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Don’t Kid Yourself

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 08-09-2014

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Mistakes, by Orange_BeardAs 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 part of being a Manager.

From the senior management perspective a key leadership expectation is the matter of the employee performance review – and the future pay (reward) actions based upon that assessment.  The bosses have 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 choose?

Perhaps you have a tendency to make your 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 a balanced approach suggests use of a carrot and a stick.

Signs of the “softie”

When it comes to doling out the company’s money easy-to-please managers believe in giving as many employees as possible as much as the company allows, with the expectation that recipients will:

  • Be grateful and work harder out of personal thanks
  • Be satisfied and not leave
  • Recognize you as someone who is looking out for them

These managers are kidding themselves and wearing rose colored glasses, thinking that their 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 do managers make 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, not members of the organization’s leadership cadre.  In simplistic terms they still take 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 don’t want to make 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 understand (or defend) 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 company policy on rewards, preferring to be seen as being on the employee’s side.
  • They’re afraid that 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), 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.

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.

Dirt Under The Fingernails

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 25-08-2014

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God Complex, by angelofsweetbitter2009Do you have a pet peeve at work?  Something that, when it happens just bothers the hell out of you?  That can ruin your whole day?

I do.  In fact, I have several.  Here’s one of my most annoying poke-in-the-eye scenarios; the self-appointed or self-anointed expert.

Have you experienced the same?  Or perhaps to someone you know?  Some examples:

Management decides to hire a bright and shiny new MBA and then drops the youthful new employee into your department with a thud. The new hire is touted as the second-coming of Jack Welsh (GE) or some other management guru; someone who will know what to do, how to solve the department’s problems, how to get the business back on track.  Because they have an MBA, you’re told.

They’re usually paid a ton of money, at least in comparison to what’s paid to those who have to instruct them on how things are done here.  When you add in a touch of arrogance and self-importance you often have a recipe for internal conflict, passive resistance and eventual counter-productive results.

Why is that?  Resentment.  Too often what they know is what they have been told.  The employees see this, though management can look the other way.

Here’s another example

When someone is lecturing or offering advice about compensation issues, usually in a webinar, a workshop, conference  or even within a published article, I gauge the credibility of that advice, and the recommendations that usually accompany them, on the basis of whether I can take what’s offered at face value.

If the advice or recommendations is coming from someone with dirt under their fingernails, who has walked the talk and spent time in the trenches of dealing hand-to-hand with employees and their compensation issues, then I listen and take notes.  On the other hand, if the presenter has a progressive track record of college, advanced degree, consulting firm and then telling me what to do at work, I confess that I usually have a less positive reaction.

I’ve been burnt before by the lack of “street smarts” that plague the new certificate holders, academics and “wunderkind.”  So I don’t read those articles.  I don’t listen to those speeches.  Because in my view that’s not experience talking, that’s book learning and a view of common or “best” practice as studied by those who haven’t walked a mile in my shoes.  It’s “case study consulting.”

My father used to complain that college was teaching me “book stuff, not common sense.”  He might have been on to something.

When I fly, I like to see that the pilot has a bit of grey hair.  Gives me confidence that they’ve got some hours under their belt, and can likely handle themselves outside of the aircraft simulator.

For their part, a seasoned compensation practitioner is one who has been there, has tried different methods, has bumped their head a few times and has learned what works – and what doesn’t.  Even more important, they’ve learned the why of things.  They’ve dealt with practical issues, with employees as well as managers, and they’ve gained a perspective about what works in their particular organization.

Those who have only analyzed case studies in a classroom environment simply don’t have the depth and breadth of practical experience to advise on the basis on anything other than what they‘ve read, what someone else has told them.

Because the circumstances within my organization, the internal dynamics, the office politics, the management bias, and even the workforce culture are not the same as you would find in the next organization.  There’s no cookie cutter solution out there, nor off-the-shelf magic potion that works for everyone.  What I need is what will work for my organization, not yours and not some conceptual average “everyman” organization.

But that’s me.  You may see things different.

Likely you have your own pet peeves.

Sounds Like A Great Idea

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 19-08-2014

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Frog Wisdom, by liberalmind1012One of the most negative management stereotypes you’ll come across in the workplace is the “yes-man,” that weak-kneed subordinate who is always quick to agree with the boss.   This is an empty suit having no other opinion other than agreement.  Picture a nodding head and vacant smile.

In a similar vein, do you recall the old saying, “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil“?  The modern version of this adage describes one who looks the other way, who refuses to acknowledge and even feigns ignorance when confronted with practices they should otherwise say or do something about.

Do the compensation practitioners in your organization, including the one looking back at you from the mirror, provide objective and unbiased counsel to management, or do they sometimes simply offer support and justification for what management wants to do?

Do you stand up?

There are always opportunities to turn a blind eye / closed mouth to improper practices taking place in the organization:

  • Finance has lobbied Senior Management that the average merit increase next year should be x%, and you’ve been asked for your recommendation.
  • The performance appraisal process is poorly designed and administered;  rewards are often granted without legitimate justification.  And you say . . . ?
  • A Vice President wants to create a puffed-up Office Manager title for a long serving Secretary.  This would also entail a higher grade and promotional increase.

Are you one to stand up and be counted, or do you let these and other possibly contentious events wash over you without voicing concern?

  • Are your recommendations primarily based on competitive research, an understanding of compensation strategy and knowledge of business operations?
  • Do you question those managers who wish to grant rewards for the wrong reasons?
  • Do you strive to hold the line on meaningless titles that increase costs, create employee inequities and provide the company with little or no return value?

What’s the worst that can happen?

Perhaps you’re concerned that having an opinion out of step with senior management will damage your “team player” image.  That your career would suffer because you can’t get along with others, that you “don’t get it“?  Perhaps it’s easier to simply go along for the ride.

It’s my view that practitioners should provide the best advice they’re capable of, on the basis of technical knowledge, experience and seasoning with business operations.  Let management make the decision.  They have a perspective that’s wider than a singular compensation view, and it’s their company, budget, operations, etc.  Your responsibility is to provide the best objective advice possible, to ensure that decision-makers have their eyes open and understand the ramifications involved.

Life isn’t a tableau of  black-and-white images, but a series of swirling grays.  We should acknowledge that there are contingencies and alternative possibilities available.  But we should not temper either our judgment or our opinions solely on the basis of what the boss wants to hear.

Management tends to respect straightforward analysis and honest feedback.  However they won’t respect your input if it’s been tainted by political maneuverings or a “how many ways are there to say yes”? mentality.

Your job is to add value

You don’t have to fall on your sword career-wise to make a point, to stand up for yourself, to add value to the decision-making process.  Sometimes you just know that the direction management is taking is the wrong path to take, but that doesn’t mean that you should step away from doing your job.

One of the best ways to establish yourself as a valuable contributor is to have an opinion, and not be afraid to voice it.  Even when the management steamroller is moving and you have to get out of the way or be run over, you should always provide your professional input.   You can do this by offering options and alternatives for management to consider.  That’s where you’ll be able to present your own recommendations alongside the management point-of-view.

Get them thinking; that’s your responsibility and how you add professional value.  It’s also how you build credibility and an invaluable personal awareness with Senior Management.

The Dinosaurs Among Us

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 04-08-2014

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Do any of these employee-types sound familiar to you?  Perhaps you’ve come across one or more in the T-Rex, by Scott Kinmartinhallways at work.  Perhaps you work with someone like this. Perhaps you work for someone like this.

  • The technocrat with the pocket protector and ready access to multiple survey sources for analytical data on any given subject.  Always has a technical and often convoluted answer to questions.  You may not understand them.
  • The employee who administers a point-factor job evaluation system or performance management program like the processes are an untouchable, sacrosanct bible.  Definitions and point factors have been memorized and can be quoted at will.
  • The employee who understands more about compensation methodology and data manipulation formulae than the business dynamics of the company. They can explain a regression line and standard deviations faster than they can describe the main product or service of the company.

One dimensional thinking

These are the folks who have their eyes pointed straight down, walking the cautious step by step, not having a clue or a care as to what’s on the horizon. They’re heavily engaged with the technical aspects of their craft, with compensation methodology, and seem to their coworkers to be in a fog about everything else. They’re the so-called subject matter experts, at least as far as their technical analysis can take them.

But at the same time they may not be able to relate to the day-to-day challenges faced by line managers.  Instead of being problem solvers they find their comfort zone as data junkies who can show you the numbers, can point at the charts, but not necessarily can they suggest what to do next.

Don’t get me wrong, we do need these employees, as they serve a useful purpose to help understand the intricacies of our payroll, the competitive marketplace and the financial impact of various pay decisions.  But when we let impersonal analytics dictate our strategies, our day-to-day tactics in dealing with our employees, we tend to lose a quality of humanity that is critical to building within our organization a successful workplace culture.

In order to manage compensation, not simply administer the programs, practitioners need to understand the impact that the analytics can have on employees, on business operations and of course on the financials.  And a grasp of possible unintended consequences.

Time marched on

It wasn’t that many years ago that the compensation technocrats described above played a strong hand within their little kingdoms.  Management was mesmerized by the data streams, confused by the formulae, charts and graphs and more readily accepting of technical strategies that promised savings or an improved bottom line.  For their part employees tended to be viewed as blocks on an organization chart, or simply cells within a spreadsheet.  They weren’t actual people.

But these days most companies (not yet all, I’m afraid) expect more from their compensation practitioners. They expect to see a balance between technical abilities, familiarity with business operations, understanding of the employee perspective, communication skills and a capability to offer practical solutions that create a win-win atmosphere within the organization.

Increasingly the one dimensional technocrats are viewed as dinosaurs by a leadership that views their limited capabilities as too restrictive, too judgmental (the policy says, the survey says, figures don’t lie, etc.) and overly reliant on espousing tactics that others employ.  They struggle when it comes to helping their own organization solve problems and overcome challenges that may not be common outside of their own environment.

So, where do you fall in the grand scheme of things?  In an increasingly complex work environment you need to wear more than one hat, more than a single competency.  You also need to have one foot in the present and the other in the future.  Don’t live in the past.  The “good old days” are gone.

So have care.  Because if your colleagues, peers and even senior leadership ever start to think of you as a dinosaur they won’t be thinking of a T-Rex, but a lumbering Brontosaurus.

The Pay-For-Pulse Culture

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 27-07-2014

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Cathead, by mightyhorsePicture the scene: Your company doesn’t have enough monies in the annual merit spend budget to grant more than an average 2% increase to employees, so the powers that be decide that -“let’s give everyone a flat 2% increase and call it a day.”

Has this happened to you?  The practice is what some would call a “pay-for-pulse” strategy, where if you haven’t been fired on the date of the scheduled increases then you’re going to get a raise. Every warm body who occupies a chair will receive an increase, just because.  Individual employee performance isn’t taken into account, so the high performers will receive  the same 2% increase as Joe Average.  And as to Bob-the-Bumbler?  He’ll receive the same 2% as well.

And everyone is supposed to be happy.

Really.

But it happens.  So why is it that some managers think that such a giveaway tactic is a great idea?

  • It’s easy to communicate and administer.  Picture someone pushing an EASY button and all the changes are made, in an instant.
  • You don’t have to worry about performance reviews.  Oh, some organizations may go through the motions, but essentially the goal is to have a paperless exercise.
  • Managers won’t have to agonize over performance ratings.  Everybody receives the same treatment and no one has to be given a negative review.  Because let’s face it, no manager looks forward to that conversation.
  • Some advocates will actually convince themselves that they’re being fair to everyone. They’re not discriminating , not pitting one group against another.  We all work for the same company, right?  This same vein of thought believes that everyone on the receiving end will thank them.
  • Did I mention that it’s quick and easy to do?  No fuss, no muss.

Of course, this isn’t a tactic that you’d see in a pay-for-performance culture.  And certainly not where management is trying to develop the oft-desired  “high performance” culture.  In some ways this tactic actually encourages and rewards the opposite, as it’s the lesser performers who consider this a grand idea.  And why shouldn’t they?  It’s a great deal for Joe Average and an even better one for Bob-the-Bumbler.

But watch the exit door for the high performers.  Because they won’t be sticking around for long once they feel that they’re not being recognized or rewarded.  But don’t worry, as Joe and Bob will stay with you. They may never leave.

So have a think as you consider what it is that you’re really intending to recognize and encourage with your discretionary reward dollars.  If it’s simply tenure, if it’s saying thanks to someone for sitting in a chair for another year, then I suspect you’re wasting a lot of money.  And you won’t get a lot of improved performance for your efforts.

You’d be better served rewarding what someone has contributed to the organization (performance) while they were occupying that chair.  Unless of course you think that every warm body has a right to an annual increase – regardless.

So take your choice; pay-for-performance or pay-for-pulse?  What if it was your money being taken out of your pocket?

Broad based reward strategies don’t often focus the reward where it will do the most good, where it will benefit the company the most.  Instead, picture the fellow opening a window and tossing out dollar bills into the wind, all the while chanting,  “I hope this helps.”

It won’t.

Stubborn Is As Stubborn Does

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 21-07-2014

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I share my house with a brood of cats and it’s been that way for as long as I can remember. I love them, but recognize that they are stubborn, stubborn, stubborn creatures, and at times it seems like they’re the ones who run the place.

Have you ever tried to change a cat’s food, or their litter box, or even their water dish? They don’t react well to the new and different, and when they don’t react well their loud and disdainful behavior can really disrupt your day.

These felines are creatures of habit, preferring a daily pattern of repeated behavior that in their view creates a safe and reassuring environment – where they feel the most comfortable. Break that pattern and you get the look, or worse. I can attest to the fact that dealing with the stubborn and the habitual can be a real trial.

In the business world there are many companies run by a leadership who possess similar inflexible behavior, an aversion to breaks in pattern. Those who like things just the way they are. Whoever coined the phrase “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” was probably a charter member in that “blinders on, head in the sand” leadership cadre who likes things to remain just the way they are.

While it’s a truism that yesterday’s strategy and operating principles are rarely a recipe for future success, how often do you see managers hang on to what used to work – until the signs of failure become so visible and so painful that they can no longer be accepted?

Comfort

These folks with their heads in the sand are not necessarily bad managers, or even poor business leaders. What they are is comfortable, and when we’re comfortable we feel safe, relaxed in our surroundings, familiar with what needs to get done and perhaps a bit over confident about our control of the business environment.

When we feel comfortable and confident we prefer to repeat those same actions that brought us to our present state of mental ease. In other words, we don’t like to rock the boat, we don’t like what we consider “change for the sake of change,” and we’re skeptical of new and unproven techniques. We get stubborn and dig in our heels.

“It’s worked before, it brought us success. Let’s leave it alone.”

However, when someone or some event breaks that comfort level (new competition, weakened economy, technological advances, etc.), the first thing we experience is anger that our warm cocoon could be shattered by new business realities. Soon enough though, that anger will convert to a sense of fear, whether we admit it or not. More than likely we’ll act out in an aggressive fashion that disguises the panic we’re feeling.

Fear

People can be fearful of change, especially leaders. Because they don’t know the new rules, because there are risks when implementing new strategies, and those who stick their head above the crowd can get it chopped off. We’ve all seen that happen.

When you must get yourself up and out of your comfort zone it’s a natural reaction to feel defensive and unsure about what you should do next. Leadership may not have the competencies or the experience to adapt to new business challenges. It’s not difficult to lead when things are going well. But when the going gets rough, when the pressure is on to change course, to implement new strategies, not so much.

“I’m not sure about what to do; everything has changed.”

Pushed from their safe environment management can find itself unsure, defensive and unsettled about the correct way forward. And until matters settle down again they can be difficult for practitioners to work with.

You can help them

You may consider managers stuck in the past as living dinosaurs, but have a care because these beasts have teeth. Because they don’t like this uncomfortable new world some will tend to shoot the messengers. In order to offer assistance to a leadership challenged by the unfamiliar practitioners need to step up and provide steady, confident and reliable advice.

• Acknowledge the past: Yes, previous strategies have worked well and brought the company success and financial strength, reputation and a strong foundation for the future. A pat on the shoulders for management.

• Focus on the why: Whenever advocating change, focus your message, your research, your examples and your entire business case on why your recommendations lead to solutions. Keep your eye on the goal, not the changing patterns of behavior.

• Dangle the carrot: Always point toward the business and personal success that would be the result of your recommendations. Besides showing the achievement of business success, emphasize that leadership will gain credit for managing the organization through these difficult times. Stroking the ego doesn’t hurt here.

The next time someone comes to you with an idea to build a better mousetrap, listen to them. Keep your eyes, your mind and your options open. Instead of being afraid of change, embrace the opportunities presented. It can make for a better tomorrow, and you’ll shake the tag of “stubborn.”

What Do I Do Now?

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 05-07-2014

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When it’s time to fix your organization’s Compensation program, and you’re the one in charge, what do you do?

Suppose you’ve just been promoted to the Compensation leadership role in your organization, or you’ve just been hired and inherited someone else’s legacy. Perhaps you already have ownership and simply have the boss’s angered shouts still ringing in your ears.

Whatever the catalyst, suppose you suddenly face a situation where you need to fix your compensation program; how would you go about it? Where do you start?

Points of pain

First things first; where does it hurt? The clarion call of action is coming from . . . somewhere, so find out and determine what those burning platform issues mean for your business.

Typical problem areas would include the following favorites:

  • High turnover: Have your avoidable separations (excluding , retirements, relocations, deaths, etc.) reached a level that has attracted senior management concern?
  • Recruiting: Has the Staffing section complained that it’s become difficult to attract the right caliber of candidate? That your pay scales aren’t competitive?
  • Payroll: Is your unit cost of labor considered too high? Too many FTEs? Is your employee payroll bloated and unwieldy?
  • Morale: Has your organization flunked the latest employee engagement survey – and fingers are pointing at Compensation?

Or is it something else that’s poking you in the eye, causing the organization to consider its pay programs as more a problem than a solution?

Look and learn. It’s the first step toward a solution.

Health examination

Next, extend your research beyond the obvious and look under a few rocks for what you aren’t being told.

Start asking key management personnel about the health of the reward programs (effective, efficient, performing as intended, etc.). Talk with line managers (those in the trenches) to learn where employee friction points make the most noise.

Then review your compensation metrics (you are using metrics as a statistical aide, aren’t you?) to determine whether those figures are telling you a story that you might not have noticed before.

For example:

  • How competitive are your salary ranges? When was the last time you conducted a competitive analysis? What did it tell you, and more importantly, what did you do about it?
  • Is grade and title inflation boosting costs without adding value? Bogus titles and inflated evaluations, often used to salve an employee for those you can’t provide cash rewards, are not harmless gestures. Those backdoor tactics cost real dollars, without providing a corresponding return in performance, productivity or engagement.
  • What’s the average performance rating, and how does that correlate with the success of the business? If the employees (especially managers) tend to be rated as above average performers, while the business is having an average year, that disconnect is costing you money and credibility with your workforce.
  • Do you segment your employee population? Not everyone’s external value changes at the same rate. Find out how different employee groups (non-exempt, exempt, professional, management, sales, executives) are being treated (pay rates and trends). You may have problem pockets, not broad-based trends.

Chances are that the statistics from your metrics database will validate the concerns raised from your interviews – and focus your corrective actions.

Reinforcements

Likely you already have in place a salary structure, complete with grades and salary ranges. You may even have multiple structures, based on employee segment, specialty departments or geography. Make sure they’re up-to-date.
Consider preparing a Compensation Administration Guidelines document for your managers, as a aid in applying standards of consistent treatment for your employees. These guidelines would lay out in a single voice the policies and procedures to be used in managing your reward programs.

When are performance reviews conducted, how large are promotional increases, how are exception requests processed? How are jobs evaluated, who is eligible for incentives, and how do you use geographic differentials across the country? Who has to approve what actions?

And what are you doing about Management training? How do you ensure that those empowered to spend the company’s money (hiring, promotions, performance increases, etc.) actually understand the intent of your compensation programs? Or are they making a series of well-intentioned emotional decisions that spend the company’s money without concern for financial operating pressures?
One could argue that focused training is a minimal cost solution to the problem of managers wasting the company’s money through ill-advised pay decisions.

Your message

Once you’ve determined where the problem areas are, their magnitude (impact) and the prioritization of gaining solutions, you should consider taking the offensive to make sure that your message is the one employees are talking about.

Note: most other corrective steps are defensive in nature, like putting your finger in the dike. Survey analysis, salary structure redesign, performance appraisal modifications etc. are all reactive in nature, fixing a problem. They don’t by themselves attack what could be your most serious challenge – employee perceptions.

  • Explain competitiveness: Employees never assume that you’re paying competitively. At best they’ll consider you average. If you’re doing better than that, you’d better be telling folks. Repeatedly. Because paying above average rates to employees who think you’re average is wasting your money.
  • Use reward statements: Show how much the company does for employees. Have you ever added up how much your organization spends for the betterment of employees, for everything – not just cash? Consider voluntary as well as required benefits, statutory obligations like social security and workers compensation, vacations, perquisites, recognition programs, company-sponsored programs, cafeteria, employee discounts, tuition reimbursement, stock purchase plans, community involvement programs, the parking garage . . . the list can be extensive.

Get your arms around the issues, identify your pain and priorities, communicate with employees and get started.

Does Self-Help Help?

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 27-06-2014

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Books in a stack, by austinevanDoesn’t it seem as though everywhere you turn these days you’re faced with a bombardment of how-to advice from self-proclaimed “experts”?   Especially in Human Resources these people assure you that they understand your problems, and that they have the right solutions for you and your business.  All you need do is read a book, attend a webinar or buy their information-packed DVD.

Sounds like a diet pill, doesn’t it?  Simple and quick.

Promises of such quick fixes and overnight solutions cover every aspect of our business and personal lives.  Pick an issue and the answer is out there.  Someone can help us, and that someone is our “answer man.”  We only have to listen, watch or read whatever it is that they’re offering.   For a fee, of course.

You can’t escape the TV infomercials, the newspaper advertisements, magazine articles or even blogs and social media sites without an endless flow of subject matter gurus telling you that they have the solution for what ails you.

  •        “Guaranteed to quadruple sales within twelve months”
  •        “Maximizes HR effectiveness and value through the use of . . .”
  •         “Keeping Leadership Talent Engaged”
  •        “Designing Employee Policies for an International Workforce”
  •        “The Five Causes of Low Morale – and how to avoid them”
  •         “Our products, services and advice are certified, hospital-tested, government sponsored”

You get the point.

Now, here’s the but . . . .

If that’s the case, that the answer is out there – and for a price waiting for you – why do we continue to face the same problems over and over again?  Why are managers still making poor decisions, wasting money and creating employee morale screw-ups from dawn to dusk?  Why are the business headlines constantly reporting litigation over wrongful or illegal management behavior, or the dubious business decisions that send companies spiraling into financial trouble?

Isn’t anyone paying attention to the Answer Man?  Or is the advice simply a load of horse manure?  Are these experts really just spouting head-game theories and viewing business problems from an academic vs. practical viewpoint?  Are they rehashing old methodologies with new language and passing off their solutions as “new” thinking?

Whichever it is, these “I have the solution” messages never seem to stop.   Like a constant propaganda campaign radio-beamed across the border – the broadcast light is always on.  The buzz phrases may change from time to time, but our appetite for quick fixes doesn’t seem to ever diminish.

My theory or yours?

If the “experts” do have the answers – color me skeptical – we need to ask why their message is so often ignored.  Several scenarios are possible:

  • Subject matter authorities often speak over our heads, using buzz phrases and $100 words
  • Reading or listening to this stuff is hard work; the text is dry, boring and not often engaging
  • Too much of the advice reads simple but is hard to implement
  • Academics often lack credibility in the real world; they “just don’t get it
  • Ingrained biases and personal agendas often close down an open mind

Whatever the reason, the drumbeat of advice, whether new or traditional,  is not being absorbed and acted upon – because the problems are still there.

Therefore . . . .

I’m struck by the merry-go-round aspect of constant advice without real solutions.  We see a continuous need to enlighten people and businesses on how to be effective, but it’s a need that never seems to end.

Maybe the analogy to a diet holds some truth; consider how many books are out there on that subject – yet up to 30% of the population remains obese.

 There’s an old saying, that if you build a better mousetrap the world will make a path to your door.   So if common sense and up-to-date technical knowledge point the way to a better tomorrow, why do so many companies and their leaders stay in the dumb zone?

I’m thinking that the message is either too boiler plate generic, the audience isn’t paying attention, or perhaps we’re all being scammed by re-packaged “new” thinking.

Which is it?  Because the problems are still out there.

Why Do We Need Grades?

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Universal Compensation | Posted on 24-06-2014

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Questions, by Marina del CastellI heard this question the other day from a highly placed business leader who was frustrated that one of his employees wasn’t assigned the grade that he just knew offered the right pay level.  His reaction was to challenge the premise of the entire evaluation / grading system, and suggested that instead they should let the managers (i.e., himself) decide which jobs are more valuable than others.  Especially jobs from “that other department.”

Yes, I know, the question he raised sounded like it came from a Homer Simpson “Duh!” moment of bizarre ideas that have heads shaking and eyes rolling among compensation practitioners.  And I agree with you, what an idea!

The trouble is, we don’t work for ourselves.  We work for senior leaders who, sometimes like the one above,  may not have a clue about how an effective compensation program operates.  That’s what they are supposed to have us for.  But these leaders can be prone to their own inflated opinions, biases and beliefs in whatever premise is being pushed by the latest business article they’ve read.  Which in turn supports their own agenda.  And yes, they also want to have an EASY button to keep things simple.

So you’re going to get that question tossed at you at some point.  Therefore you’d better be ready with a well considered answer when it comes.  Because the questioner will be serious, and from a glance at your organization chart you’ll know not to get too snappy with your response.  This “why?” query will be considered a valid business variable, and if you flub the answer your professional life in that organization will soon become a great deal more complicated.

What to say

There are many ways to explain the importance to an organization of having a graded structure (or steps, levels or however you’ve differentiated your jobs).  But let’s avoid the confusing  technical jargon and focus on the mindset of your audience and respond in a manner that these non-compensation people can understand and get behind.  And you want them to get behind you on this.  So throw out the spreadsheets, metrics dashboards  and “the survey says” gut reactions.

  • Cost control: Start with this and you have management’s attention.  You want and need to control payroll costs.  Grades and their associated salary ranges help managers to identify lower valued employees, and to monitor their pay progression. This helps keep a reliable, long-serving file clerk from earning $70,000.
  •  Controlling the organization: Note: management likes to hear the word ‘control.” Grades are a useful tool used by management to assign higher levels to ever more important jobs. They help create the organizational ladder of progressively more valued jobs. They also provide visible comparisons with other jobs within a job family.
  • Establishing a pecking order:  We all know that the CEO’s job is bigger than the mail clerk, but differences get trickier to identify when you count in all the jobs between.  So to know not only which jobs are bigger and smaller than others jobs, but also by how much (cue in the steps or grades) provides a practical value for employees as well as for managers.
  • Transparent fairness and equity for employees:  An openly communicated grade structure improves the likelihood that employees will be  equitably treated through the use of a standardized value metric, setting up a hierarchy, or a stepping stone of jobs, from top to bottom.

I wouldn’t lead with this, though.  For the business-minded bean counters and pragmatists in your leadership this sounds a bit too “fuzzy-wuzzy.”  Senior leadership reacts better to logical argument than to “feel good” messaging.

Now of course you can step away from all this control and standardization business and let chaos reign.  One big happy, self-negotiated  conglomeration of mixed messages, inconsistencies and a “let’s make a deal”  environment. You can let individual managers decide things for themselves.  They’ve been trained, right?  They’ll know what to do.  What can go wrong?

Are you starting to see the Duh! moment again?

Do Great Minds Think Alike?

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 13-06-2014

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White stone among black, by CyronI may be poking a hornet’s nest here, but I’m curious about something.

While I live in Central Florida I’ve had what might be described as an east coast business environment for my petri dish or cauldron of professional learning experiences.  But now after eight years of my consultancy, after dealing with multiple locations, industries, personalities and viewpoints, I’m wondering whether or not I’ve been brainwashed for all these years.

I ask myself, would someone from the middle of Oklahoma, or Kansas or North Dakota think and feel the same way about compensation issues as I do?  Hiring practices, equitable pay, pay-for-performance, performance management, the value proposition, etc. And what if you asked compensation practitioners from the diversity of industries, from retail to hospitals to manufacturing to financial institutions?

In other words, do all U.S. compensation professionals view the issues that surround employee rewards in a similar fashion, regardless of geography?  Regardless of industry?  Do we all tend to march to the beat of the same drum?

Of course, or of course not?

So I’m wondering, does the where or what of your organization influence your operational thinking, as in how best to manage your organization’s reward programs?  Or do we experience a universal sameness of thought?

It’s already well known that on the international stage various geographic regions, and even specific countries think differently than we do when it comes to rewards.  Have you dealt with cost-to-company (CTC) remuneration in India?  Or with the intricacies of Japan?

Close to home we often hear of east coast / west coast attitudes and perspectives regarding numerous aspects of daily life, as contrasted to the more conservative “middle America,” where supposedly traditional thinking and values of the “heartland” still predominate.  I don’t know if that commentary is spot-on, or completely off the mark, but it does beg the question that if true, what other aspects of personal and / or organization thinking might be different from what those on the two coasts consider the norm?

We accept differences in philosophy according to industry-type, and we know different countries offer a different perspective.  So too perhaps you have the small company vs. large company outlook – as well as that of the multi-national conglomerate.  Some employees are like us, practicing a “live to work” philosophy, while others out there simply “work to live” – and consider us somehow twisted in our logic.

And although we all face the same challenges with employee pay, how we consider the possible causes and solutions  – well, that might differ between us. And perhaps it differs in a predictable fashion – by geography.

This may be why some newly hired employees fail to accept, or be accepted into, their new employer’s culture.  While they may have the necessary technical background and experience, they still may not be comfortable with “that’s the way we do things here.”

Organizations tend to have a certain way of thinking, and while it’s nice to consider new hires (new blood) as adding creativity and fresh thinking into the mix, what frequently happens is that the new thinking hits a wall of ingrained habit.  With a thud.  Professional journals are full of how-to success stories, but as they say about Las Vegas, for every winner there are hundreds of losers.  For every change agent there are multitudes who get forced out of companies because they think “different;” too different to be accepted.

I realize that a person’s viewpoint is likely developed or seasoned by a progressive series of specific company experiences, along with a litany of managers, peers and colleagues who over time served as influence agents.  What happened to me in my own career might well differ from what happened with others in their respective experiences, and so our viewpoints likely evolved along alternate pathways.

What do you think?  Is there something to this geographic diversity of thought, or are we really  looking at more cookie cutter thinking?