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Bob’s Your Uncle

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 20-04-2017

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Cat-reading-glasses-with-paper, by Floho67I once lived in England for five years as an expatriate for my company, and during that time my HR team took great pleasure in confusing me with English words that held little meaning for an American.  Often times I could even repeat the phrase back to them, yet still didn’t understand what the terms meant.

As the Brits often told me, we speak the same language, but we don’t.  My colleagues loved to “take the mick out of me” (poke innocent fun).

One example that stuck with me over time is “Bob’s your uncle.”  Imagine the first time I heard that phrase.   What again?

Within the UK it’s a common phrase that means “And there you go” or “Everything’s fine now.”  But the words just didn’t make sense to me.  But like so many colloquialisms out there, finding the root cause going back decades or more proved a challenge.  It took me almost two years to find someone who could explain where the term originated (we didn’t have Google back then).

Easy Peasy

Two hundred or so years ago there was a high-ranking Member of the English Parliament (Robert, Lord Salisbury) who held great sway (political influence) across the British Empire.  This was a powerful man, and one who believed in nepotism and political cronyism, so it was not unusual for even his distant relations to find themselves gifted with important government positions.

Such favored office holders with familial connections held positions of power, influence and easy living.  Over time the phrase was born, that everything would be easy peasy (fine and dandy) just as long as “Bob’s your uncle.”

And That Applies How?

Which got me to thinking about a message I had received a few weeks back from a recent graduate, one who wanted to make a career in HR, and specifically compensation.  This inexperienced fellow posed a basic query, one often asked by those just beginning their careers.  “How can I achieve success in my chosen profession (Compensation)?”   He wondered whether there was a blueprint, a map, or a guide of sorts to keep him on the straight and narrow.  He had hoped to find a “Compensation for Dummies” book from Amazon.

Of course, there are no rules, no instruction manuals or pointed arrows on the road, each guaranteed to take you by the hand and show the way to career success.  Instead, the experiences of those who went before you are varied and distinct in so many ways, usually a compilation of diverse career choices, working for particular supervisors who influenced for good or ill, differing type and operating style of employers, and of course the series of unanticipated head knocks (lessons learned from mistakes) that one gains over the length of a career.

What happened to me may not happen to you, I thought.   There is no, “Read this and you’ll be fine.”

So I condensed my experiences, career preferences, personal work philosophy, and gut instincts into a set of generic principles that could (or should) provide a solid platform of suggestions for anyone interested in career success, whatever the chosen profession.

Below is the essence of my response to that recent graduate, reflecting my thoughts for how a compensation practitioner can become a success.  It’s not a complete list, the specific applications can sway in the wind along with the reality of personal circumstances, but the concepts are broad enough for individual interpretation.

  • Understand your organization:  You need to know at least the basics of the business operations where you work.  What are your products/services and what advantages do they offer a customer or community?   What is the company’s reputation, and why? Don’t remain stuck in your office/cubicle, but get out there and learn about what makes the business tick.
  • Understand the compelling facts:  What is the business environment that your organization operates in, and how competitive is your reward program?  What story does the compensation metrics of your organization tell you?   What issues do you face with payroll, turnover, morale, engagement, etc?  Sadly though, all too many practitioners start and stop here.
  • Understand your management: Who are these people who run the business and what are their management biases?  Learn the perspectives that each of them brings toward making HR and compensation decisions.  Know these leaders and take every opportunity to ensure that they know you.
  • Understand your goals: If you don’t know where you’re going, or which pathway you’re on, then any road will do. So learn what defines success at your organization and strive to support efforts in that direction.  Make sure that your own objectives are integrated into the larger picture of overall success.
  • Mix, stir and bake at 350 degrees until done!  Take all of the knowledge gained from the above, combine it with your own skill sets and experience, a little political deftness and then work diligently at making a difference,  every day.

And there you are!  Follow these suggestions in pursuing your chosen career and everything will be fine.

Bob’s your uncle.

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