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Considering the Minimum Wage

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 24-04-2016

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Periodically I’ve been asked to comment on the controversial subject of raising the U.S. Federal Minimum Wage.  I say controversial because it seems as though lately the subject has taken on the sensitivities normally associated with politics and religion.  Everyone has a strong opinion, and few folks out there are willing to listen to viewpoints that differ from their own.

That being said, as a compensation practitioner of long standing I do have a few opinions that I’ll share with you.

Picture This

Close your eyes and picture for a moment the type of employee that your mind conjures up when you think, minimum wage employee.  In my view there are two possible images:

  • Bobbie, the High School Kid: Not that long ago Bobbie’s image stood by itself, the high school age youngster holding down his first job. His motivation was money for gas and Saturday night dates.  The job was part time and the work didn’t require skills or even more than a day of training.  Anyone could do it.

Now Bobbie doesn’t really care about the business, about customer service, or even whether he consistently made it to work on time.  Company loyalty was a foreign concept, not even thought about, as he probably planned to stay on this particular job for only a short period of time.  He had better things to do, and just needed a few bucks to do it.  Turnover rates for the Bobbies of the world is very high.

And he doesn’t need a “living wage.”

  • Robert, the Head of Household: This image is what may be considered the new face of the minimum wage issue, or at least as the media portrays it. We’re looking at a much older worker who needs a full time job and has a family to support.  What remains though, is the same low or minimum skilled individual, who for some reason cannot obtain employment more complex or valuable than that of an entry level position that offers the lowest wage out there.

How it is that Robert is working at the same job next to Bobbie is never explained; bad luck, high school dropout, having a questionable background that discourages other employers – we don’t know.  Perhaps it’s a part time second job to help out at home. But Robert is doing the same work as Bobbie.  Paying different rates could be considered discriminatory.

The Minimum Wage Job

So what jobs warrant a mandated minimum wage these days, providing only the lowest of the low pay levels?  Chances are the answer is that low or no skills are required.  What employees don’t know can be quickly learned through short term training.  These are the proverbial “anyone can do this” jobs.

But you say, what about construction workers?  Not the electricians, plumbers or carpenters, but the ditch diggers (is that even a category these days?) and generic laborers.  Or what about low skill jobs that are highly physical, very messy or even dangerous?  Here the competitive marketplace pushes pay rates up to attract workers.  Anyone can do it, perhaps, but those who want to are limited – so supply and demand push up the pay rates.

The Survey Says . . . .

For most jobs employers are not able to attract employees when they pay below market rates.  While that may be obvious for skilled positions that’s also why the ditch diggers, garbage handlers and other less desirable jobs are often paid more than what the government mandates.

Minimum wage jobs represent the floor of the labor market, where the only reason certain jobs are paid what they are is because the government (federal or state) mandates a certain pay level that supersedes competitive practice.  Without being artificially propped up these jobs would have their pay levels gravitate to what it would take to attract the right caliber of employee.

The Employer Viewpoint

Most compensation experts will tell you that a proper pay level(and you can certainly debate the exact amount) is the least amount necessary to attract, motivate a retain the right caliber of employee.  Because anything more, according to Herzberg’s Motivation Theory, will not increase your return on investment (performance, productivity, etc.).  And anything less won’t allow you to have a competent staff who is willing to remain with you.

If it was your money, and your jobs required little or no skills to perform, and the profit margin of your small business was razor thin, what would you do?  Likely you’d keep your staff as small as possible, use technology wherever you can to replace employees but pay your staff the prevailing (competitive) wage – unless you’re artificially required to pay more than the marketplace would otherwise suggest.

McDonalds has already introduced internal ordering kiosks that replace employees.

When you’re facing the loss of your business because your pay levels have become a social issue, you either fold up your tent or you cut; you cut staff, you cut hours, or even products and services, but you do whatever it takes to stay afloat. And chances are the prospect of only staying afloat was not why you went into business in the first place.

Meanwhile, all Bobbie still cares about is getting enough gas money for Saturday night, a new video game and a couple of burgers.  A raised minimum wage will not affect either his motivation, his customer service or his willingness to stay with you.  He wins, you lose.

On the other hand Robert is out on the picket line demanding a “living wage” to support a family that Bobbie doesn’t have – all for doing the same job.  But of course Bobbie will gladly accept whatever handout the government requires.  It’s all good news for him.

Should you pay the same rates to Bobbie and Robert for performing the same, low or no skilled job?  That really is the social issue on the table, isn’t it?  Perhaps it’s not a compensation issue at all.

And finally, where does the $15 rate come from?  Economic or competitive survey analysis?  Compensation professionals?  Or perhaps only from politicians and social activists.

The Value of the Value Proposition

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 08-04-2016

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Use of the term “Value Proposition” seems to have gone out of date in Human Resource circles, or at least I don’t hear it mentioned anymore.  Have you?  Granted, catchy buzz phrases come and go with the seasons, or so it seems, but I had thought that the value proposition as a strategic compensation focus had roots.  Perhaps the term has been replaced by a new phrase (same idea; new words).  It can be hard to keep track.

I hope though, that compensation practitioners are not losing sight of the concept, because in my humble opinion this thinking should be the 11th commandment.

For those new to Compensation the original term (in HR speak) can be described as follows:

A value proposition is a promise of value to be delivered and acknowledged and a belief from the employee that value will be delivered and experienced.  A value proposition can apply to an entire organization, or parts thereof, or employee perception, service or programs.

What the dictionary is saying is that if an employee values something, then a  promise by their employer to provide that something is considered a worthwhile strategy.

The Value of “Something”

The trick is, what is that “something?”  Because one size does not fit all.

We all want money.  Cash is king and all of that.  But pay by itself can be more of a psychological dissatisfier than most realize (remember Herzberg’s Motivation Theory?).  Because having what we consider the right amount of pay results in a neutral feeling , while anything less than the right amount is a perceived negative.  And having more?  Does that feeling even exist?  So there is little upside for the employer to paying more if the goal is employee satisfaction.

However employees in their diversity want more than just money.  They can appreciate and “value” more than the cash. It could be medical and / or other benefit coverage, low insurance premiums or deductibles, vacation time, free parking, discounted cafeteria food, liberal sick time, tuition reimbursement, even free coffee in the break room.  The list is endless.

Anything that the employee considers a reward (that which is provided or made accessible to employees) as part of the working environment is a something that will be valued.

Employers take note: what employees value they can be motivated to attain or retain (not lose).

Using The Value Proposition

This is where the “cafeteria style” benefit plans originated; the view that, if the organization focuses on delivering that which the employees consider as having personal value the return benefits (improved morale, retention, engagement, productivity, etc.) will outweigh the cost of providing that value.  And perhaps the cost doesn’t have to be any greater than what was paid out before, just better focused.

I still remember the organization where my laundry was picked up and delivered to my office door.  And where I could buy a dozen high quality long stem roses for my wife.  The charge for these services was 100% paid by the employee, but the memory of having (and later losing) those conveniences lingers to this day.  Especially with my wife!

Even considering the above merits it remains a common practice in some organizations to focus on delivering pay and pay alone; to treat employees as having one dimensional thinking and desires.  Here are managers who think that by keeping their finger on the EASY button (just pay them more) all good things will come to the organization – without breaking a sweat.

Instead, all too often they find themselves burdened by unsustainable payroll growth, while still lacking the improved morale, retention, engagement, productivity, etc. that they had assumed would follow the pay cycle.  They find little or no ROI for their simplistic knee jerk tactic of thinking that one answer (the easy one) solves all challenges.

Because they really aren’t interested in providing all that the employees consider value. That road leads to more work (complexities, time consuming, myriad answers) than if they simply pressed a payroll button.

So perhaps, at least in some quarters, the Value Proposition hasn’t disappeared after all, but is just ignored.

But not with your organization, right?

Bob’s Your Uncle

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 08-04-2016

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Orange Arrow, by Stuart MilesI once lived in England for five years as an expatriate, and during that time my team took great pleasure in confusing me with English words that held little meaning for an American.  Often times I could repeat the words back to them but still didn’t understand what the term meant.

As the Brits often told me, we speak the same language, but we don’t.

One example that stuck with me is “Bob’s Your Uncle.”  Within the UK it’s a common phrase that means “and there you go,” but like so many colloquialisms finding the root cause was a challenge.  It took me almost two years to find someone who could explain where the term originated.

Easy Peasey

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

Such office holders with familial connections held positions of power, influence and easy living.  Over time the phrase was born, that everything would be fine (easy peasey) 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 ago from a recent graduate who wanted to make a career in HR and specifically compensation.  The inexperienced questioner asked a very basic question; a question often asked by those just starting their careers.  “How can I achieve success in my chosen profession?”   He wondered whether there was a blueprint, a map, or a guide of sorts to keep him on the straight and narrow.

Of course there are no rules, no instruction manuals or pointed arrows guaranteed to show the way to career success.  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 made) that one gains over the length of a career.

What happened to me may not happen to you, I thought.

So I condensed my experiences, 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 what I sent to that recent graduate, reflecting my thoughts for how a compensation practitioner can be a success.  It’s not a complete list, the specific applications can sway in the wind along with the reality of personal circumstances, and the concepts broad enough for individual interpretation.

  • Understand your company:  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?   Don’t remain stuck in your office / cubicle, but get out there and learn about the business.
  • Understand the facts:  What is the business environment your organization operates in, and how competitive is your reward program?  What story do the metrics of your organization tell you?   What issues do you face with payroll, turnover, morale, engagement, etc?  Sadly, all too many practitioners start and stop here.
  • Understand your management: Who are these people and what are their management biases?  Learn the perspective that they bring to making HR and compensation decisions. Know them and get them to know you.
  • Understand your goals: If you don’t know the 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 you have goals that are integrated with the larger picture.
  • 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, then work diligently at making a difference,  every day.

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

Bob’s your uncle.

Pushing Back On Personal Research

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 30-03-2016

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Bureaucrat, by Delmarva.DealingsIt’s not unusual in the recruiting process for a candidate to balk at the company’s initial salary offer. Sometimes in their pushback they might say that, having conducted a bit of “research” they feel that their personal value, or perhaps the company’s job pricing, should be greater than what’s on the table.

How should a Manager respond?

Before the advent of the internet companies were seldom challenged over how they priced their jobs. The value of a candidate’s background and experience might be negotiated, and often was, but not the internal value of the position itself. These days the wealth of information now available online offers interested parties an opportunity to attempt their own investigation, to analyze what a company’s job is supposedly worth in the real world.

What do you say when a candidate tells you that your $70,000 job should be priced at $80,000?

What a Manager Should Know

If you haven’t been hit with this scenario yet, consider yourself lucky. But it will happen. The challenge could even come from an existing employee, one who feels that they’re being undervalued for their responsibilities.

So how good is that “research” you’ve been told about? Can you take it to the bank, or should it go to the trash pile instead? First of all, the online data sources most often quoted are frequently criticized as unreliable, inaccurate and are seldom used by compensation professionals to base their program recommendations. These sources often use data provided by the employees themselves, and may lack adequate filters to assure proper job matches. Data collection techniques are often challenged by compensation practitioners.

Some sources can be self-serving, especially those sponsored by firms tied to the staffing industry. Reporting higher salaries would benefit them in the form of higher fees.

These sources are also convenient and inexpensive, increasing their popularity. But quality costs; you get what you pay for. Here you get straight arithmetic, plain and simple. The data cannot know the internal importance of a specific job within an organization. It cannot interpret, cannot assign subjective values the way company decision-makers do when assigning a grade among peers, among like valued jobs. Thus it’s easy to miss the mark by not understanding the company’s job in terms of true market comparators.

So How Should the Manager Respond?

When you’re exposed to this personal research tactic, step with care. Your willingness to debate the issue hands at least a partial victory to the challenger, who will no doubt boast far and wide about their successful “strategy.” So if you engage, be prepared for more of this as word spreads. Avoid playing defense.

You might consider other possible reactions.

I didn’t hear you: As suggested above, ignore the gambit, refusing to engage in speculation, as discussing the matter gives a degree of credence to the challenger’s viewpoint. Simply state your confidence that the job has been properly priced – then drop it.

The pushback: You could ask, what are their professional credentials for such research, as your company uses compensation professionals to keep pay levels abreast of the market.

Pushback II: You could challenge the “research”, but that gives more credence to the point being made. Likely you won’t win the argument, as whatever you say would be viewed with skepticism.

I’ll pass: You could skirt the issue and refer to HR, saying that you’ll “have them take a look.” This fools no one, but it does provide the opportunity to move the conversation in a different direction. Note: this will not work with an external candidate trying to negotiate.

Your reality is that the company has already determined the value of the subject job, and will not welcome outside second opinions. The job has a grade, a salary range and a midpoint – none of which will be changed because someone claims to have done a better job of “researching” how it should be valued.

I’d recommend the “I didn’t hear you” response, and be firm.

Btw, when managers and executives have asked me which sources should they use to research the market value of the job they’re interviewing for, I tell them, “Don’t do it.”

Do they really think that the company is going to listen?

Who Is Watching The Store?

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 16-03-2016

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Bureaucrat, by Delmarva.DealingsThe pending start of a new business year brings with it both the end and the beginning of the company’s annual management incentive plan cycle. While the left hand is busy processing performance assessments and award payouts the right hand is getting ready to launch the new cycle. In many companies this fresh start becomes an automatic activity, an administrative process not given much thought past doing what they did last year, and even the year before.

Here We Go Again

Perhaps instead of a rubber stamp now might be a good time to review the design, communication, administration and payment history of your annual management incentive plan and consider breathing some new life into it. Because if left on autopilot too long it’s surprising how many extra names get added to the incentive-eligible rolls, adding significant cost without proper review.

Eventually senior management will notice the ballooning costs and clamp down, either by reducing eligibility in a broad-based fashion, and /or by reducing incentive payment opportunities. You don’t want to get to this point.

Has your company made too many people eligible for the incentive program? Take a quick look at a 3-year growth curve of positions / employees being included. Would you consider them all deserving? Is someone making that call, or does title or grade designation become the sole deciding factor? Can you explain the ROI for the growing total in management incentive pay?

Employees deemed eligible for an incentive should have a line of sight between their performance against measureable objectives and corresponding incentive payments. If they don’t, what are you rewarding? Your plan shouldn’t be a profit-sharing scheme, where eligible employees light a candle in the window and hope that the company does well.

Companies typically use the “manager” title as an eligibility cutoff, but perhaps what you name a position shouldn’t be the sole criteria. There are those whose responsibilities include managing people, versus other individual contributors who manage a budget, or a non-staffed function, or a specific responsibility.

Using a grade designation can have its own problems; is everyone in a grade automatically eligible, and if not how do you differentiate between positions, when the company has already deemed all of similar (graded) value? Slippery slope here.

If you’re suffering from title inflation and have granted puffed-up titles for certain employees, are your Managers actually managing at all, or are they only supervising or are only technical experts with a bigger title?

Have a care that your pay-for-performance management incentive program doesn’t evolve into an entitlement program.

It’s Time; Where’s My Payment?

Something else to look at is whether the incentive award is actually at risk. How many of your eligible employees don’t receive an award each cycle? If practically everyone receives an award, perhaps instead of an incentive plan what you have is a delayed compensation plan; managers put in their twelve months and then expect a bonus payment. I have clients in Europe where at least a portion of a manager’s annual incentive is guaranteed.

Does your incentive program require behavior above and beyond, with individual objectives linked to broader company goals? Or are your objectives created at the end of the cycle, simply to comply with some HR assessment form that they must complete?

At the lower limits of eligibility companies may offer a 5% incentive target. However, that low a reward opportunity isn’t a carrot at all. You won’t change behavior, never mind get anyone’s attention, so why bother? If behavior isn’t going to change, if you’ll get the same performance as before, but now for an additional cost, what’s your investment return?

Now is the time to review the effectiveness of your annual management incentive plan and suggest improvements to increase effectiveness and provide more “pay for performance.” Once the current payment processing cycle is complete the pressure will be on to roll-out the 2016 program. At that point the die will be cast for another year.

It will be too late. Your EASY button will have become your $ THROWAWAY button.

Are You Adding Value?

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 16-03-2016

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Have you ever been asked this question at work? Or perhaps looked at yourself in the mirror one morning and asked yourself? My belief is that we don’t consider this question enough, for ourselves and for the employees who work for us. We dance all around it.

In either case above the usual knee-jerk response most of us come up with tends to focus on job performance, on personal competencies and even on having shown a demonstrated loyalty to the organization by sticking around for years. But is that missing the critical point of the question, your value to others, and by missing that point you can mislead yourself – like a slick politician who talks a good game but fails to address core issues.

The Real Question

Shouldn’t a more considered response relate closely to what the organization itself considers as to what your value should be, and less about how busy you’ve been, how knowledgeable you are in your field or even your impressive length of service? You could be a paper pushing administrator occupying the same chair for years and still give yourself a high personal score. “I’m doing a great job.”

So chances are that many of us may not be honest with ourselves, and validating that sidestep are many performance appraisal processes that seem to gloss over the value question without zeroing in. Their “What have you done?” query often doesn’t relate close enough to those actions, behaviors and achievements that should have been done to advance business interests.

Yes, you have a job to do, and perhaps even a job description that lays out your duties and responsibilities. If you perform as to what the description lays out, is that enough? Is that adding value or is that treading water? Just doing enough. It can go either way, but even the rare job descriptions that are accurate and up-to-date can be very inward focused – not considering the bigger picture of how a job performance relates to and can advance the department, never mind the business.

Or hold things back.

And what about those employees who report to you? Would you be satisfied if one of them told you, “I’m doing what the job description says. Isn’t that enough?” Here the unstated follow-up thought is likely, “I’m getting by.”

What Defines “Value”?

Your organization, whether you consider the entire business or even the smallest department, has likely laid out a series of objectives for the year. There are goals, there are definitions of success and very likely defined pathways toward the end zone. With that thought in mind it’s easy to see that an employee adds value when, in the course of performing their job they assist the organization / department in achieving those goals – helping in even a small way to score the financial touchdown.

In that light, consider that your activity list – you know, the one that ticks off all the accomplishments you’ve achieved over the course of the year – may actually be aimed in the wrong direction. Being busy can be viewed as the same as walking on a treadmill. You can build up a sweat but you won’t be getting anywhere.

So how much value are you adding?

Do You Have What It Takes?

Let’s go back to the mirror with a revised question. What are you doing to help your organization / department achieve its goals? Are you playing a leadership role, a supportive role, an individual contributor role or has your train gone off the tracks and down some rabbit hole into clock watching and “just doing the job?”

Leadership would view adding value as being personified by the employee who not only does their job but does it in way that keeps organization objectives in mind. That employee doesn’t waste time or resources, understands how their role impacts the business and is engaged in helping the business succeed. Examples are many when one seeks to do their job in a way that helps the greater good.

Is that you? Do you have what it takes to truly add value to your employer? Is that what your mirror says?

Because the “I’m following my job description” attitude is a short sighted response that helps neither your career or your organization.

When Its Time To Pull The Plug

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 03-03-2016

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The other day I was trimming the landscape of several plants that had outgrown their space when my wife asked me, “Why are you cutting down that plant?  It looks nice and the blossoms have a sweet scent.  Can’t we keep it?”

It was a ginger plant, and yes it was pretty and did smell nice – but it had also over grown its designated space.  Slowly spreading outward it was crowding other plants and transforming our neatly designed landscape into a jungle.   The plant no longer provided the value we had desired when first planted.  It was time to cut back or cut out.

Which got me thinking; how hard is it for managers to decide when it’s time to go?  Sometimes employees stay too long at a job, year after year racking up ever higher pay while not delivering more performance than they did the previous year.

Reliable workers?  Good workers?  Yes.  Expensive?  Yes to that, too.  Is their value increasing?  Not really.

Eventually you’ll realize that, while reliable Bob is doing a fine job, someone else can do that same job for a lot less money.  So what do you do?

Let it slide?

Think about it.  If a loaf of bread is commonly priced at $2.00, why would you pay $3.00 for the same product, the same taste, the same benefit?  Or even $2.50? Would this extra money be well spent?  Or would you start scanning the store shelves for something more reasonable?

Creating the Problem

How does one get into this fix, having satisfactory but overpriced employees on the staff?  Why do these employees seem stuck in place?

Often times the answer is simple and straightforward; because they’re comfortable, to the point where they see no reason to rock the boat.

  • They like it here; they like the job, their co-workers, the work environment.
  • They know everything about the job(s), as well as the company, and so the stress level is reduced and they feel able to apply less effort on the job
  • They’re comfortable doing what they do, and have little motivation to do more.  They’re not driven to break out of their mold.  They don’t see themselves as being in a rut.
  • The pay is good, or at least ok, so why leave and start fresh somewhere else?  Where they would have to prove themselves all over again.  Job search is a real bother, stressful too, and should be avoided until absolutely necessary.

So now we see why some employees stick around, content to remain on that treadmill.  But why do their managers allow this problem to develop in the first place?

It’s a Management Issue

Why don’t managers cut off these employees?  Or promote them up and out?  Because many times taking such actions is not perceived as being in the best interest of the manager.

  • The cost and headache of replacement; the time, disruption, the added stress
  • More work would be created for the manager, filling in for planned projects; their time lines would be negatively impacted
  • The perceived damage to the manager’s reputation (employees have left), and leadership is watching

Then what’s a manager to do?  Corrective action is usually more wishful talk than action.  Moving someone along when there isn’t a performance problem is a tough decision to implement.  Though sometimes it’s the right thing to do, both for the company and the employee.

  • Encourage employees to learn and grow within the company – preparing themselves for better positions
  • Be open to losing an employee to another department that’s better able to utilize their capabilities.
  • Expect and demand continued and improved contributions from all your employees
  • Plan to move them up or move them out as part of managing an evolving staff

Ask yourself, where is the balance of contribution provided (performance) versus value paid out (compensation)?  When the balance tips too far in either direction, it’s time for action.  When an employee recognizes that there is more contribution on their part than value received, they look for the exit.  However, when the employer sees that there is more value provided than performance contribution, it’s time to move such employees along.

I’m just saying, the day will come – for some.  When it does, will you recognize that it’s time to pull the plug?

One Day At A Time

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 23-02-2016

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Advice, by SoloCan I have a show of hands? How many of you out there have ever attended a conference or seminar where the speaker really inspired you? Where you were filled with ideas about how to transform your work environment or reward programs, or perhaps your approach to your job or career?

Most of you, right?

Now, how many of you actually managed to keep the light of inspiration and eager anticipation burning bright one week after returning to work? How about for two weeks?

Ok, not many hands still raised. Bummer.

Reality Sets In

The problem that so many of us face is that there’s often a world of difference between the ideas inspired by a conference speaker and the realities of life where you work. Somehow what you hear often doesn’t relate to the practical world you live in.

So what usually happens when you return to work gung ho to transform your workplace and invigorate your career?

• You find that no one picked up the ball while you were away. So you’re immediately tossed into a maelstrom of catch-up work, putting out fires and in general just trying to get projects and activities back onto an even keel. That shiny participant binder sits on your desk, ignored.

• The boss doesn’t want to hear about the great ideas you brought back with you. There’s work to be done and you’ve been gone too long already. Or perhaps the perception was that the seminar was a boondoggle get-away and the boss doesn’t take the subject matter seriously. bit of a brick wall there.

• You’re reminded that the work culture is more interested in maintaining its self-interest and status quo, and as a result tends to stifles new ideas. You can’t find a sponsor to support your initiatives. “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”

• Within a few weeks you start to think of that seminar or conference as more of a vacation with good memories than a catalyst for action. The daunting reality of what it would take to initiate real change has dampened your enthusiasm to a whisper of what it had been. Dust starts to gather on the participant binder.

Meanwhile the conference speakers you enjoyed so much have moved on to motivate, excite and invigorate the next batch of attendees – and the cycle of life goes on.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

One Day At A Time

Let’s presume for a moment that your position on the organizational ladder is not at the top, that you cannot effect change simply by dictum: “Make it so!” What you’re likely left with as a strategy then, is to focus on incremental change. Get that first down or punch out a single hit, vs. throwing for the end zone or swinging for the bleachers.

Some practical suggestions for you to consider:

• Take little steps: If you know the direction you want to take (changes in policies, procedures, behaviors, whatever) start moving in that direction in small ways vs. abruptly shaking things up with big ideas. As examples you could start collecting data (metrics), revise forms to be more user friendly, increase procedures to create more transparencies; the list of minor targeted improvements can be endless.

• Educate decision-makers: Get the decision-makers on your side by talking to them, explaining your ideas, starting with the basics. Do not assume that they understand the foundations of your profession. Leadership needs to be brought beyond sound bites and talking points to an understanding of compensation issues that affect the organization. If senior management doesn’t know they have a problem, and the resulting business impact of that problem, why should they listen to your “solutions?”

• Develop your own strategy: Whatever it is you wish to accomplish, plan out the steps you’ll need to get there; Who needs to be on board as supporters, what (and who) are the barriers to success, what has been tried before, what are the likely challenges? You need a plan of action that, when properly followed can get you to the desired end-state.

• Communicate, communicate, communicate: Don’t try to recommend changes from the safety and anonymity of your office or cubicle. Get out there and interact with clients, sponsors and even resistors. Whether it’s talking to groups, preparing white papers on relevant topics, or simply exposing the dark corners of bad practices / behaviors, you need to focus on your message and repeat it, over and over again. Always be prepared to (visibly) talk up your message.

• Watch for glitches: They are everywhere, those mistakes, unintentional consequences and passive resistors just lying in wait. So be ready. No plan is perfect, no one is mistake-proof. Ask yourself, what can go wrong? Where do we expect complaints? Then prepare your response in advance. Make it part of your education / communication campaign.

Becoming a catalyst for change when you can’t wave a magic wand takes time, takes patience, and takes a large dose of discipline. So anticipate that there will be setbacks and disappointments. Then learn from your mistakes and carry on.

Just take one day at a time.

Then maybe then next year you can share your own experiences at one of those conferences. You’ll have something valuable to contribute.

Managers Don’t Trip Over Mountains

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 23-02-2016

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Stumbled, by BlondInrlkard FrobergYou’ve likely heard the old saying, “People trip over anthills, not mountains.’ Well, ok, so maybe I’ve been around the block a few times, but that’s what my father always used to tell me. What he meant was, don’t focus so much of your attention on the horizon that you can’t see what’s right in front of you. Right in front of you is what can trip you up, right now. What’s in your face can bring you more trouble, more headaches and more hassles than what might be around the corner or farther down the road.

You wouldn’t drive your car that way, ignoring your immediate surroundings, so why would you behave that way at work?

Those “anthills” can vary from organization to organization, but as a group they usually involve what critics call “administrative” tasks; getting job descriptions right, handling routine procedures consistently and equitably, creating metrics databases, determining FSLA exemptions, correcting for title inflation, ensuring employee communications, (employment letters, expatriate agreements, reward plan documents, etc.) are accurate, complete and understandable, training managers to understand performance management, and most important putting out fires (employee issues) that seem to crop up everywhere and all the time.

The Small Stuff Isn’t Sexy

Sad but true, but what are often perceived as small issues (call them the “background”) are hard to get excited over. They don’t merit a line on your resume, and even doing a great job probably won’t advance your career. You won’t become a “Star” by going back to basics. So few employees will want to work the small stuff, that which is also less visible to management. Therefore those tasks are usually delegated to the newbies. Because the other practitioners want to be seen, they want to rub shoulders with the high-and-mighty; they don’t want to worry about getting the small stuff right. They don’t want to be seen focusing on what they consider drone work.

Be honest, now. Most of us like to work on exciting projects, work that will gain us the right sort of attention, the work that could advance our careers. Most of us are staring at the horizon as we walk down the corridors at work.

If You Don’t Get The Small Stuff Right . . . .

But someone has to handle the small stuff, or else the underpinnings of the organization first loosen and then eventually fall apart. Then it really gets exciting.

If you don’t change your car’s oil, or rotate the tires, bad news is going to happen – eventually.

What these big idea folks don’t seem to realize is that often times you need to walk before you can run. You have to understand the basic principles behind your reward programs before you should start to tweak them.

I first learned about linear regression the hard way, by preparing charts manually. It would take two hours to do what a handheld computer / tablet / smartphone can do today in minutes. But through my efforts I came to understand the foundation of linear regression techniques, vs. simply memorizing a series of key strokes to get the same answer. By starting with the basics I learned about regression mechanics, and about how they could help my organization. And also the memorization technique usually fails to give users a practical understanding of what they’re doing; which makes it harder to explain when the “Why?” questions begin.

So do yourself a career favor and work to become a well rounded professional. You can keep juggling more than one ball in the air, can’t you? So don’t ignore critical, though basic, compensation techniques (policies, procedures, communications, etc.) when chasing your home run reward programs. Getting both right will gain you both visibility and respect. And keep you from tripping over yourself.

. . . . They Trip Over Anthills

Cow Tipping

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 11-02-2016

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Cow Tipping, by Mike LichtMost of us start to feel a shade uncomfortable once we step away from our comfort zone, from whatever it is within our normal environment that we’re accustomed to doing, behaving or surrounding ourselves with. We’re creatures of habit, and feel that those habits came to us honestly, after much repeated practice. That, plus something out of the ordinary might challenge us, shake up our routines, and even point out weaknesses or flaws in how we look at ourselves.

What’s Comfortable For Us

It’s like my clowder of five cats at home, who each prefer to repeat the same behavior (wanting their food at a certain time, sleeping in the same spot, wandering the house [or yard] by following the same route), day in and day out, the routine pattern feels . . . normal. It feels right. It’s what we’ve grown accustomed to doing and would likely prefer to continue.

Following the same patterns at work can be equally comfortable for us, as after a time the job repetition becomes easier and our continued success assured. The thinking is: Let’s follow the same steps as we followed last year; just change the calendar and repeat the process; we can do it with our eyes closed. Have you ever watched a movie or situation-comedy endless times, to the point where you can mouth the dialogue (you know who you are!)? This habitual practice is the office equivalent of the administrative EASY button.

Are your annual merit increases processed using the same steps, the same forms and the same written communications? Only the date is different? Has your annual management incentive process become more bureaucratic (get those appraisal forms in on time!) than the originally intended critical assessment of objective accomplishments? Is your biggest worry the payroll deadline?

Have you overheard yourself telling someone, “We’ve always done it that way”? Ouch!

Like being burrowed into a soft leather easy chair, we relish the comfortable, the familiar. We don’t like to be disturbed. There really is a phrase, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Breaking The Habit

Now I admit that there’s nothing wrong with a tried and true routine, especially when things work, but sometimes change for the right reason can be a preferable strategy. Like when things aren’t working so well anymore. Or when the business environment surrounding your routine has shifted. This thought process is called “continuous improvement,” among other buzz terms.

Every now and then, don’t you get the urge to try something different, to break out of your mold and jump the shark? It could something simple, like going to Chick-fil-A instead of McDonalds, Dunkin Donuts instead of Starbucks, or maybe to implement an improved reward program at work.

This shake-’em-up attitude is called “tipping the cow,” where sacred cows, our tried and true and forever ingrained behaviors or practices are suddenly challenged. This is heady stuff, cutting against the grain or marching to the beat of a different drummer. This is sticking your neck out for the betterment of the organization.

Now I’m not talking about change for the sake of change, or rushing off into the unknown because you read some article by compensation “experts.” I’m talking about continuously striving to improve yourself, the programs you work with and the organization you work for. There is always a better way, and those who search for improvement will reap personal and professional reward.

But there are also risks out there for the unwary and the administrators. There are nay-sayers, passive resistors and doubting Thomas’. So have a care. But if you want to manage compensation, never mind lead or direct it, you have to stop playing follow the leader.

Ever see a line of elephants? Each holds onto the tail of the one in front of them.

Are you one of those elephants?

Or are you ready to venture forth and tip a cow?