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Pushing the Right Button

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 09-08-2015

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANot every employee is capable of selling products or services to potential customers.   The selling process requires an employee to possess a particular set of interactive and persuasion skills, as well as having a compatible personality profile (garrulous, self-confident, unafraid of rejection, etc.).   While some employees enjoy the challenge, most want no part of it and only a minority are neutral about the idea.  For those tasked with a selling job it’s typically a reflection of an individual personality that would generate success or struggle.

For compensation practitioners having the right person involved in the selling process can be more important than the compensation program itself, because dangling potential rewards in the face of the wrong person can be a waste of money and a lost business opportunity.

It’s All About Motivation

Success in the selling process depends upon the right motivating elements aimed at the right employee personality.  To do this correctly within a sales compensation program requires the design to take that into account, to focus financial rewards toward whatever engages, whatever motivates the employee to perform in the manner the organization wishes.

Costly mistakes can be made when an organization assumes that all employees will react in the same fashion to the same stimulus.

Have you considered what motivates your sales employees?  Chances are that not everyone would have the same answer.

  • Money:  Everybody’s first response is that all you have to do is offer the opportunity for a cash bonus and the employees are off and running.  But in chasing the almighty dollar employees could also drive your company in the wrong direction – even off a cliff – because they may take the path of least resistance (difficulty) and greatest financial reward.  If those activities fail to align with what the company needs to assure business success, money is not only wasted but used to reward behavior that could be detrimental to the company.

Do you really want to reward the sale of a money-losing or low margin product?

  • Mission:  Especially prevalent with not-for-profit organizations, many employees have a “fire in the belly” belief in what the organization espouses, be it products, services or awareness.  This internal value system often provides motivation enough to ensure concerted efforts.  In such a scenario money is deemed less important as a motivator.  Employees are already motivated by the worthiness of the organization’s mission.

Helping others or helping a cause can be reward enough for some employees.

  • Brand identification:  If you identify with the organization’s offerings and have a belief in what you are selling you’re already halfway to becoming an effective sales representative.  For these employees the ingrained belief in what they sell is already present; they just need a  bit of training.

Employees are proud to be associated with a particular product or service.  They’re always wearing the logo shirt and are the organization’s biggest fans.

  • Self-motivation:  Here the employee possesses an internal reserve of self worth that helps make excellence its own reward.  It’s a state where success in one’s endeavors is self-fulfilling.  The reward system for these employees is often a nice addition, but isn’t necessarily the prime motivating factor.

A certain level of performance would be forthcoming, no matter what financial rewards are offered.

  • Challenge:  The mindset here is the joy of climbing the hill, especially if there’s a pot of gold at the peak.  Similar to self-motivation, some personality profiles relish a good challenge, and if you provide a reward for goal attainment, so much the better.

For such employees, the game is always afoot.  They enjoy breaking down barriers, solving problems and grabbing for the brass ring.

  • Competition:  The fierce desire to be better than others; where winning is critically important.  Note: such employees might not be effective team players.

Sometimes this motivational factor is less about achieving company goals than simply doing better than other employees.  Like a loose cannon these players may have their own definition of winning, which may not be synonymous with yours.

The takeaway point here is to understand what motivates your employees and then to place your rewards in front of them in a fashion that leads and directs their behavior.

Because if you design your incentive program with the wrong assumptions about what engages your workforce, you’ll risk missing your targets, misspending your financial assets and perhaps not even achieving the required level of success – regardless of the money paid out in rewards.

Understanding The Employee Point of View

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 13-07-2015

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Friends, by S BakerWhen it comes to paying employees for the work they perform, what do you think they expect?


Or does your management care enough to ask this question?  Perhaps the collective attitude today is more often either, 1) “they’re lucky to have a job,” 2) “where are they going to go“? or 3) my personal favorite, “I pay, you work.”

When employees feel mistreated or taken advantage of in the performance = reward equation you’ll see the result through lowered morale, mental disengagement, reduced productivity and even separations.   Given the business risks involved it’s discouraging that not enough of those in charge are able to view the issue of pay from the perspective of those doing the work .

What’s the problem?

Any manager worth the title should be expected to anticipate employee issues, especially those that have the power to harm the business.  It’s about knowing your employees, about being prepared.

Payroll is likely your largest single expense, representing 40% – 60% of revenue.  Shouldn’t how you handle pay be as carefully considered as the way you would view the cost of raw materials, the acquisition of a new business, or the financing of more brick and mortar?  You should analyze this expense from every possible angle, to better understand the underlying causes and learn how you can improve.  To manage reward dollars without harming the business you need to understand those factors that impact employee pay, as well as the attitude of those being paid.

Taking that hard look will mean trying to understand the human factor behind the cost of labor.  It will mean understanding how company pay decisions are perceived by those on the receiving end.

It can help when you think of pay from the other side of the desk.  Employees provide a service and you pay them for it.  But that shouldn’t be the end of the equation, as money doesn’t manage people – you do.

What do employees expect?

Do you know what employees expect from managers, and from the company?  Their basic wants and needs have a direct connection to their performance, as well as their commitment to your organization.  While individual circumstances might vary somewhat, it’s reasonable to say that employee expectations fall into several broad categories:

  • Competitive pay:  No surprise here, because that’s probably what you want too.  You don’t need to be a premium payer, but should avoid the label of “low baller” as you ensure that pay opportunities are consistent with market practice.
  • Opportunity to earn more: Employees should know that opportunities are available to them through pay increases, variable compensation, promotions and perhaps even overtime.
  • Regular pay reviews: Don’t let employees hang in the wind; avoid the comical stereotype of employees concerned over how to ask the boss for a raise.  You don’t have to grant anything, but let employees know that you have scheduled reviews of pay and performance.
  • Fair treatment: Employees have a distaste for “favored sons” or special treatment cases – especially if the perception is that such treatment isn’t deserved.   Recipients will become known, so don’t start putting skeletons in the closet.

Do you understand these expectations?  Do you consider them reasonable?  Are they the sort of expectations that you have yourself, for how you want to be treated?

How you and other managers react to someone’s expectations, by either actions taken or by lack of attention (ignoring) will set the tone for your employees; you dismiss their concerns at your peril.  You don’t have to do anything, of course.  But your eyes should be open and your decisions based at least partly on knowledge of what your employees are thinking – and expecting.

Otherwise you’re making decisions in the dark, and how many gems of wisdom come from that process?

Think about whether your management treats employees as “we” vs. “them.”  Are employees viewed as boxes on an organization chart or as real people?  Are they considered an important asset to the business, or a cost item to be managed (dealt with)?  Whatever the answer, your attitudes will become known and discussed among the staff.

Take the time to understand where your employees are coming from.  That bit of research will provide dividends down the road – no matter how you choose to pay your people.

It’s About More Than Numbers

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 02-07-2015

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Calculations, by marco_1186I’ve never been particularly good at mathematics, and yet have made for myself a successful career in Compensation.  Now, why is that?  One would think that we’re all numbers people, focused on statistics, surveys and regression formulae.  People just expect compensation practitioners to be a whiz at figures.  On the other hand, such so-called math experts often fail to rise to the top of the profession.   That’s a quandary to ponder over.

Why do some compensation people succeed (climb the specialist ladder) and others don’t?  Likely there are several reasons, but I think persona has a lot to do with it.

Changing view of compensation

Effectiveness in Compensation isn’t (or shouldn’t be) all about the numbers, but about the people affected by the numbers.  A successful practitioner should understand their company’s business and the pulse of the employees, who are not just figures on a spreadsheet.   If you consider the human factor as little more than boxes on an organization chart, then your ability to solve problems will be limited by your ignorance of the employee relations impact that naturally follows your recommendations.

Do you remember seeing an HR fellow with a pocket protector and a bunch of pens in the shirt pocket, walking the hallway while laden down with survey reports?  That was the traditional view of “the comp guy.”  This was the master technician who lived with the charts, graphs and regression formulae, but who failed to understand the people impact of their work.  Everything was about the numbers.

Best practices are different these days.  Compensation staff are no longer confined to a cubicle or an out-of-the-way office, but increasingly are stepping out among the employees, developing their knowledge of how the business operates, all the while increasing their ability to partner with internal business clients.

Sensitized practitioners know that compensating employees should be about the rewards as well as the process, about how rewarding employees can influence behavior, for good or ill.  Therefore the success of the solutions provider is in being able to creatively assist managers with achieving their objectives, while at the same time adhering to consistent policies / procedures.  It is not about quoting policy with a shrug of the shoulders.  It’s about being engaged in the process.

What’s the color of your hat?

Something else to think about; what role does the Compensation function play in your organization?

  • Policeman vs. Gatekeeper:  The role is not to say yes or no, but to encourage an open process of ideas and practices that operate within established policies and procedures.  Nobody likes the fellow who can offer little more in the way of help than quoting from the company policy manual.
  • Numbers vs. People:  Are your thought processes people-oriented, or is the understanding that employees are affected by these policies and procedures lost on you?  A business-only focus that ignores the human factor in driving success is inevitably tripped up by lower morale and disengaged employees.
  • Policy vs. Flexibility:  Are you one to quote policy as a supposed answer to every manager’s question, or are you open to creative possibilities?  When you tell a manager that the decision remains with them, that you’re only offering advice, you’ll be able to actually see their body dynamics relax.   At that point you can reach them, because their defensive barriers will be down and their minds open.
  • Analysis paralysis vs. solutions-provider:  Being able to make timely decisions vs. being caught up with a constancy of analysis that never seems to move to a decision point.  Do you have a reputation as a decision-maker or an analyzer?

When you consider the compensation people you deal with in your organization, are they the good guys or the bad guys – the white hats or the black?  Which are you?

You don’t have to be a numbers whiz to be successful.  You just have to know what the numbers mean, and how to use that knowledge to help your clients.

Why We Need To Reward Employees

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 02-07-2015

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Boba Fett Reward, by pasukaru76Now you may be asking yourself, why is he talking about this? Isn’t it rather obvious, like 2 + 2 certainly equals 4? Doesn’t everyone reward employees for their individual efforts?

But no, sad to say there really are organizations out there that don’t view the employer – employee relationship in quite the same way as the rest of us. Their thinking is, “We pay them a salary for doing their job. Why should we pay more? Case closed.”

Okkkkk, but taking a page out of an old Compensation 101 textbook let me list the reasons that such a negative attitude about your workforce can become a problem for your organization, both short and long term.

You need to pay competitive wages: While this point is seldom argued your comparative marketplace is a moving target. What looks like competitive today soon won’t be, so unless you have a process for updating your competitiveness those pay rates will start to slip behind. And that slippage will pick up speed over time.

Business costs rise over time; so does life for your employees: The price of most items is higher today that it was a year ago, and in some cases the rise is dramatic. If your employee costs (pay levels) are fixed / frozen your employees will have an increasingly difficult time making ends meet.

Behavior rewarded is repeated: It’s an old saying but is worth repeating again and again until everyone “gets it.” If you reward desired behavior (good performance) you’ll likely get more of it. Conversely, the lack of reward tends to encourage average behavior, or worse.

Do you want a high performance culture?: If you fail to provide employees with equitable and competitive pay that is linked to their job performance, what you’ll get instead is a lot of Joe Average performance. Because an employee’s personal self motivation (they’ll work hard anyway) is not sustainable. That personal battery of enthusiasm will drain down and shut off.

Employee expectations: Yes, they expect to be paid a reasonable base salary for their work, but they also expect to be both acknowledged and rewarded (pay increases) for making a continuous effort on the company’s behalf. No one will work well for very long with their pay frozen or the likelihood of more money being a “maybe” or a “we’ll see.”

An elemental cost of doing business: This may be hard for some to understand, but if you’re going to operate a business there are certain costs that need to be incurred. Otherwise don’t bother. And one of those costs is to properly pay and reward the people who are working for you. They keep the business going, and you should never forget that.

Honoring your commitment: Do you proudly tell everyone who will listen that you’re a “pay-for-performance” company? Do you believe that employees drive business success? Well then, you had better walk the talk. Because employee trust is at stake, and the failure to hold up to your promises will ensure business mediocrity, if not a slow descent into failure.

You should fear the alternative: If you decide to march to the beat of a different drummer, to say “nahhh” to the above, then consider what your future likely holds in store for you. Because when employees start to say, “why bother?” you’re in trouble.

Dissatisfaction with management: This is both negative and infectious. Disgruntled people are not quiet people.

Reduced morale: Sad faces and blank looks are not signs of an engaged workforce. And the talk around the break room will lean toward other “opportunities.”

Reduced productivity: Employees take their foot off the gas pedal. What you get from them starts to drop off from a desired 110% effort to somewhere south of 100%.

Higher degree of disengagement: When your employees start to say as well as think, “I don’t care” – that attitude will spread, either slow or fast. What it builds is a low performing culture. Think of your business as a car driving around town with the brakes on.

Increased turnover (leavers) – of the wrong sort: The wrong sort are the better performers, who always have an option in the marketplace. Someone else will tell them, “We love you. We’ll take care of you. Come work for us.”

If you believe that employees are important to the success of your organization, then not having a proper pay-for-performance program in place to recognize and reward job performance on a regular basis is a mistake of the highest caliber.

Then again, perhaps some believe that employees are an easily replaceable commodity, that their pay is a cost worth trying to reduce, rather than an investment. That they are not people, but simply cells with a spreadsheet, or blocks on an organization chart.

Just remember that what you sow is what you’ll reap.

When Bigger Isn’t Better

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 17-06-2015

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Piglet vs. Gamorrean Guard, by JD HancockIt used to be a common perception that the Human Resources department in large companies was more sophisticated, more professional, and more forward-thinking than what you’d expect to find from HR in smaller companies.

We all presumed that the “big guys” knew what they were doing.

But current thinking among practitioners now challenges that presumption.  In fact, the pendulum of thought has begun to swing the other way.  Sophisticated has become cumbersome, professional has become bureaucratic and forward-thinking has created a chasm of credibility between philosophical concepts and the practical realities that managers deal with every day.

Remember the K-I-S-S principle (keep it simple, stupid)?  Many large organizations seem to have forgotten that common sense caution as they saddled their reward programs with more forms, procedures and bureaucracy.

The Evolution of Performance Appraisal

A good example of HR systems gone wild is the difference between a small company performance appraisal and the convoluted processes often followed by large companies.  Herein lies a stark contrast not only of styles but of methodologies and core beliefs that a more complex better way will increase the effectiveness of employee reward programs.

This growth of complexity is commonplace; by the time an organization achieves a certain population size HR feels compelled to “improve” their processes – usually in the name of increased employee sensitivities and a broader definition of performance review.  What worked well when the business was smaller is suddenly suspect, deemed somehow less effective, less desirable.

What began as direct cause and effect, individual job performance followed by assessment = reward suddenly becomes more complex, more confusing to some, more aggravating to others.  While communication is critical it is often flawed and ineffective as both employees and managers question the additional complexity.

What follows is a brief comparison between how small and large companies tend to approach the critically important performance appraisal process.

The Small Company Experience:

  • The employee’s performance is assessed against what’s expected of them.
  • Performance discussions usually take place on the anniversary of either employment or promotion.
  • Forms are basic, even simple.  They may not be standardized, and one or two pages are usually enough.
  • The process doesn’t take a lot of time.  Meetings tend to be short and focused, so both parties can get back to work.
  • What the boss says – is what’s going to happen.  The approval chain is abbreviated.
  • The money discussion (pay increase) is front and center, a cause-and-effect dialogue.  “You have performed thus and so, and your pay will be changed from x to y.”

The Large Company Experience:

  • The employee’s performance may be assessed against other employees, as much as against what’s expected of them (based on their job description).
  • Performance discussions use a Focal Point strategy, where everybody is reviewed at the same time.  For managers with more than two or three subordinates, this represents a challenge in terms of time spent and quality of assessments.
  • Managers are often required to use multi-part, multi-page forms.
  • Employee performance may be viewed against a desired bell-shaped curve of results.  Individual assessments may be modified to fit the expected / budgeted shape of the curve.
  • The boss makes upward “recommendations,”  subject to approval.  Thus the reward conversation with the employee can end on a “we’ll see” basis.
  • Other topics like developing future performance, improvement strategies / action plans, and “where are we going“? discussions may predominate.  Sometimes talk of pay is deferred, raising the question of whether performance actually relates to reward.

With size of the organization the process tends to become more impersonal, forms-centric, process controlled, and standardized.  Is that better than before?

How did the organization evolve into something potentially less helpful, less effective?  Perhaps the poking and prodding of systems and procedures in the name of improvement went too far, until they created a convoluted and twisted version of their desired state.

When the state of affairs has gone off the tracks, how many times have you heard – or used the phrase, “let’s get back to basics”?

Perhaps that thought could be useful today, no matter what size organization you hail from.  Return to the fundamentals, the simple formula of performance = reward.

It doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that.


Three Guys Walk Into A Bar

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 15-06-2015

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Railway, by ell brownThe other day I was chatting with a new college graduate, one who was expressing interest in Human Resources – specifically within the field of Compensation.  After a while the question was raised whether I could describe the typical relationship and interactions between Line Managers, Compensation practitioners and the Finance function.  This newbie sensed from their classroom experiences that a tense if not contentious relationship was commonplace.

So I told this little story

One very hot and humid summer afternoon three guys walked into their neighborhood tavern; a Manager, a Compensation guy and a fellow from Finance.  Tables were crowded so they grabbed a seat at the bar, ordered a cold one and started a conversation with the bartender.

After a while the Manager glances around the room, taking in the noisy din of those escaping the heat of the day and then says to the barkeep, “I think it would be a great idea if you gave everyone here a cold beer, on the house.  They all look like they could use one.

Hearing this the Compensation guy does his own look-see around the bar, then scratches his chin and mutters, “Well now, perhaps not everyone deserves a fresh beer.  Some folks have already had a few, while others have only just arrived and a few tables are drinking the upscale hard stuff.  Let’s rethink the mechanics of your “beer on the house” idea.

While this is going on the Finance guy is frowning at his colleagues.   Finally he says, “Where did all this generosity come from, spending someone’s else’s coin, and did you factor in how much this idea is going to cost the owner?  Does he have enough money?  Will he get anything out of this besides increased costs and a shrunken inventory?

So the three companions break into a squabble, with each trying to talk over the other two, not really listening to each other but instead pushing their own point of view with increasing enthusiasm.

Finally the bartender shouts above the racket, “wait a minute!” then slaps his hand down on the bar.  “I own this place.  What are you guys talking about?”

To the Manager he says:  “You’re too free and easy with spending my money.”

To Compensation Guy he says:  “You sound like you’ll analyze things to death if I let you, all the while losing sight that my business could be at stake here.”

And finally, to the Finance guy:  “I like you, and I’ll listen to what you have to say, because you’re the only one who seems to be looking out for me.”

And the moral is . . . .

My new graduate friend slowly nodded his head, taking in the wisdom of my thoughts.  “So you’re saying that Senior Management will listen first to Finance, no matter the strength of other proposals.

That’s why the Finance guy usually sits next to the CEO at meetings.”  Which means that if you want to change this dynamic, you’ll need to partner with Line Managers and with Finance to ensure that you understand their issues and how their concerns, as well as your potential solutions would impact the business.

If you can’t get your act together and collaborate, work together toward common goals, know that the default decision almost always goes to the bean counters.  Because they hold the purse strings and are quick to criticize promised “soft” savings or increased revenue (based on likely projections) when compared against “hard” costs (the reality of actually spending money).

Always remember that cost is king, or at least a royal prince when it comes to selling an idea.  And the cost should come with a demonstrable benefit that makes the expense worthwhile.


That being said, I toasted the graduate and then we ordered another beer.

Would You Have A Drink With Yourself?

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 08-06-2015

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Hand Mirror, by the Italian VoiceHave you ever considered what sort of an impression you make on others at work? No man is an island and all that, so consider that each of us causes ripples among the people we interface with, whether direct or indirect. We leave a mark, for good or ill.

Likely there are three audiences who are interested and watching you; the management above you, peers and colleagues at your approximate level, and those below you in the organization’s hierarchy – whether subordinates or rank and file employees. Now picture each of these groups pondering your actions and developing an opinion.

• Management: Bosses and senior leaders who can have a direct impact on your career. You want these folks to nod their head and smile when they think of you. You would like to be known by name and face.

• Peers: You have to work with these people, to interface with enough human relations skills to get things done. Your goal is to assist work processes and the people surrounding them, in order to ensure that things run as smoothly as possible. You want respect here.

• Rank and file: Either your subordinates or those affected by your decisions / recommendations. These are employees who may be dependent on you, but who may also whisper about you, or spread nasty rumors – or can rally to your cause. You ignore these people at your long term peril.

Each group has a separate agenda, and over time you as a professional practitioner or manager will have developed a reputation by your actions, your decisions (or lack) and through the word of mouth of those who interact with you. The net result is a label, a persona that surrounds you, describes you and marks you as a “type.”

We all get reduced to a “type.” Now ask yourself, would the people you work with, or work for, want to spend time with someone like you? In other words, are you someone admired, someone viewed as a valuable source of experience, someone to learn from? Someone worth knowing?

Or would these same folks cross the street to avoid you?

And this is important because . . . ?

Would you want to have a drink with someone like yourself? If you would, what is it about that persona that you think would make sharing social time a worthwhile effort? If you’d rather not waste your time, what is it about that person in the mirror that’s such a turnoff?

Most in the profession are very intelligent; many are even brilliant technical practitioners. But that’s not what this is about. This a matter of whether that technical savvy, that textbook learning can be converted on a daily basis into the effective application of that knowledge and skill within the work environment; how that application impacts and interacts with those around you.

Too many managers and practitioners “don’t get it” when it comes to dealing with employees – and as Compensation has a direct and constant impact on those employees, this ability to deal with the human element becomes of necessity a critical component of your success – or failure.

Do you see yourself as others see you?

• Do you have a reputation as a numbers person, or as a people person – or perhaps you’re viewed as presenting a balance between the company and the employees?

• Is your interpersonal style one of engagement, or do you prefer to be left alone, to operate as an individual contributor best left to their own devices?

• Are you more comfortable dealing with theories and concepts, or facts & figures, vs. dealing hands on with the political and emotional realities of the workplace? Numbers people are often uncomfortable when required to interact with other employees.

• Are you sensitive to this question being asked? Do those around you sense empathy or arrogance – or simply aloofness?

Recently I refereed an argument about whether the cost of living or the cost of labor was more important in setting annual merit spend budgets. The debaters battled with charts & graphs, regressed formulae and reams of statistics – when a bit of common sense and practical experience would have shown how senior management would react to the question.

Both practitioners missed the point, lost within the argument over technical accuracy and blind to the dynamics of human nature; both ignored common sense and the reality of employee perceptions. Both turned off their audience by their high-toned professorial statements.

Not the sort of reputation you’d like have at work, is it? Not with everyone watching, keeping score.

A well-rounded compensation pro not only understands the technical side, the analytical side to providing competitive rewards in an effective and efficient manner, but is equally comfortable dealing with the softer side, the people side of the profession.

Having an understanding that real people are affected by recommendations, that morale, productivity and engagement have a price tag as real as payroll dollars flowing out of the company, is a critical awareness that every manager should have.

Once you have that combination in place, adding a bit of persuasiveness, of knowing how to change behaviors, will be like owning the mortar that holds all the bricks together.

Then you’ll have a complete (mostly) compensation pro.

That’s someone I’d like to have a drink with.

Learning From Bad Examples

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 07-05-2015

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Cat-reading-glasses-with-paper, by Floho67It’s often said that each of us can learn a great deal from having a good boss to work for, a solid role model of just how a manager is supposed to act.  We hear about learning the “right” way from our mentors, from people we admire, from good leaders.  And we can also benefit from associating with other good employees, learning from the experienced and high performers how things should be done.

That’s all true enough, but how many of us are fortunate enough to find ourselves in that position?  Who even has a mentor these days?  More often than not we find that our leaders are flawed individuals, possessing an odd assortment of quirks, personal biases, affectations and just plain bad habits that we as their subordinates have to live with.  That we have to put up with.

Yes, I’m talking about the lousy boss.

And then of course there’s always  the malingerer down the hall, the employee who is forever out to beat the system, or the clock watcher who won’t make the effort to get out of their own way.  These are each examples of behavior we see practiced all too often, if not every day at work.  Sometimes it’s as though we’re encircled by the dregs of the company’s workforce, from the top of the organization chart to the bottom.

Yet sometimes there is a candle lit against the darkness.  Sometimes we can learn a great deal by the personal failures that surround us.  We don’t have to succumb to it.  But we have to keep our eyes and ears alert, along with an open mind.

The next step is yours.

We can grow tired of fighting the system, of being the lone ranger, seemingly the only one who cares.  It’s natural to have the battery of self-motivation and sense of professional self wear down.   So we can let ourselves drown in this sea of incompetence, work malaise and indifference, becoming absorbed by it, becoming part of the same problem.

Or you can turn lemons into lemonade.  You can take a negative and squeeze out a positive learning experience.  Sometimes it’s simply a matter of knowing not to do what the Bozo does.

What can we learn from the bad behavior that surrounds us?

> What strategies don’t work:  If certain tactics drop you off a cliff, blowup in your face or drive you straight into a brick wall, learn the why behind the failure and promise yourself not to try similar approaches.

> Why poor treatment of others always backfires in the end: When tactics or behaviors fail to engage employees, or worse, elicits worsened performance , morale and attitude, learn the why behind the employee perspective.  Then it’s likely that when you have the chance you won’t make the same mistakes.

> Losing and gaining respect:  When those for whom you have personal and professional respect show little regard of their own for the poor performers, the poor managers, the bad behaviors, take that experience to heart and make sure that you don’t follow a similar tact and end up disappointing those you seek approval from.

> Or you can simply say, “I won’t ever do that!:”  The most basic learning device is to simply go in the opposite direction from tactics, attitudes and behaviors that you’ve seen fail.  At least you won’t have a history of failure automatically repeated.

Granted, learning from bad examples is a hit or miss strategy,  but if you’re paying attention, if you’re watching the results of someone else’s decisions, you’ll have a better sense of cause and effect.  When something doesn’t work, when someone’s actions cause justifiable upset, when someone’s behavior is inappropriate – each are potential teaching moments.

Every action or non action is a decision.  Sitting on the sidelines and watching the world flow by is a decision. But if you’re paying attention each decision or even lack of action can be an opportunity for you to learn to grow, to test the work environment.

You’ll be a better manager, a better employee and best of all a better person because of it.

A Smooth Sea

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 23-04-2015

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Sailing, by Bruce Tuten

… Never made a skilled sailor

I saw this phrase the other day and it really caught my attention.  Folks on LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media are always posting cute, profound or overused phrases that describe personal motivation, self-discipline or even the meaning of life, and I usually ignore them.   I can’t figure out the point of highlighting the obvious.

But this one gave me pause.

Think about it.  If you want to progress in your career, then you have to show those who are higher up than you that you have what it takes.  That you’re capable of rising to the occasion, making the tough decisions and by your knowledge, skill and experience getting the job done.  And how do you show that?  Fix something, improve a process, change behaviors, save money, make the act of change work for you and your organization.  Have an impact.

Conversely, those who only administer reward programs (sometimes known as treading water) don’t do much of that change stuff and are often viewed as having reached a “career plateau,” or as others might view it – they’ve reached a dead end.   Administrators are not the cream of the profession, and rarely rise to the top.

Is it time to look in the mirror?

Where are we going?

Of course, you have to be in the right environment in order to have the opportunity to shine, to enact those wonderful results.  And while we would all like to be employed by smooth running operations, the heroes of our success story are those who created all that smoothness and efficiency.  Not those who came after, who benefit from it today by pushing the “continue” button..

In a practical sense though, how many really smooth running businesses are out there?  It’s a fair statement to make that just about every organization has some program, policy or procedure that isn’t working right.  They all have some aspect of their reward programs that might not be broken, but could be seriously bent or considered charitably as less than effective.

Not sure of your environment?  Try this.

  • Ask questions:  Become the “Curious George” of your organization and learn all there is to know about your current reward programs.  You’ll need to understand the “why” as well as the “what” and “how.”
  • Talk to management:  Gain from their perspective as to expectations, comfort level with the status quo and their willingness to accept change.
  • Set up metric milestones:  Set up a series of base line statistics that describe current elements of your reward programs.  From there you can measure progress toward specific goals. And you’ll also have a graphic story to show management.  Numbers can trump words.

Change for the sake of change

On the other hand, have a care that you don’t try to force an issue.  I’ve seen compensation practitioners push hard to inject new policies, procedures and even cultural initiatives where they simply would not work.  Something they should have known from the start.  We’ve likely all experienced some form of the “round hole, square peg” scenario – where certain ideas are doomed to fail due to management bias, a deeply entrenched culture, employee demographics or a host of other reasons unique to that organization.

But some practitioners will still push an aggressive agenda, more for their own betterment  (resume enhancement, improving their personal experience, career checkmarks, etc.) than for the improvement of their organization.

I’ve seen it done.

So have a care; using your organization as a personal experiment or Petri dish to try out the latest trends can be a problem for you.  And for your organization.

I Don’t Want To Do That

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 14-04-2015

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Screaming Kitten, by GalgenTXOuch.  That phrase coming from senior leadership is still ringing in your head.  You just delivered a fact-based and what you considered compelling argument in support of your compensation program recommendations, and the best you received in return was an indifferent “nahhh“?

They don’t want to do it.  They didn’t even give you much of a reason to ponder, to argue against, never mind provide you with a rationale that you might be able to circle back on with an adjusted recommendation.  The door was shut.  They’re not interested.

It happens

Frustrating as the experience is, anyone who has been in the compensation profession for any length of time can tell you that yes, rejection happens.  Sometimes it happens a lot.  It’s not unusual for those in senior leadership to harbor pre-conceived notions, biases, and preferences (pro and con) that are coupled with a stubborn or even arrogant demeanor.   It may seem that they don’t even listen.  They know better than you and they run the business.  Deal with it.

Talk about trying to push a boulder up a hill!

You do have options though.  To avoid smacking your head against the wall you could serve up proposals that reflect only what you already know they want to hear.  You could be their “yes man” and play to their preferences or help feed their biases by agreeing with them.  That may not be doing your job as a compensation leader, but it would increase the likelihood of receiving a YES response – or at least better your odds.

But if you go down that road what do they need you for? That’s using you to hold up a mirror, and then to administer whatever it might be that they agreed to support.

You could do that.  I’ve seen it done.  I’ve seen people make a career out of that strategy.  Keep your head down so that it doesn’t get chopped off.  Compensation management becomes compensation administration.

Because changing the mind of senior leaders with their heads in the sand, or those safeguarding their own self interests can be a difficult and stressful process.

Odd man out

Then again, maybe you want to stand for something, to believe in something.  Maybe as a professional compensation practitioner you feel strongly enough about something (program, policy, procedure, decision) that you’re willing to raise your hand and say, “wait a minute.”  You know something is wrong and you know how to fix it.  Or at least you know that the ship is going in the wrong direction.  You could be the principled fellow with the persistent voice of persuasive argument, the architect of change, the champion of compensation professionalism.

You could also find yourself out of a job.  Because sometimes rocking the boat can get you tossed overboard.

Or, you could decide that you would find greater job satisfaction by working somewhere else.  Having to deal with mental dinosaurs and the stubbornly backward may be more than you want to keep struggling with.

Strike a balance

But have a care first.  Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water.  Perhaps the right direction for you is neither right (what they think they want) nor left (what your profession suggests is the better strategy), but closer to the center by presenting a balanced viewpoint.  So bend a little, become knowledgeable of those management biases and present reasoned arguments that both incorporate those preferences and still move the organization in the direction you feel is better

Rome wasn’t built in a day, but they got it done, one building at a time.  If you push in the right direction you may only get half a loaf from a recalcitrant management, but it’s progress.   And the next time you might get more.  Just keep (gently) pushing.

Frustrating?  Yes.  Will you lose some battles?  For sure.

But what an achievement you could gain.

Because to give up is to become an administrator.  Would that work for you?