises that AI will be increasingly used in the workplace, but sees this as an opportunity for the worker, rather than a threat. “As jobs change due to technology, the demand for talent will only increase and companies will have to compete even harder for certain skillsets. People will be valued and recognised – and rewarded accordingly.” They will also have their pick of who to work for, forcing companies to compete.

Future of Reward

The future is one of differentiation, Billy predicts, with companies focusing more attention on providing reward and recognition packages that secure them they talent they need. These reward packages will also meet the needs, life-stage, expectations and values of the individual.

“There are always basics, the non-negotiables, and they won’t change no matter what comes down the line.” Billy cites Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory as a clear example of the common things that decrease and increase job satisfaction.

However, “once you get beyond the basics, it’s about the people, the work itself and the purpose of the organisation. It’s that indefinable ‘secret sauce’ that makes a company attractive and makes workers want to stay.” In a competitive market, the appeal of a company’s culture and values will become a decision-maker.

“We’ll see more mutuality, listening, inclusion, transparency, empowerment, and responsibility,” he says. “The balance of ‘power’ between employer and employee is constantly shifting but, in my opinion, great companies act in accordance with principles and do the right thing regardless of which way the scales are tipping.”

Making it happen

His approaches – and some of his solutions – are informed by his senior position at Mars where he has a broad remit: trying to align rewards with the company’s culture and principles, all while recognising the global scale and diversity of its businesses and Associates.

“Like many global companies, we utilise a ‘single landscape’ approach to support pay structures across job families, countries, and levels. But what we also have to recognise is that a single total rewards approach is not sufficient at a company where we have Associates working in offices, factories, and veterinary hospitals, taking on an incredibly broad range of tasks.”

Billy continues: “While much is common about what all our Associates want and need, we have to recognise that from a total rewards perspective, there are differences in perceived value that drive intent to stay across different personas.”

It’s a complex task and his learnings will be invaluable to TR2050 Think Tank discussions, where Billy contributes as one of our expert Members. For Billy, there are many benefits from joining such a prestigious group of experts and global enterprises committed to exploring the future landscape of reward in collaboration.

“When I saw which companies were involved, I knew I wanted to be part of it,” he explains. “I felt I could learn from this group. We’d share a similar foundation and views on many topics, but we’d also each bring something unique and engage in healthy debate to really drive this exploration towards something meaningful.”

The timescale also appealed; “We’re looking 25 years ahead, not just 5 or 10. That’s a significant amount of time and many of us won’t be working then so we are very much doing this for the future generations. I like to think this is my way to leave the reward landscape in a better shape for those who will come after us. That is, if we haven’t all been replaced by robots.”

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