Do You Need A Compensation Consultant?Do You Need A Compensation Consultant? The time will come when you find yourself between a rock and a hard place at work.  Your ability to produce project deliverables will be challenged by staff shortages, multiple projects simultaneously...

Read more

Do You Value Your Customer-Facing Jobs?Do You Value Your Customer-Facing Jobs? Have you ever walked out of a store because of poor customer service?  Or felt frustrated because the company representative at the other end of the phone did not seem to care?  Or after enduring a bad...

Read more

Why Managers Don't Manage PayWhy Managers Don't Manage Pay When an employee is promoted to their first manager’s position, they are given the proverbial Keys to the Kingdom – your company.  They now have the authority to spend your company’s money.  From...

Read more

Rewarding The Right Employee

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 08-11-2016

Tags: , , , ,


This question may sound like a no-brainer, but when you think of your organization’s pay-for performance compensation program, do you feel that you are recognizing and rewarding the right Business meeting, by freedigitalphoto.comemployees?

And who exactly is that, you may ask?

  • It is not everyone
  • It is not those employees who managers feel need the increased pay
  • It is not the employee who has been busy all year
  • It is not the employees with the greatest length of service
  • It is not the employee that everyone likes

What your definition should be, is that the right employee is whomever has performed well above the crowd of other employees during your rating period.  Those who you can rightly call high achievers.  Those whose resignation would cause you to lose sleep at night.  Everyone else can be an afterthought.

Now that was easy, wasn’t it?  Like I said, a no-brainer.

It Doesn’t Work That Way

But what’s that, you say?  That’s not exactly how things work in your organization?  There are other considerations besides performance?  So that perhaps the right employee doesn’t always get rewarded?  Or whatever they receive isn’t much more than that given to Joe Average?

Why do you do that?  Let’s consider the likely culprits:

  • Not much money to go around:  This is a common argument when merit budgets are tight; that when you can’t make much of a distinction when granting reward percentages, you don’t make much of a distinction with your rewards.  Proponents would say, “Let’s just push the EASY button and give everyone the same raise.”
  • Everyone deserves something:  The “It’s not my money” tactic, where emotion overrules business sense.  If an employee hasn’t seen fired then they should get something for sitting around for twelve months.  Hasn’t inflation increased for everyone?
  • Performance ratings are overblown:  Here is the current new age thinking, where performance shortcomings are the fault of the system.  That somehow monetary rewards have little to do with future performance, so why should we discriminate amongst employees?  The system is rigged.
  • Somebody might quit:  This is every manager’s fear, of course,  but in our case this trepidation can lead to greater interest in providing pay increases that would retain the staff.  If an employee quits it’s likely going to mean more work for the manager, and potential criticism from their bosses.
  • I want to be liked:  An attitude especially prevalent among new managers, who want to build a collaborative team environment (“We’re all in this together”).  They can be reluctant to play the judge and jury about performance assessments and pay increases for their “team.”  Many would rather blame Human Resources.  They don’t want to be disliked by anyone.

Making The Hard Decisions

Rewarding the right employee becomes essentially about the manager being willing and able to make discriminatory decisions about an employee’s job performance and effectiveness as an employee with the organization.  That is, if you presume that pay increases are not “owed” on the basis of tenure (“It’s been twelve months.  Where’s my pay increase?”).

Because the budget for pay increases is always going to be tight  There will never be enough money for everyone, so an effective manager has to choose how best to spend their available reward dollars in a way that generates the best return for the organization.  Yes, that’s right – for the organization.

In some cases this means that Joe Average may not receive an annual merit increase this year, even if their performance has been ok / satisfactory / meets expectation, etc.

Making these decisions is not easy.  But it’s not supposed to be.  That’s why (tongue in cheek) the managers make the big bucks.  Then again, perhaps if it was the manager’s own money being spent the answers might not be so hard to find.

You know who the right employees are.  Put your money there.

Everything Will Be Alright

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 24-10-2016

Tags: , , , , ,


. . . is not the same as “everything will stay the same.”Big Changes Are Underway, by milena mihaylova

Most folks will tell you that change is good; that new ways of doing things, new ways of thinking and new ways of viewing the business environment are all for the good.  And then they pat themselves on the back as forward-thinking examples of the modern age.

But how about when those very same changes affect them?  When their pattern of activity is disrupted?  When what they were comfortable with now becomes alien to them?  When the advantage of the knowledge they once had is gone, and they have to learn again?  When their advantage over other employees disappears as everyone is changing at the same time?

What about when their feelings of self-confidence, of superiority in some cases, are dashed?

Then perhaps they might not feel so warm and fuzzy about change.

That’s just how it is with the human condition.

When Change Occurs

Imagine if you will the manager / leader / boss who sits comfortably within their world-at-work, their office (or wherever) environment.  They’ve been around the block several times so they know how things work.  They know the policies, the procedures and even all the right players that they have to deal with.  They can answer most any question that comes their way, or can at least bluff their way through.  When problems arise they can choose to either deal with it or kick the can down the road.

Self confidence is the hallmark of their work persona, in that they feel that they’re sitting on top of their work world – and they like the view.

Then suddenly the planet shifts on its axis.  Word comes down from above that a major new program is going to be implemented, utilizing new technologies, new forms and procedures and a whole new way of thinking.  Policies will be changing and leadership expectations are suddenly going in a whole new direction.

Oops.  Now your world has been rocked, because now you face a learning curve similar to that faced by many of your peers and colleagues.  Now you no longer have the answers, but are left with a series of questions – like everyone else.

Now your self confidence has been shaken, your warm bubble of comfort shattered.

Perhaps you go through a step process of bafflement, anger, denial, resentment, and then what?  Baying at the moon isn’t going to help, so you’d better get your new act together.

Dealing With the Dark Days

First off, I never recommend keeping your head in the sand and hoping that the bad dream goes away.  Or to play the passive resistance card (lukewarm interest and support, all while keeping your fingers crossed).  Good leaders don’t go there.

What I suggest is that you embrace the change, as best you can.

  • First onto the boat gets to pick the seat, so an early and visible advocate gets to be seen as such and able to position themselves well going into the future.  You also get to present yourself as still in leadership mode, this time leading the charge into the unknown.  “Come on, follow me!”  Good management technique.
  • Let’s face it though, learning new techniques, new technologies, the cutting edge of anything can serve you well in your career.  So you have to deal with a short (?) period of uncertainty, but likely you’ll come out ahead when the changes are implemented.  Otherwise, being seen as a legacy player has limited appeal to your senior management – who are watching.
  • A corollary to the above is that, by throwing your weight behind the change you position yourself well politically (like that’s not important?).  Early supporters of new initiatives get noticed and remembered by executives pushing those changes.  Not a bad thing for you.
  • Even if the change doesn’t work out as planned (when does it ever?), there’s likely little downside for you to have played along as a team player.  When the dust settles and the score is counted it’s usually the passive resisters and active critics who are remembered in a negative sense.  Senior managers have memories too.

Someone once said, “The only thing that’s constant is change,” or words to that affect.  Which means that sitting on your bum for too long can be harmful to your professional career.

I do agree that change can be a pain in that bum, and usually inconvenient to many of the affected.  But we need positive and constructive change to progress as a business, as a society, and as an individual.

It’s going to happen with or without you.  Let’s make it happen with you.

Who Cares About Compensation?

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 12-10-2016

Tags: , , , , ,


darth-grader-by-jd-hancockSpoiler alert!  This article doesn’t have a happy ending.


What if you worked in an organization where the Head of Human Resources didn’t view the Compensation function as vitally important to the organization?

I once worked in such a place.  Though I wasn’t in a leadership role at that point the lesson learned was telling.  We weren’t invited to critical HR planning sessions, my boss was never a member of the inner HR circle, and the department’s list of annual objectives never included a compensation project.

It’s bad enough when the senior leadership doesn’t give you the time of day, but when your own Chief Human Resources Officer seems to agree that your role is a secondary appendage to the organization chart, whew!  That’s not a place to build a career on.

So What’s Wrong With Compensation?

Where does this attitude come from?  The possibilities are legend, but the culprit is usually the personal perspective of the people in charge.  For some reason these HR leaders consider the Compensation function at best a necessary distraction from the business of Human Resources.  Of course I have my opinions, but it’s just that.  You likely have your own.  Some examples of those HR Leaders who do not value the Compensation function:

  • The HR Generalist:  Here is the all-purpose Human Resource leader, who (typically) has gained their top position through experience in staffing, employee relations or organizational development.  It is unusual for this office holder to have cut their teeth in either Benefits or Compensation.  Specialty areas may be a mystery to them, a bit too cut and dried for their “It depends,” or “How can I help you?” style.  They don’t wish to be viewed as the “gatekeeper.”
  • Working the Chairs: This senior leader didn’t rise through the ranks in HR, but only stopped there along the way.  So their strengths may be in Finance, Marketing, or another functional area.  They need to gain HR experience before they move on.  These folks don’t usually understand or appreciate the role of Compensation, and sometimes confuse it with payroll.
  • The Political Animal:  The genesis of this leader may be either of the above roles, but while leading HR they’re focused on what will please top management.  Thus potential controversies that are often generated by new program ideas are frowned upon.  They may want to be considered a “business partner,” but to get there are often accused of being “yes men.”  Unfortunately that negative label doesn’t go away once they reach the Executive Team.
  • Retiree-in-waiting:  Bob is going to retire in a couple of years, and senior management has decided to “park” him in HR until the going away party.  Bob will not rock the boat, will seldom initiate new programs and has written the book on how-to administration and program maintenance.

Sound harsh?  These are real people that I have seen and experienced during the course of my career.  Others may consider them exceptions, which I hope is the case with your career.  Because with these leaders rarely does the nice guy with their nose to the grindstone actually win the day.  For them it would appear that image and exposure are more important than performance.

What Can You Do?

The answer rests with you, and what your career aspirations might be.  For some it’s ok to sit back as the on-site compensation administrator and simply keep things afloat.  Maintain the status quo, keep the bosses happy and if problems crop up, kick the can down the road in the hope that the challenges will go away by themselves.

Not your cup of tea?  Well, you can rattle the bars of the professional cage that’s restricting you – with questions, recommendations, warnings and red flags to gain attention, but that might prove more of a distraction and irritation to the powers that be and ultimately prove career ending for you – at least with that employer.

You can leave.  Start searching for a better role model in a Leader, and an HR Department that upholds the integrity of its role in the organization.

What I don’t think you can do is somehow magically change the attitude of the HR Leader styles mentioned above.  Those are ingrained attitudes firmly held and you’d be swimming upstream trying to make a difference.

So the trick is to avoid getting into a career hole in the first place.  Easier said than done, I’m afraid.

The Message From 30,000 Feet

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 04-10-2016

Tags: , , , ,


view-of-singapore-by-larry-johnsonThe other day I received a letter from my Financial Advisor – or actually from the Corporate Head Office with my Advisor’s name attached.  The letter had to do with a new Department of Labor (DOL) requirement.  So I was asked to sign a note of authorization regarding my accounts.

I read the note and the attached form.  Then sipped my morning coffee and stared at the letter.  Then I read it again.  After the second reading I realized that what sounded like an important message about my retirement funds had failed a basic communication test.  I couldn’t explain the message to my wife.

Which is because I didn’t understand it.  I would have to call and talk with someone “live” to find out in simple words what the letter meant.

Communication experts use a similar comprehension test by trying to explain message content to a 15 year old, or being able to write down the basic theme.  The point is, if you can’t explain a message to someone else, to the point where that person understands the message and can repeat it back to you, then your communication effort has failed.

Likely my Advisor’s Corporate Head Office have checked me off a list as “Yes, we communicated with that client,” whether the message was understood or not.  The need for clarity and understanding was apparently not important enough for the sender to have made their message clear.

So now, in a big waste of time for everyone concerned I have to pick up the phone and call my Financial Advisor – simply to ask, “What did that message mean?”

Corporate Speak

This is an example of “corporate speak,” a written communication usually penned by a professional writer who is not a subject matter expert.  Their goal is compliance, plain and simple.  Somebody is making them reach out to a particular audience (client, customer, employee) to tell them something.  However, the transparency of that chosen communication method is not a factor, as being in compliance only means that you sent a message.  The fact that I don’t understand what you’re talking about does not take away from the fact that the sender did indeed comply with a communications requirement.

Sad, isn’t it?  It’s like, “I told you, and don’t care whether you understood me or not.  That’s your problem.”

Getting It Right

Whenever you send  a message for a particular audience, let me suggest a few do’s and don’ts. That is, if you really intend for your message to get through.  If your goal is more than bureaucratic compliance.

  • Specific vs. vague language: Be clear, be crisp in your choice of words and avoid the need for interpretation.  How is your message affecting me, personally?  Why?  What is going to happen?
  • Talk to me, not at me:  No condescension, no big words, and please write in a conversational tone.  Show me that you understand the issue from my perspective.  Have someone who knows the subject review the text.
  • Speak from the trenches, not from 30,000 feet:  Present a grasp for what is really going on with members of your audience.  Talk as if you’re living this issue yourself, not sitting unaffected in a remote Corporate office.  Broad, inspirational phrases bring you no credibility.
  • Look in the mirror:  Picture yourself as a recipient of the intended message.  Then ask yourself, “Does this communication answer the questions that I would have asked?”  In my case it’s a big fat no!
  • Test your message before sending: Most important, show the message to a sampling of your intended audience, then listen and react to the response.

Sadly the above cautions are all too often minimized or even ignored in the rush for simple compliance.  Corporate lawyers usually have a greater say in the final communication (play safe, avoid controversy, point the finger elsewhere, minimize any blame, paint a positive picture, etc.) than practitioners and those living in the trenches.

Which is why I’m off now to call my Financial Advisor, to ask him what the Corporate letter meant.

When Is Training A Bad Idea?

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 27-09-2016

Tags: , , , , , ,


people-waiting-for-olives-talk-by-eduardo-habkostIt’s often viewed in the workplace that training employees is a critical requirement for upgrading skills, developing future leaders, and in general improving competencies and abilities.  The common format is usually classroom sessions, but the effort could also include seminars, workshops and professional conferences.

Developing employees is a concept hard to argue with.  I fear though, that in its application the goal is often missed, failing to provide behavior-based training programs that deliver as advertised.

My concern is not with technical knowledge, learning about Windows 10, HRIS Modules, or the latest social media applications for business, but the subjective side of employee development; i.e., leadership, motivational principles, improving competencies, etc.

Ask yourself, can I measure the effectiveness of our training programs?  Or do you simply equate effectiveness with the number of employees trained?  And do you count “trained” as having attended a training / education session?

Therein Lies The Rub

Recently I attended a self-improvement workshop and during the course of that experience found that my attention continually wandered off topic.  Does this sound familiar?

The presenter used several phrases that I didn’t understand (i.e., “resonant relationships”).  Such language bombs (“What did they just say?”) disrupted my link with the presenter as I struggled to figure out what the term(s) meant.  Meanwhile the flow of the presentation moved on without me.

Another complaint is where the participant can’t connect the presenter’s message to direct assistance on a practical level.  The dialogue sounds good, but doesn’t move the practical knowledge meter very far.

Passing The Effectiveness Test

If your intent is to avoid a misleading measure of training success (we trained “x” employees this year), ask a few questions before setting up that next “opportunity.”

  • Can you measure the impact?  Will you know upfront what employees will gain from the experience, and what practical applications will reward attendance?
  • Are they speaking common sense? Understanding broad based concepts has its place in the employee education process, but unless the discussion of those concepts is connected to real world challenges, you should question the practical value of the session.
  • Can you spread the learning?  Would a participant be able to explain to other employees what they learned and how practical applications might be forthcoming?
  • New vs. rehash: How much of the presentation would be new information, vs. a rehash of what has been covered before?
  • Boring presentation: Being a subject matter expert is not the same as being able to engage an audience about that expertise.  A read-from-the-podium lecture style, when combined with a dry topic and a monotone voice can kill audience engagement within minutes.

How do you know whether an audience is paying attention?  All it takes is watching how participants act during the session.

  • Watching the clock:  When is this session going to end?  When’s lunch?  Are we having a break?
  • Checking email: Everyone’s smart phone has an email feature.  Some employees try to be subtle when checking in, while others are more blatant.  None are paying attention.
  • Day dreaming: Fixing the eyes on a distant spot and letting the mind wander from the topic at hand.  The eyes glaze over, the head starts to nod and the ears close up shop.
  • Planning this article:  Or conducting other mental activities, where the mind is engaged elsewhere.

The speaker should be aware of these tendencies and try to modify their presentation to keep engagement as high as possible.  Too often though, their prime goal is dispensing the material at hand.  The room could be empty.

When Is Training a Bad Idea?

So be careful.  No one would disagree that training employees is a worthwhile investment of company time and effort.  Likewise for attendance at workshops, seminars and conferences.  Affording employees the opportunity for personal and professional growth is a valuable part of your Total Rewards program.

However, not every offering sold under the guise of training or self-development is a worthwhile effort; worth the time and money.  Often times these external events are more boondoggle than learning exercise, offered more as rewards and networking exercises than actual learning experiences.  If that’s your intent, well and good.  Just don’t kid yourself that your employees are being “trained.”

As to internal training sessions, avoid the knee-jerk headcount metric of assessing the value of your training efforts by the number of employees exposed to the material.  That sort of assembly-line “training” is more about process than results.  Find a way to measure whether your training is effective, or isn’t.

Bottom line?  Fluff training is a bad idea when your time and money is wasted in the process.  Know the difference.

Management Style Is Like A Box Of Chocolates

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 20-09-2016

Tags: , , ,


Group of men, by mayreejayneWith apologies to Forrest Gump, but considering the variety of management styles out there can be like opening a box of assorted chocolates.  There are so many possibilities.  Some can offer a good experience for those on the receiving end, bringing a smile to one’s face, while others can have you frowning with unfortunate memories and leave an unpleasant taste in your mouth.

Consider this scenario:  You as the hiring manager are in the middle of an interview with a candidate you like.  You want this person to join your organization.  The conversation is progressing well when, out of the blue you’re asked, “Can you describe how your staff views your management style?”

Not how you view it, but those on the receiving end.

Tricky question, as it’s possible that your staff considers your approach to leadership in a different light perhaps than how you view yourself in the mirror.  This is like the “weakness” question, a potential trap for the unwary.   What are you prepared to say about yourself?  To admit about yourself?  Provide the wrong answer here and if the candidate has other options they might look elsewhere.

The Name Game

The possibilities to describe who you are as a manager, while they have several names, can be sorted into a limited number of personalities.   Do you consider yourself . . . ?

  • The Team Manager: “We’re all in this together, folks” is the credo of this collaborative style leader.  While we may be a homogeneous team as an aspirational goal, sometimes this manager may decide that group needs outweigh that of high performers.   Rewards may be skewed toward everybody, vs.  toward individual achievement.  Also, can tough employee decisions be made, that might impact the team?
  • Absentee Manager:  Like an absentee landlord this boss lets you get on with it, whether you have the tools, guidance or knowledge enough to achieve your assigned tasks.  They don’t bother you, even when you need to be.  They’re out to lunch a great deal.  You’re on your own, until you mess up.
  • Micro Manager: “Here’s how I would do it” is a common phrase that gets old quickly.  This is the manager who can’t let go, who stifles creativity and will always remind you how they used to do things when they had your job.  There’s really only one way to do things.  Did I mention stifling?
  • Wind Under Your Wings Manager:  This is the supportive manager who focuses on developing the career of each individual on the team.  This leader will have your back and will work with you to develop yourself, but sometimes at the sacrifice of their own performance.   Senior leadership may have other expectations.
  • Textbook Manager:  Pick a management text or self-improvement guide and you’ll find this manager is there, whatever the term used.  The paragon of management styles, this boss does everything right and by the book; they are principled, delegate and communicate well,  know the business, and know how to lead the team by example.   However, this person may not really exist outside of those same textbooks.  Perhaps too good to be true.
  • Political Manager:  Sometimes known as the “SOB.”  This is the glad-handing boss who knows everyone higher up on the organization chart.  They may find it difficult to voice opinions or make decisions without first checking the impact on the preferences and attitudes of affected higher ups.  They can’t say no to the politically connected, even when no is what should be said.  Not much of a backbone here, so core beliefs can be a bit wishy-washy.  You might be tossed under the bus for the sake of political correctness.  You cannot rely on this manager to do anything but what is in their own self interest.  Often times employee turnover starts here.

The positive aspects for the personalities described above sound great and are fine to be offered up as your opinion to that questioning candidate in our scenario, but the actual question was . . . what does your staff think?

Note: I haven’t lectured about which management style is “bad.”   I trust that designation is self evident.  Hopefully those who see themselves as needing to make a change – will do so.

Who Is Really Out There

Have a care here.  It’s very likely that your own management style doesn’t neatly fit into one of the above labels.  Instead, most personality styles are a combination or composite of several of the attributes we’ve listed, and more characteristics, for good or ill can likely be named.  Chances are though, that each manager, each personality leans toward one label or other; this is the 70 – 30 majority rule.  And that leaning is where reputations are built.  Where labels stick.

Employees react to how they’re personally affected, and by what they hear from those they trust or perceive to be “in the know.”  So as well intentioned as you might be, it’s always wise to check the pulse of your staff.  You might have a reputation that surprises you.  And while you might think they have it wrong, you’re not the one who gets to decide.

By being truthful to yourself and to that questioning candidate you increase the likelihood of a good hire and a long serving employee.

Give A Title Here, Give A Title There

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 15-09-2016

Tags: , , , , ,


An organization I’ve worked with in the past had developed an interesting hierarchy of management titles.  It went something like this:Handout, by DianeWorth

  •      Manager
  •      Senior Manager
  •      Director
  •      Senior Director
  •      Vice President
  •      Senior Vice President
  •      Executive Vice President

Quite a robust hierarchy for a small organization of only a few hundred employees.  And to cap it off, the base salaries paid out were inconsistent with that same hierarchy.  So a Senior Director was paid less than several Directors, and their EVP was paid less than a couple of the VPs.

And of course we all know that a common leadership designation (benchmark) in most commercial compensation surveys is the “senior’ tag, right?  Wrong.

When I asked my client to explain how an employee gets to be designated at a “senior” level I received one of those “deer in the headlights” reactions, followed by a mumbled, “Always been that way.  That’s why we called you.”

They had finally realized that they had gone off the tracks with their titling, and now wanted to get out from under.  But they didn’t know how.  And they didn’t seem to know how to stop from making the problem worse.

How Does This Happen?

Perhaps your new hire is already a Director at their current employer and wants a bump up on the resume before they’ll accept your offer.  Or perhaps you aren’t able to pay some leaders enough of a differential with their peers, so you create a new level in the hierarchy.  Or to placate a valued member of management whose ego is bruised by perceived internal inequities you say “what the heck” and give them the better sounding title they desired.  You want the problem to go away, and so you rationalize that – it’s only a title.

Hey, it happens.

I’ve written before about the infection of title inflation, where what some might consider a no cost reward when times are tough (“here’s a nicer sounding title”) is actually a slow drip poison for your payroll, ROI and internal equity.  It’s just a matter of time before those with better titles demand to be recognized (grade) and paid more (base and incentive pay) than those holding lesser titles.  Common sense.

Getting Out From Under

So how does one go about fixing this?  First of all, you should acknowledge that the hole you’ve dug for yourself (the problem) is deep enough and costly enough in terms of increased payroll, internal equity complaints and damaged morale over favored treatment.  So throw away the shovel and step out of the hole.  Stop assigning “Senior” designations to your leadership.

To do this effectively though, and for any solution to last, you need a plan.  You need a rationalization to explain why Bob is called a Director and Sally a Vice President.  And why you won’t / can’t call Roger a Senior Director.  To create that plan you have a few options to consider.  You could use:

  • Job Evaluation System: Any whole job or point factor system will be able to distinguish via job content assessment which jobs are bigger / larger / more impactful than others.  And if you use a grading structure your JE systems will tell you how far apart various jobs are.
  • Market Pricing: JE systems are notoriously subjective, and if that is a problem for you, or you just don’t have the time to invest in developing and administering a JE program, use a competitive marketplace analysis to tell you what others are paying for your jobs. Then slot your jobs into a salary structure (with grades) based on the market.
  • Combination: It’s a bit more dicey when you want to use both a JE system and market pricing analysis to determine grade, but I’ve seen clients do it.  Can be a bit cumbersome though, when your JE systems calls a job a grade 10, but your competitive analysis tells you it’s an 11, or a 9.

But grading by itself, no matter the impetus, doesn’t automatically change the titling structure.  So consider using a Titling Matrix to assist you.

Examples vary by organization, industry and even management temperament, but essentially a titling matrix uses a number of profile criteria assessments (i.e., Reporting Relationship, Management Breadth, Organization Impact, Level of Autonomy, Judgment, Nature of Supervision, etc.) to distinguish between levels / titles within an organization.

Can there be exceptions?  Of course.  But having a plan avoids chaos and establishes structure and standards for your hierarchy.  And that’s a good thing.

What Is Compensation Leadership?

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 25-08-2016

Tags: , , , , ,


Portrait, young business manWe’ve all seen numerous examples dotted across Facebook, LinkedIn and probably every other current example of modern social media; catchy phrases, often accompanied by beautiful photos, describing what the term “leadership” means and what it does not.  And how you can improve at this desirable skill set.

These pithy, inspirational snippets are quite popular, as evidenced by their frequent appearances and the number of “likes” that each captures.  But do they really have an impact?  Does reading them actually serve as a catalyst to alter someone’s behavior?  I suspect that there aren’t too many “aha!” moments out there where someone reads a motivational phrase and abruptly decides to turn their professional life around.

In many instances (perhaps most) these poster-worthy signposts likely bounce off our consciousness.  We like them, probably agree with most of what they say, but then they don’t really galvanize us into action.  They don’t change us.

What is a Leader?

Most leadership definitions relating to the workplace focus on people skills, those attributes necessary to engage a group of employees.  But that’s not what we’re talking about here.  Think “leading the business” rather than managing people.

The dictionary doesn’t help much, as “leadership” is defined as “The position or function of a leader,” or “An act or instance of leading.”  Pretty vague.

But a “leader” is also described as “A guiding or directing head” – which is the best official guidance we’re going to get.

So what does the word “Leader” mean to you?  And to that person looking back at you from your mirror?

Functional leadership, being responsible for the direction of an organizational grouping, requires an additional level of skill beyond working well with people.  It’s about being inspired, taking risks, setting direction and using influencing skills to make a difference.  It’s sticking your neck out there to be seen, to be heard, to be a factor within your organization.

And while you’re admiring your reflection in the mirror, consider this; can you be an effective people leader yet remain ineffective as a functional leader?  Think about it.  If we define a functional leader as one responsible to move the organization (staff, department, business, etc.) forward from Point A to Point B, can you remain at Point A (essentially treading water, administering the routine, leaving programs on automatic pilot, etc.) and still lead people?  I suspect so, though that may not be what your senior management is interested in.

In my view, remaining at Point A is not providing Compensation Leadership, whatever else you might be doing right.

Back to the mirror.  Ask yourself, what role have you been asked to play in your leadership position?

  • Change the way the organization’s reward programs have been operating?
  • Get a handle on or reduce out-of-control payroll costs?
  • Collaborate with HR and senior management to develop a high performance culture?
  • Integrate reward programs with the organization’s business plan?
  • Encourage new ideas and support constructive creative thinking?

Would you consider any or all of these responsibilities as desired outcomes that would move the organization’s operating dial from Point A to Point B?

Or perhaps leadership in your environment focuses primarily on you only as the titular leader of a group of employees, where you’re expected to:

  • Maintain and administer the current reward programs
  • Keep employees from complaining too loud
  • Avoid antagonizing senior management with controversial ideas
  • Be risk adverse and stay the course

This set of responsibilities sound more like the classic definition of treading water.  “Let’s stay at Point A and join the bowling team.”

Demonstrating Compensation Leadership

It is my view that the demands of compensation leadership are less about being a well-liked fellow and getting a lot of Christmas cards, but more about moving the organization forward in your chosen field.  Of being a player who gets this done.  How do you do that?

  • Show that you know the business:  You must demonstrate that you understand general business operations and how the compensation function relates to overall business success.
  • Show that you’re a professional compensation practitioner:  No dilettantes here!  You need to be taken as a serious knowledge worker in your craft.  You had better know your stuff.
  • You must understand what needs to be accomplished:  You have to know where Point B is and have a plan to get there.
  • You had better know a bit of office politics:  You may hate it, but you have to play the game well enough not to be eaten by the sharks.
  • Know how to sell or persuade: Finally, you have to be able to convince senior management to move in the right direction – that pathway which is required in order to make a difference, to reach the brass ring at Point B.

Can you do both?  Can you provide leadership for your compensation function and for the employees on your staff?  Yes, you can.  But realize that the value of differing types of leadership skills is often weighted differently by various senior management assessments.  What do they want you to achieve where you work?

Btw,  I don’t recall seeing many catchy phrases or cute pictures that encourage functional leadership.  Or maybe I’m missing them.

Garbage In, Garbage Out

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 22-08-2016

Tags: , , , , ,


Garbage pick up day, by Joe & Jeanette ArchleWhy do we assume that any survey data we see is an accurate reflection of a competitive market?  And by “we” I mean both compensation practitioners and senior management alike.

Because many times I’ll have a client chomping on the bit to race down the hallways, excitedly waving a piece of paper and shouting, “I have the number!” Now they know the amount to pay.  Because the survey said so.

But no, they don’t have the number.  Likely what they should be whispering instead, is that they have an arithmetic calculation of perhaps questionable origin; one that may or may not reflect what’s truly being paid out there in what they call their “competitive marketplace.”

One doesn’t run down the hallway with that sort of wishy-washy information.

Questionable origin?

Well, that puts a pin in the balloon, doesn’t it?  Horrors.  To suggest that maybe that number you took from the survey isn’t a smoking gun after all.  That’s like challenging our core beliefs, like mom, the flag and apple pie.  If it’s in the survey it has to be right, doesn’t it?


Perhaps the survey is right.  Or the number you’re looking at is simply an accumulation of guesses.

So why is it a good idea to be cautious?

Have you ever wondered, who is it that completes those survey forms? Senior compensation professionals with an intimate knowledge of job roles, reporting relationships and the impact of title inflation?  Or is it the lowest rung of staff member, the newbie, perhaps even an intern?  Last in, first assigned to fill out survey questionnaires.

Users look at surveys and have a tendency to assume that everything is ok with the numbers.  They’ll look right past the quality issue and let the discussion shift immediately to job matching, aging, use of median or average, which companies are in the survey, etc.

But what if the foundation of the survey itself, the data being input from the myriad participating companies is flawed from the start?  If garbage goes in, that’s all that can come out.

Consider the probable experience of those completing survey input questionnaires:

  • How many of these input forms do I have to complete for the survey?  How many surveys do we have to participate in?
  • Do I have the time for all this?  Maybe I’ll have to hurry a bit.  Maybe I can copy data from one survey to another.
  • Do I have to read our own descriptions and compare them, one by one against the survey definitions?  Wow, that’s going to take awhile. Maybe I can just use the title.
  • What do I do when the survey doesn’t have a Lead category, or a Senior Manager?  We have four levels in our hierarchy, but the survey only counts three.
  • I don’t understand some of the descriptions I’ve been given, and that happens a lot. I don’t have time to chase after managers to learn what they meant.  So I’ll make a guesstimate for the survey match.  That should be close enough.
  • I really hate doing this.  What time is it?  Ready for lunch?

Put any two of these comments / attitudes together and I’d worry that your organization’s survey questionnaire wasn’t the best effort you could manage.  Multiply that experience across the majority of survey respondents and . . . you get the picture.  So perhaps the data should be taken with a grain of salt; it isn’t Moses coming down from the Mount with the tablets (answers).  It’s Bob the intern, or Mary the new hire, scratching their heads and hoping they got it right.  If they even care.

Pricing guide vs. “the answer”

So what are you going to do?

A good rule of thumb is to consider that your compensation survey sources, single or multiple, actually provide you with more of a “pricing guide,” and not a “smoking gun” of what to pay.  Use the survey data to guide the decision-making process, whether it be setting up salary structures, hiring a candidate or offering the right promotional increase.

Consider the survey figures as “feeling the pulse” of the job market.  They aren’t precise, there is no singular number to use.  The arithmetic average “answers” you glean from the survey sources are better used as a rough idea of what other organizations are paying for like (or similar) positions. Nothing more.

Yes, you need a number. But not any number will do.

The worst thing is to blindly accept what those harried, stressed out and over-taxed data input folks are telling you.  Because they might not know themselves.

Garbage in and all that.

Focus, Focus, Focus

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 10-08-2016

Tags: , , , ,


Any seasoned compensation practitioner will tell you that having business objectives for an employee’s short term incentive plan (the annual STI) is a critically important design element.  Focus, by AnkakayLacking that you will face the prospect of misguided busy work being claimed as having provided a valuable contribution.

These same professionals will likely also expound on the value of developing SMART objectives.

  • Specific:  Avoid the vague and generic
  • Measurable:  You have to be able to measure the performance
  • Attainable:  Objectives should be reasonably attainable with a concerted effort
  • Realistic:  Meaningful goals that support the needs of the enterprise
  • Timely:   Avoid a never-ending effort with a time line that fits the performance period

And then we have to consider the number of objectives.  Here the usual advice is to concentrate one’s effort on less, not more.  Having 10 or more objectives reads more like an activity roster than a focused series of targeted goals integrated with management and business plans.  The rule of thumb (actually more of a guideline) is to identify no more than eight, and no fewer than four objectives.

Somewhere in that discussion you would also find recommendations concerning the size of the targeted reward – the potential, the opportunity.  No one changes their behavior and focuses their efforts for an entire year with the promise of only a pittance.

Ok.  Now that you have (hopefully) the right objectives to chase, and you’re motivated to do so, the question becomes, where best should you  spend your time and effort?

What To Focus On

The natural tendency for most employees is to focus their efforts on what they’re interested in (what they like to do),  what is the easiest to accomplish, and those objectives that would give them the biggest return for their efforts.   Identifying the easy stuff is, well easy, but what would provide the biggest bang requires more organizational planning and design.  Because the organization should have designed a win-win scenario into their plans; if the organization wins, the employee wins.  But the organization has to win.

To get the employee to chase specific goals meaningful to the organization the carrot (reward) dangled in front of them needs to be large enough to gain and keep their attention.   So the organization needs to lead the employee to focus their efforts on what is most important to the organization.

The natural tendency is to first attack the challenge that provides the highest reward and least resistance.  They may even decide to ignore other objectives – no matter the value to the company – if the reward for the easy objectives makes up the difference.

So employees can be encouraged to change behavior and focus attention on those objectives with the greater reward opportunities, the biggest bang.  You do that by proportionately weighing the more important objectives much greater than the “nice to have” objectives.

Consider this: When you provide an employee with multiple objectives, anything with a weighting factor less than 10% of total reward opportunity becomes a wasted effort.  They’ll either ignore it (no results), or will feel the goal can be achieved with little effort (would likely have been achieved anyway).  Reward monies in this case will not motivate, will not impact the employee’s behavior.

I have witnessed Sales employees ignore small payout objectives in favor of focusing on the bigger ticket reward goals.  So make sure you put your money and weighting behind these goals.

Without weightings each objective, whether large or small, critical or incidental, will be valued and paid out at the same rate.  Which is NOT how your organization actually values these objectives.  But if you design the incentive plan that way, that’s the behavior and that’s the performance that you’ll get.