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I’m Too Busy

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 08-02-2017

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I hear this lament a lot these days, and I suspect you do as well.   This dismissive comment can be the response you get whenever you ask a work colleague to; 1) reply to a question, 2) help out with a project you’re working on, 3) carve out some time to help an intern or trainee, 4) attend an off-site networking event, or 5) even to grab lunch sometime to chat about life in general.

Sometimes you don’t even get a response at all, as voice mail and emails may go unanswered.

These people are just too busy to pick their nose up from the grindstone they’re pressed against to give you the time of day.  Or to smell the roses, for that matter.

Now what does that say to you when the door seems to be shut in your face?  How does it make you feel?  That perhaps you should be busy too?  That you wish you were as dedicated a worker as your colleague?  Or perhaps you have a less positive reaction in mind.

Go Away (nicely)

I read an article the other day by Ed Baldwin, who used the tagline Busy Is The New Stupid.  In it he said that the real message that you’re likely sending when you say you’re too busy is that:

  • Your time is more important than theirs
  • You’re not very good at prioritizing your time
  • You want to be judged based on how busy you are, not how productive you are
  • You aren’t a priority (to me), or at least what you want to speak with me about isn’t a priority

A bit harsh perhaps, but at the same time the author is presuming that busy people are productive and successful people.  So you’re really interrupting them.  More about that in a bit.

What Mr. Baldwin is focused on in his article is suggesting a better way for that busy employee to get rid of the irritant (you) without appearing insensitive.  He opines that by instead using the phrase, “It (what you’re asking or suggesting) isn’t a priority for me” you won’t be using a lame excuse of being so busy, but still honestly responding in a way that doesn’t glorify one’s own “busyness” and imply that your time is more important than theirs.

I’m not so sure about that, though, as labeling the questioner’s needs as low priority in your world isn’t likely to win friends or influence people in their world or your own, never mind see that they receive Christmas cards this year.  People remember being blown off, no matter how nicely done.

And that doesn’t even touch the negative social aspects (avoiding lunch) or helping one’s own career (active networking).

Busy or Productive?

There is another way to look at this busyness though, and that is with the view that, “As long as I’m busy I’m being productive and a good employee.”

Another fallacy.  If you can divide your goals into importance rankings (say, A or B or C), then you can be very busy all day long working on “C” tasks and never accomplish anything of import. In this case, being labeled as “busy” doesn’t necessarily connote worthwhile productivity, but literally  – being very active.  As they’re so caught up in whatever they are doing they are unable or unwilling to help someone else.  But that doesn’t mean whatever they are doing is all that meaningful.

Are productive and successful people busy?  I suspect so, but I don’t think that the determinant criteria is simply being busy.  Because time and again we’ve seen that the Joe Averages out there can be quite busy as well.

Let’s hope you can find your own balance of being productively engaged in impactful work without being a rude idiot about it when someone stops by your office space.

And while you’re at it, go ahead and take that lunch, and take the time to polish off your networking skills.  It’s all good.

The Red Envelope

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 31-01-2017

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Red Envelope, by Christian BjarnsonAs a Compensation practitioner, have you ever seen the use of the “Red Envelope?”  In Chinese and other East and Southeast Asian societies a red envelope or packet is a monetary gift given during the holidays or special occasions such as weddings, graduation or the birth of a child.

Multiple cultural distinctions exist between various countries, from Cambodia, Vietnam, and Thailand to South Korea, Japan and the Philippines and other countries.  A monetary gift to children by their relatives, or from married couples to those about to be married, or simply best wishes from elders to the younger generation.  The uses seem endless from one country to another.

Various cultural traditions dictate that the amount of money should end with an even digit, while odd numbered amounts have other purposes.  Other traditions require that the money should not be given in fours, or the number four should not appear in the amount.  Apparently, the pronunciation of the number four is the same as for the word death.

Connection to Compensation

That’s nice, you’re probably saying, and an interesting tidbit for the next time a conversation lags, but as this practice of handing out cash envelopes is used outside of the company, how does it relate to an organization’s reward program?

Think Spot Award Program.  Think Recognition.  Think outside the box to consider how you might be able to influence your own reward & recognition programs to tap into the unexpected – to achieve appreciation by employees for a gesture of recognition or simple goodwill, not simply for doling out more cash under a standard pay-for-performance scheme.

Think about the possibilities of your own Red Envelope program, or call it Green or Yellow or even Purple.

But first, consider the scenario of two people having a coffee at a local Starbucks.  One of those people works for you.  Now somewhere in the conversation, the topic turns to where these two people work, and comparisons are quickly made.  Those comparisons won’t be about how much money each of them make (unless they’re really close), but about their work environment.  What it’s like to work at their respective employers.  What each of them feel about their employer.

All the money in the world won’t make your employee say good things about your organization if the boss is a tyrant, if employees are not treated fairly, if the company doesn’t seem to care about its workers, and if the employee would prefer to work elsewhere.  Reputations are made and lost in these conversations, as word of how organizations treat employees will spread.

I once worked for a short period at an employer where the Staffing Manager privately confided to me that “The word is out.  Quality talent are being advised by local search firms to avoid us.”

Worst case scenario?  Perhaps.  But it happened.  It can happen where you work too.

Make A Connection

Think about it.  What can you do to improve morale, engagement, the working atmosphere, even the reputation of your organization among employees?

What if your organization instituted an employer-sponsored program of ad hoc cash grants to employees, and/or their families, not for performance but in recognition of something significant that happened in your employee’s life?  That’s like treating them like extended family themselves, isn’t it?

Your own Red Envelope program.

It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.  You won’t need a big budget.  Because the largest impact of such a feel-good grant is the positive message it sends that you (the organization) cares.

Now think again about that Starbucks conversation. Think about your employer saying to their companion, “Let me tell you something that my company does, just out of the blue.” Indeed, this can be where good reputations are born and spread.

Positive stuff.  And yes, such a payment would be a reward, in the broader sense of Total Rewards.

Something to consider when you’re looking outside the box.

My Greatest Mistake

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 19-01-2017

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I’ve been around the block a few times in my career, to the point where the road in my rear view mirror is longer than the road ahead.  So I often get asked rumination-type questions to assist colleagues and the next generation of compensation practitioners.  “What tips ‘n tricks have you learned?”  “You’ve seen this scenario before.  What would work, and why?”  “What should I do?” and conversely “What shouldn’t I do?”

And the big question; “If you had to do it over again, what would you do differently?”

Which leads me to consider, that which was the biggest mistake of my career.

The Political Animal

I confess, I just wasn’t good at office politics.  Couldn’t play the game well at all.  In fact, for a very long time, I was probably naive, assuming that delivering good job performance would be enough to advance my career.  So I didn’t take sides, I didn’t suck up and more often than not I tended to stay to myself.  I was the quiet one in the group, never crowding the boss to be seen and get attention.  Never faking a laugh at lame jokes.  Not pretending to be someone I wasn’t.

Big mistake. Because that petty gamesmanship of “yes man thinking” happens every day, and likely everywhere.  For some employees, it works.  For some, it beats focusing on job performance.

Back in my workspace, I tended to blurt things out the way they were, as numbers don’t lie.  Data is what data is.  Policies and procedures are established for a reason.  I was as transparent as possible in my dealings with others, strove for equity of treatment among employee groups and kept a view toward what would help employees and the business.  On the other hand, I didn’t play golf and didn’t frequent the casinos (one particular company), so in some instances, I didn’t fit in, outside the office or within.

Perhaps you recall my P.I.E. in-your-face article from a few years back?  During my career, while I focused on Performance, other colleagues spent their time worrying about Image and Exposure.  Sad to say, but in my experience fitting in and being a buddy with the boss often seemed to beat out performance and results, or at least where I worked, and for whom I worked.  Perhaps it’s different, and better, where you work.

As a Compensation leader, I said No! a lot, especially when the requests were illogical, cost too much, created more problems than solved, went against policy, or in general were a bad idea.  But I found that, if senior management wanted a YES they weren’t worried about the same concerns that I struggled with.  They didn’t have to explain over-the-top decisions to employees who didn’t receive that “special” treatment.

It was my phone that rang with the “What about me?” demands.  My boss didn’t get those calls.

My biggest takeaway was that it did matter that you laughed at the boss’ jokes and that you were quick to agree with exception requests from those higher up the food chain.  Otherwise, well, I found that keeping your head down and doing your job wasn’t a career enhancing move for me, at least in some environments.

Looking Back – and Forward

In reading over what I’ve written here it may seem to some that I’m bitter over some of my experiences, but really I’m not.  Or at least not anymore <g>.  Not much.  I hit my head against the wall enough times to finally realize how the game is played.  Maybe it’s not fair, but that’s the way it is/was, at least for me.  But perhaps I can pass on a few tips ‘n tricks for you to consider for your own experiences.

  • Make sure you know your boss and they know you.  Develop and maintain a friendly, professional relationship.  Remaining in your office can look like you’re hiding.
  • Force yourself (if necessary) to be an active player in your staff environment.  You need to be seen and heard.
  • Be flexible in your decision-making and recommendations, even if sometimes it hurts.  Don’t become viewed only as the cop or gatekeeper, but as someone able to solve problems, and who understands when senior management needs a win.
  • Remember the long game, picking your battles for when it’s really important.  The small stuff is just that.  Petty disagreements rarely have a winner.
  • You may not play the chosen sport of your leadership, but know what’s going on and at a minimum check the news for the scores.  That way at least you’re in the conversation, part of the group.

But I still hold the line with one piece of advice.  No matter what, don’t be a suck-up and a limp-wristed sell-out.  Stand out as a professional in your craft.  Trading in your soul for career advancement demands a higher cost than I was ever willing to pay.

I hope you feel the same.

A Horse Of A Different Color

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 18-01-2017

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Within Human Resources it often seems that those in charge possess a strong compulsion to follow the lead of some other organization, what with the chase after so-called “best practices,” an all-consuming need to know what the “survey says,” and an inherent fear of doing something different from perceived universal norms.  They don’t like to stick their head out.

This reliance on others taking the first step is part of a herd mentality, the belief that somehow the organization is safer – on the right track – by doing what everyone else is doing.  If only we can figure that out.

Of course, as a defense mechanism, it is harder to criticize someone for following the crowd.  For doing the accepted thing.  Because if you think that everyone else is doing it, it must be the correct thing to do.  Whatever the “it” is.

Follow the Crowd

However, that tagging along approach doesn’t appear to be the operating procedure for Marketing, Sales, Manufacturing, IT and other functions within the organization.  Those specialty areas seem to be forever striving for that which sets them apart from their competitors.  Proponents of new techniques, new processes, new thinking are both encouraged and rewarded.  Following the crowd is actively frowned upon and could even be a career killer for someone advocating “Let’s do what everyone else is doing.”

How many times have you heard of organizations who support risk takers?  Who celebrate those who take a chance for the right reasons.  Aren’t they touted as organization models to be emulated?

So what is it about HR that seems to set that function moving in the opposite direction?  Because all too often HR comes across as wanting only to mimic their competitors and general workforce, seeming to be comfortable in the “average” niche.  That thinking is a head scratcher for me.

People who are risk-adverse feel comforted by the support of “survey says.”  They don’t want to stick their head out but would prefer to bring a gang of like-minded organizations along with them (survey averages) to the proposal meeting.

For them, the perceived common practice can be used as a crutch to support recommendations.  “If you don’t believe me, just look at what everyone else is doing.”

About this, though.  When you support the use of “best practices,” will you then be following what the high achievers are doing, or the more populous Joe Averages out there?

A New Mantra

I always advise my clients to do what is best for their organization, not for the other guy.  Sounds obvious, doesn’t it?  What your organization needs to do in any particular subject area may not be what everyone else is currently doing.  What you are experiencing can be unique circumstances, given your organization’s demographics, HR metrics, culture, industry, revenue or operating budget size, management biases, the strength of leadership, past experiences, financial soundness, etc.  So the “answer” you get from surveys and so-called “best practices” may not be reflective of what would work in your particular circumstances – at this particular point in time.

For example, if you find your average compa-ratio to be skirting 80%, and your market pricing study indicates base salaries are an average -10% to market, blindly advocating what everyone else is doing for midpoint adjustments and merit spend percentages may not be an appropriate strategy for you.

I will grant you though, that a takes a bit of intestinal fortitude to throw away the crutch and advocate a position singular to the needs of your organization.  Whether it is program design, expense recommendations, policy or procedural changes, or even administrative processes, sticking your neck out and standing alone in recommending improvements to your organization can be a thrilling as well as nerve-wracking experience.  And a risky one.

“What works for us” should be your mantra, not “What works for everyone else.”

The Other Side Of The Desk

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 10-01-2017

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happy-cat-by-trish-hammeI’ve often commented on those “well-intentioned amateurs,” those newly promoted managers who now hold the keys to the kingdom – the ability to spend the organization’s money.  Usually I’m lamenting their lack of training and their lack of knowledge of the organization’s reward programs.  These are folks typically promoted primarily because of their individual contributor qualities, not their leadership.

Following the promotion party no one seems to take the time to explain the how and why of the reward programs that these sparkly new managers are now charged with administering for their staff.  This presents the organization with a target rich environment for mistakes, inequitable actions and costly precedents. Not to mention the slow creep of an ever growing payroll divorced from an ROI.

And Another Thing

As bad as that scenario can be to an organization it is often compounded by a painful lack of understanding by managers regarding their employee’s perspective on those same reward programs.  Who is actually explaining to managers how to relate to their employees regarding pay issues?

In most cases the answer is, no one.

However, this additional problem is not confined to only the newly promoted, but also for those long serving managers who have lost sight of what it means to be on the other side of the desk.  They’ve been drinking the kool-aid that says they’re part of management and have to play the management “line.” Which usually sets up an attitude of us vs. them.

What are they thinking? Being part of management doesn’t (or shouldn’t) mean that they should ignore what their employees are thinking or feeling. Or what employees value.

I once consulted with a CHRO who seemed to view his own employees as the enemy, and proudly utilized various tactics to gain what he perceived as “wins” against them.

So perhaps it’s that management attitude thing again, but in my view employees are part of the organization’s “family,” and should be treated as such.  You don’t gain “wins” against your family, even if they are represented by a union. You and the organization only lose when you think and act against your own employees.

What Is Your Job?

As a manager you’re not just part of Management, but of Leadership as well (admittedly a distinction not often made).  And effective leadership requires an understanding of both sides of an issue; that there is more than one side of a coin, and that other opinions have merit.  Lacking that balanced view labels you as narrow minded, self-centered and arrogant.  Whoa!  That’s not who you are, is it?

You need to get out of your office or cubicle and learn what it means to be an employee impacted by your organization’s reward programs. You need to talk with your employees, to get a sense of where they’re coming from.  Don’t assume that they think like you.

But please don’t start by going around asking, “Are you satisfied with your pay?”  Most employees realize that there’s no gain in saying yes, no matter the truth of it.  They know that if they say they’re unhappy, maybe something will come of it.  But if they say they’re satisfied, end of story.

This perspective from the other side of the desk is not rocket science.  Employees tend to have four critical wants when it come to your reward programs:

  • Competitive pay:  You underpay employees at your risk.  At best only Joe Average will appreciate you.
  • Recognition and reward for their performance: Pay for performance, based on individual achievement, still remains the primary engine to encourage lasting personal effort.
  • An opportunity to gain more (pay and / or higher level):  No one likes being in a dead end job.  Picture Joe Average playing solitaire on his computer, waiting for the clock to strike 5:00.
  • Fair treatment: Equity of pay, of opportunities and future growth should be based on performance, not special treatment of so-called special cases.  It’s not only the sales force willing to chase that carrot.

Do your reward programs offer your employees each of the above?  Do you know that they do, or do you assume that they do?  Big difference.

Whatever is going on in the heads of your employees, you better find out.

Walk a mile in someone else’s shoe and see if your feet hurt.

Asleep At The Switch

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 29-12-2016

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asleep-by-cell105It can be argued that nothing much of significance occurs in the business world between Christmas and the New Year holiday.  The bosses are (mostly) on vacation, those clients and vendors still open for business seem future-focused to the start of the new year, the phone isn’t ringing all that much and many offices have only a skeleton staff.  The pressure is off, folks are relaxed from phase 1 of holiday cheer and many are already looking forward to phase 2.  Next week is soon enough to re-focus.

If you do have to make an appearance at work, it’s a good time to share Christmas experiences with colleagues, to clean up your desk and files, take long lunches and in general idly pass the time until after the First.  It’s like your time is on automatic pilot.

Which is exactly why you should be careful with your actions, as hopefully your conscious is whispering in your ear. Because it’s all too easy to take your eye off the ball during the holiday season.  In the HR / Compensation world there are many moving parts right now.  Lots of balls up in the air.  If you’re not careful, next week when the flow of business returns to normal, you might find yourself sitting behind that proverbial eight ball of “woe is me,” playing catch-up and as a result setting bad precedents.

What Can Go Wrong?

Right now the annual incentive assessment and payment process is underway.  Are the review forms being properly completed and submitted on time?  Are you reading them?

Likely the annual merit review process (performance assessments) is also underway.  Are those forms being prepared in a timely and appropriate manner?

Is the merit increase matrix the same one you used last year, and even the year before? Has anyone checked as to its continuing usefulness?  Is that a rubber stamp I see on your desk?

The new annual incentive plan commences in a few days.  Has the design been reviewed?  Are managers being instructed as to the timing and construction of appropriate goals / objectives?

The new salary ranges have been approved, right?

If you have stock options and / or Long Term Incentives (LTIs), the new program initiative is upon you.

Has all of this been communicated to employees?

Pick one of the above.  If you ignore it, if you let things slide along on automatic pilot you lose the opportunity to correct errors, to make improvements.  You are condemning yourself to repeat whatever is wrong with the status quo. That’s not supposed to be your role, is it?

The more you leave things alone as you relax through the holidays the more likely it is that you will take shortcuts and lose the opportunity to make effective change – because your time has run out.


During the course of my career I have seen this scenario played out time and time again.  Taking your eye off the ball while the clock is ticking leaves you few opportunities to perform your job effectively during this hectic season of Compensation program finalization and initialization.

  • Assessment forms aren’t even read, but merely checked off as having been submitted.
  • Someone digs out the announcement memos from last year and changes the date.  Done!
  • Annual objectives for the closing year are assumed correct, even as written at the last moment (now).
  • New objectives can be promised for eventual submittal.  “Soon,” they’ll say.
  • Your overall assessment process becomes a paperwork mill, and little more.

Is this how things are where you work?  Eleven months of preparation abandoned at the last minute to accommodate checklists and hurry-up?  Is that how you started the year, last January, with this expectation for how things would play out?

Maybe it’s too late already for you.  Maybe you’ll find this reminder note too late to take effective action.  Or perhaps you’re already playing administrative catch-up.  Maybe you are one of those on vacation this week yourself and I’m wasting my time, whistling in the wind.

Don’t be asleep at the switch this holiday season.  Waking up will present difficult challenges come the New Year.

The Great Christmas Giveaway

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 21-12-2016

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gifts-by-stevendepoloEveryone and their brother-in-law will be soon heading out of the office for a well-deserved Holiday break.  Those who remain can look forward to a (usually) relaxed week between Christmas and the New Year.  Time enough away from chirping phones and multiple meetings to ponder where your Compensation function is heading, and do you want to go there?

Approaching the end of the year attention has already begun it’s inevitable tilt toward, “what are we going to do next year”?  Compensation managers and practitioners will have their hands full for the next few months, balancing the need to effectively close out this year, while at the same time preparing for the next.

Which is a fertile environment for practitioners to mutter, “I’m so busy.  If our compensation programs aren’t broken and in pieces, let’s leave them alone. We have other fish to fry.” Unfortunately that attitude, while perhaps understandable during a busy time of year, is effectively saying, “let’s stay the course.  Let’s continue into next year with what we’ve been doing this year.  Who’s complaining”?

The Complaint

But instead, perhaps there should be a shout of alarm (picture me raising my hand from the back of the room).  A basic premise of having effective reward programs (they perform the way they were intended, delivering desired results to employers and employees) is that you need to periodically check.  You need to kick the tires.  Even though your car is running fine today, and tomorrow and even the next day, eventually problems will develop and it will stop running effectively.  That’s why you schedule a checkup.

So how do we know that the incentive plans continue to run effectively, aren’t wasting money, aren’t creating inequities and aren’t fostering employee discontent?

Points to Ponder

While you’re sipping some Christmas cheer and munching on too many Holiday cookies please take a moment to reflect on what might be considered weaknesses in how you approach transition reward (end of year / start of year) practices.

  • Incentive Review Paperwork: You have forms meant to assess performance for your annual management incentive plan (or others).  Does anyone read them?  Is the language consistent with the rating?
  • Last Minute Objectives: Annual objectives should have been settled by the end of the first quarter.  If managers are still writing them now, in order to coincide with activities that took place, you have a problem.  You are spending reward monies on self-fulfilling goals.
  • Let’s Give Away More Incentives: Have a look-see at who is eligible for your incentive programs.  Because there’s pressure these days to lower the eligibility further into the organization,  increasing the ranks of those being given the “opportunity.”
  • Let’s Have More of the Same: You’re busy; I get it.  But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t review the design parameters of your annual incentive plan(s).  To make sure the plan still supports business objectives.  Otherwise you’ll simply repeat whatever didn’t work this year.
  • Win-Win Scenario:  Make sure you spend enough time ensuring that your new incentive plan(s) will have significant payouts only if the company is successful as well.  It’s nice to worry about the mechanics of ensuring competitive and equitable incentives for the employees, but if the company isn’t winning as well, you’re throwing money away.  After all, the plan is (should be) intended to incent employees to deliver a successful year for the company.  There should be no guaranteed payments.
  • Leave the Games for the Kids: The payroll costs for an incentive plan are typically very large. As best you can make sure that performance = reward remains your guiding principle.  Avoid the gamesmanship of vague objectives, sloppily written assessments and even manipulation of results to ensure payments.

If something is amiss with your incentive design and administration your employees will know.  They might be silent when ineffective practices benefits them, but will howl like the Ghost of Christmas Past if they feel they’re not being fairly treated.

While this may be the season of giving, please make sure that both your company and your employees receive the gift of equitable reward for performance rendered.  That should be a gift that pleases everyone.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

A Practitioner’s Recipe For Success

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 20-12-2016

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Whenever I come across self-help materials intended to assist Compensation practitioners with their professional growth I often notice an overly large emphasis on the technical side.  Also, when reading internet blogs meant for the same audience there again seems a constant litany of how-to guidance on, again, technical issues.

That’s all well and good, but . . . .

It seems to me that becoming a master technician in the compensation “science” is not by itself going to be an effective strategy for success in the corporate world.  In fact, sometimes that technical prowess can prove a bit of a hindrance, as it could limit upward opportunities.

True story: During my career the President of a nationally known retail chain interviewed me for the top Compensation job.  He later said to his CHRO, “Hire this guy. He has a personality.”

My checklist of Useful Competencies

If you rely solely on your technical capabilities, while remaining in your cubicle all day, and if you’re saddled with the personality of a troll, you’re going to have an uphill struggle toward success.  You’re going to need more to work with, so print this checklist and tape it to your office wall – where you can see it every day.  It could save your career.  You must:

  • Be flexible: Be willing to listen and keep an open mind.  Become known as a problem solver. Do not quote policy except as a last result.  Have a reason for your actions that can be easily explained.
  • Understand the business and how Compensation impacts it:  You’re not on an island cut off from the rest of the business.  Learn how what you do interacts with and has an effect on the business. What you do should relate to and support organizational objectives.  If not, know why not.
  • Have a personality:  Basic stuff, but have a ready smile, greet people, shake hands and in general show a warm side to those you interact with. Become an engaging person.  Oh, and try to be sincere about it.
  • Don’t be a Geek / Nerd: Don’t spend all your time spouting technical language and showing off charts & graphs.  As if all those figures are self-explanatory and you’re merely the spokesperson.  That data should be the backdrop to your explanations, not the focus.  Don’t be an analyst when you need to be a leader.
  • Be able to work a room: Leave the introvert at home and develop the skill of being comfortable holding multiple conversations in a room of strangers, colleagues or even senior leadership. That will build your image in a positive way.  If you’re an introvert, work on it.
  • Be persuasive:  You will not get too far by dictum, so work on your reasoning and communication skills.  You need to  be able to influence others, to gain agreement on the strength of your rational arguments.  “My way or the highway” does not generate a warm response.
  • Become the one who gets lots of Christmas cards: That’s your goal for next year, to be someone that colleagues think of when preparing their lists.  That is usually a good sign, because they like and / or respect you.  PS – I’m not counting stamped signature cards from consultants and vendors.
  • Play (a bit of) politics:  I don’t like this one, but it’s true.  Politics exists in every organization, so you need to be able to play the game at least a little.  Don’t think that you can “stay above the fray,” as you’re a professional or some such rot.  The powers that be will eat you alive. But as best you can try to remain neutral and project yourself as someone that all sides can trust.
  • Yes, be technically proficient:  Of course you still have to know what you’re talking about (the science of Compensation), but the higher up you climb the food chain the less reliance you’ll need on your personal technical capabilities.  You will become valued and judged for what else you bring to the plate.

Nowhere on this list will you find the ability to rattle off the overtime exemption criteria for the FLSA, or the salient rating descriptions in your point factor evaluation scheme.  And nobody is going to swoon when you describe linear regression, correlation coefficients or the difference between the Cost of Living and the Cost of Labor.  Your audience, your clients, your senior management will expect more.

But if they like you, if you have an engaging personality and can work well with others, well then, you’re half way there.

Do Not Limit Yourself

Unless you want to.  Unless you are someone who prefers the technical work, to the exclusion of the managerial side of the craft.

Those employees are out there.  I have met them.  They are happy with what they do.

But if your repertoire of competencies leans too heavily toward excel spreadsheets and data analysis your ability to “pass through the curtain” from the hard side of Compensation (technical) to the soft side (managerial) will be limited.  Because Master Technicians tend to remain just that, both by competency and by interest.

Likely you have seen your own examples of individual contributors (technicians) who have been promoted beyond their capabilities – or their interests.  Those employees are rarely successful.

So pick and choose.  If you want to go through the beaded curtain be certain to bring more along with you than a calculator and a spreadsheet.

Warm up that smile!

Are You Kidding Yourself?

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

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rose-colored-glasses-by-florence-luongAs a manager within your organization you’re expected to provide leadership and direction for those employees who report to you.  Likely that requirement is a key accountability in your job description, and fulfilling that mandate means that you’ll have to make decisions that impact your employees – for good or ill.

Bummer.  Not everyone is comfortable with that responsibility being part of a Manager’s role.

From the perspective of senior management a key leadership expectation surrounds the handling of the employee performance review – and those future pay actions (rewards) that are based upon that assessment.  The boss has placed the ball squarely in your court to render those decisions.

Well, are you a tough manager with high expectations, or do you have a “rep” as an easy rater – as someone easy to please, someone who hesitates to make up or down decisions about their employees?  Do you feel that all employees deserve an annual raise?  Are you reluctant to discriminate of the basis of job performance?

Perhaps you have a tendency to consider decisions based on emotional factors (employee needs and wants), versus on the basis of business-related practicalities (performance assessment, company affordability, most deserving, budgets, etc.)?

Well, you probably say, the truth is that it’s a matter of balance; that managers need to weigh both factors (employer and employee) in trying to do the right thing.

True enough in concept, but such a balanced approach suggests use of a carrot and a stick – as well as a bit of a giveaway.

Signs of a “Softie”

Easy-to-please managers believe in giving as many employees as possible as much reward as the company will allow, with the expectation that recipients will:

  • Be grateful and work harder out of personal thanks
  • Be satisfied and not quit
  • Recognize the manager as someone looking out for them

These managers are kidding themselves, wearing rose colored glasses, thinking that emotional pay decisions are going to deliver results that help them (the manager), and maybe even the organization (there’s that unfortunate priority again).

Why Emotional Decisions?

Managers have a choice, and what unfortunately comes naturally for too many untrained folks is the tendency to protect themselves.  Many still think of themselves as supervisors or even individual contributors, not members of the organization’s leadership cadre.  In basic terms they still project the so-called “employee side,” versus the “company line” (that’s how they see it).

  • They want to be liked: They want to be a friend as well as a boss.  They still remember sitting on the other side of the desk.  So they empathize.
  • They avoid career-impacting decisions:  They’d prefer that someone else play judge and jury with an employee’s career.  Or let the performance figures speak for themselves (“numbers don’t lie“).
  • They don’t support the company’s pay program:  These are the ones who tell employees, “I wanted to do more, but HR wouldn’t let me.”  They fail to defend reward policies, preferring to be seen as being on the employee’s side.
  • They’re afraid someone would quit:  Because that might be a reflection on them as a manager.
  • It’s really about them:  Having employees unhappy for any reason usually means more work for the managers themselves.  It could mean extra attention to subordinate work (vs. their own), recruiting and training replacements, doing the work themselves to fill in, etc.

These managers are not helping the organization; they’re not even managing.  What they’re doing is administering the pay programs as if they didn’t have a decision-making role to play as part of the leadership team.  It’s managing from a distance – being the disengaged leader.  Let someone else make the decision.

For sure it’s not easy for some new managers to “flip the switch” and start thinking like one of the leaders of the organization.  But when they took on the mantle of “Manager” they stepped up to additional responsibilities.  They’re no longer “one of the boys,” but now the boss of those “boys.”

Those who wear rose-colored glasses to make reward decisions are in truth ineffective managers, who over time will harm the organization through their inability to make the effective, objective decisions that impact the employees who work for them.

Managers?  They’re kidding themselves.

Rising Up From Failure

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 01-12-2016

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amelia-cat-by-brownpauIt’s happened to me, more than once, and likely has happened to you as well.  Rejection.  Failure.  The boss or even senior management didn’t go for your idea.  Maybe they weren’t even nice about it.  You might have thought that your recommendations were good ideas, but they didn’t gain you the approval you had hoped for (too expensive, too controversial, too complicated. etc.).  But hey, you can fix things and get back in there to pitch your proposal again.

But what if the rejection was more complete, a one word NO and the meeting ended.  What if you were shown the exit before really getting into the details.  You zigged and they zagged.  You missed the boat and the boss wasn’t afraid to tell you so, and even by how far you had missed the mark.  Ouch.

Now what do you do?  Before you head for the aspirin, or other pain relievers, let’s take a look you might approach the before, and then the potential after of any presentation.

The Before

To get ready to pitch an idea to your boss, or to senior management for that matter, it’s best not to “wing it” when getting your presentation ready, but instead to thoroughly prepare yourself.  You might set up a checklist to help you remember some do’s and don’ts.

  • Remember the formula for any proposal:  State the problem, then the impact and ongoing cost.  Pause then to let the gravity of the circumstances sink in.  Then offer a solution (your proposal), followed by how the problem would be solved, along with projected costs.  Finally, paint a picture of the success to be achieved because your proposal has been approved.
    • These are the basics, taken from any good compensation manual.  Now also consider the rest.
  • Don’t try to overwhelm with facts and figures:  You’re a professional and already have their trust, that you know what you’re doing.  So focus on the key program changes and only use summary statements and figures.  You don’t have to “prove” your case with reams of data.
  • Get ready for “gotcha” questions:  They will come, so prepare by asking yourself – what do you think they will ask?  Are there possible glitches that should be addressed early on?  Survey your staff for devil’s advocate thinking.
  • Double check your figures and your text:  Sounds minor, but don’t let yourself stumble over embarrassing math errors or typos.  And yes, someone will notice.  Highlighting even a minor error could prove a costly distraction in the middle of your presentation.

Now you’re ready.  But being ready only assures a smooth presentation.  Something can still go wrong.  Don’t be blinded by a personal bias toward your work that may not be shared by those responsible for making the ultimate decision.

If everyone smiles and you get a green light, you needn’t read any further.  But if you play the percentages it’s likely that something will slide off the tracks, from a minor mishap to a major derailment.  If so, what do you after the meeting?

The After

Your reaction to a “failed” presentation depends a great deal on the specific aspects of what went wrong, who said what to whom, and whether your proposal needs a band aid or major surgery.  But consider a few basic responses that should serve you sell.

  • Making adjustments:  Listen to what they said, nod your head and commit to reviewing your materials and the resubmitting in a fashion that addresses their concerns.  Get back into the fight!
  • A different perspective:  Think hard about why you didn’t win the day.  Maybe they have a perspective that you hadn’t considered.  Maybe they raised concerns that you hadn’t addressed.  Learn from the experience.
  • Half a loaf is better than nothing: There’s nothing wrong, and a lot of good that can follow compromise.  Even if the powers that be won’t approve everything you asked for, take what you can get.  Getting halfway to a goal positions you better than remaining at the starting gate.  Next time you’ll move even closer.
  • A defeat is seldom unconditional:  Even if your proposal was rejected, you raised important issues and created a dialogue with the decision-makers.  That’s a good thing.  You also got them thinking, and likely created an environment where raising the same issues again (in a revised format) will likely receive a better reception.

So don’t give up when your precious ideas and recommendations get slapped down.  Instead get up, brush yourself off, adjust your thinking as necessary and prepare to fight another day.