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We Can Still Be Friends

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 08-02-2015

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Friends, by S BakerChild care psychologists tell us that a common mistake that parents make during their children’s development years is trying too hard to be their friend.  Instead of being their parent.  That desire to be buddies often results in a reduced emphasis on rules, a less than firm guiding hand and loosening of the requirements for proper behavior, while in turn placing a greater emphasis on letting individuals “be themselves,” all of which is coupled with relaxed supervision and “parenting.”  The results, so the studies say, trends toward increasing self absorption, greater what-about-me? selfishness and for many an elevated degree of social awkwardness when trying to fit in.

What we’re told is that, when parents don’t act like parents those raised in that environment usually find themselves beset with greater challenges in later life as they try to meld into normative society.

The boss who cares – too much?

It’s not uncommon to see a similar display of misplaced friendliness in the workplace, as evidenced by numerous examples of management cadre, including compensation managers.  Some of these leaders, especially those newly promoted and facing a subordinate staff for the first time make a similar “buddy system” mistake with their employees.  They want to be liked.  Call it a “collaborative” management style, espousing a team effort, we’re in this together, etc., but the intent is to be inclusive and participatory with their employees.  Have you heard the phrase at work, “we’re family here“?

Such an attitude can work out just fine, as most management development pundits will tell you, until it’s time for performance assessment and pay review decisions.  That’s when the rubber meets the road.  Because if I’m trying to be your friend I don’t want to pass judgment on you at the same time.  Being cast in the role of judge and jury regarding your performance, and whether you should receive an increase in pay, can be hard decisions for any manager.  Decisions that could negatively impact the manager’s desired state of “family.”

This is why some managers prefer general increases or other forms of pay “decisions” that are made by others.  “Don’t look at me, they did it.”

And I say that these judgment calls can be hard because it’s also easy for managers to pass the buck, to defer otherwise difficult choices and kick the can down the road.  Let’s just avoid the problem.  “Everybody deserves a raise,” is an oft heard refrain from managers looking out for their employees, and if they’re not about to fire you doesn’t that qualify you for something?

Having the cake and eating it too

In other words, it’s easier for managers to become an integral part of the team as collectively the unit looks at the challenges ahead.  Looks outward at the work, the planning, the activities of the next quarter and beyond.  It’s a rougher road for a manager to look inward and judge their employees.

These managers like the title and the compensation associated with their role, but many can be reluctant to actually take on the responsibilities of their office.  Managers are expected to manage their staff, and isn’t the individual performance element one of the most important criteria for measuring the success of staff employees?  And if you’re reluctant to perform that mission?

The question then becomes, are you managing, or even supervising?  Or are you simply administering?

And while you might be consciously looking the other way, chances are the employees you’re trying to “protect” are able to clearly see what in fact you’re doing.  Your better performers are likely upset with you, your average (and below) performers are pleased with your “we owe them” attitude, but just as likely over time they all will lose respect for you.  They’ll know when they’re being managed, when they’re being administered and when the boss is using the pay system as a babysitter.

Ask yourself, what is your goal as a compensation manager, being liked or being respected?  Because it’s an odd case when you can achieve both.

My Way Or The Highway

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 03-02-2015

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“Loud and angry doesn’t make you right.  It just means that you are loud and angry”

 (author unknown)

Have you ever worked for or with someone like that – a shouter?  Someone who felt that just by force of will – or decibel level – they would get their way?  That they would get you to do what they want, simply because they said so?  Some managers are like that.  It’s not so much what they say, but how they say it – usually with a scowling facial expression that coordinates well with a loud, blustery voice.

I am who am, so do what I say.

Those who rely on their title, their loud voice, or other trappings of power to force compliance by subordinates or colleagues do so simply because they can, and because they’re rarely able to gain an audience any other way.  It’s like a parent who, when lacking more effective strategies finally blurts out to misbehaving kids, “because I said so.”

Is that who you have to face every day?  How much personal or professional respect do you have for that manager?  Chances are it’s not much.  If these managers had something useful to say, something important, or even reasonable, they wouldn’t be shouting.

Leadership isn’t about shouting.  Intimidation is.  It’s not what effective management is about.

Painting the picture

Let’s see if you recognize other aspects of the manager that no one likes.

> Doesn’t listen to anyone: Tends to always have the answers, giving lip service to contrary opinions and acting as if their mind was made up before the discussion.  Meetings are usually a process of  going through the motions.

> Surrounds themselves with “yes people”: Holds “discussion” meetings, but typically with hand-picked subordinates who tend to agree with the manager’s opinion.  Contrary voices are discouraged through passive resistance or by simply being ignored.

> Quick to take credit: When things go well, they are quick to point out who was in charge, whose idea it was, who was right all along.  The word “I” is used a great deal.

> Equally quick to place blame: When things don’t go quite so well, they’re equally quick to disengage themselves from responsibility, often distracting attention by pointing elsewhere.  Subordinates become useful scapegoats.

> Plays the political game: Focuses time and energy to become well connected in the organization, aligning themselves with perceived “winners” among senior management.  Their own opinions become fluid and secondary to the support of their political mentors.

> Is all about “optics”: Displays a tendency to avoid time and energy on personal core values and beliefs; instead is all about what “looks good” to senior management.  Culprits are especially concerned with own standing among key leaders, and are often seen as followers within the leadership circle.

> Subordinates are expendable: Cannot be trusted to support subordinate development or decision-making.  They’re more likely to throw subordinates under the bus when results, procedures or activities are challenged.

When I first considered the personality traits described above a name or two came to mind from my own career experiences.  How about you?  Think of someone?  Someone you’re working for today?

When you don’t like someone, when you lack professional respect, what happens in the workplace?  Do you help them?  Or do you stand by and let the chips fall where they might?  Do you let them fail?  Do you find yourself still performing at your usual 110%, or perhaps your efforts have slackened off a bit?

What to do? 

In my experience I’ve come to realize that you’re not going to change these people.  They’re set in their ways, comfortable with their management style and likely feel that they are in fact successful managers.  They could also be protected from above.  Thus you can’t talk to these people, never mind get them to address personality flaws.

Complaining to HR is often a fruitless exercise, as their hands could be tied as well.  And as a whistleblower your career prospects within that organization could be negatively affected.

So you either swallow twice and live with it, or you exit the organization as soon as you can.

Meanwhile, it’s my fervent hope that when you look at yourself in the mirror you don’t see examples of “the boss from hell” staring back.

Because I don’t want to work for you.  I don’t want to work with you.

The Pebble In Your Shoe

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 28-01-2015

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Forgeting, by LeeksFor as long as I’ve worked in Human Resources the common solution most often suggested by all ranks and segments of the population for a host of employee issues was to simply pay more.

Yep, just push that EASY button of simplistic, no-thought, one-size-fits-all logic, and like a snake oil concoction sold by con artists the promise was that you’d start feeling better tomorrow. Or as it turned out with the magic elixir salesmen, soon after those making the promise could get out of town.

Why is it that some people always think that the reason behind almost every employee issue is that the pay is wrong? Simple and uncomplicated reasoning, I suppose. Just the way we like our problems. So that therefore the logical and easy-to-understand solution is to pay more.

Like a pebble caught in your shoe, all you have to do is flick your problem(s) away.

Life is more than A + B = C

Sometimes though, you really need to look beyond the simplistic to find the REAL problem. Placing band aids on symptoms will not be a cure-all for what ails you. Instead, by masking the “hurt” you might be making things worse by focusing in the wrong direction. Really harmful problems need time to fester before they erupt into crisis, so band aids often become misguided placebos to make one think that things are getting better. Or will soon improve.

When managers complain about a sales incentive system, the answer could be the compensation. It could also be territory size, unreasonable targets, poor product quality, administrative errors, inadequate training, etc. It isn’t always about pay.

When turnover statistics worsen the organization’s supposed low pay becomes the “kicking boy” for why employees have left. However studies have consistently shown that to be a false logic, which if left unchallenged could direct attention away from the real problem.

As a practicing compensation consultant many of my clients have assumed that their problem was pay; they should be improving pay in some fashion. But no, that isn’t always the case. In fact, more often than not the problem isn’t pay. But using pay as an easy target of complaint is simple to explain, offers the chance of “more for me” and often succeeds in getting employees and even senior management to mindlessly nod their heads. Because perhaps they don’t want to dig a little bit deeper. Perhaps they just want the problem to go away – and (they think) more pay would do just that. No fuss, no muss.

Wrong.

The ease of chasing a distraction

Many times pointing the finger at pay is serving up a distraction for those whose primary interest is in dealing with a quick fix. It’s similar to a dictator who risks war with a neighboring country simply to hide the fact that their own economy is near collapse. Illusionists call it a sleight of hand. Those using this practice will have you looking at everything and everywhere but where the real culprit is – or should be.

So when your foot hurts, don’t rush to throw out your shoes. Think about it. Maybe it is only a pebble that could easily be removed. But maybe the problem isn’t what you think it is. Isn’t what you want it to be. Maybe the problem is more ingrained within the organization, more complex and doesn’t offer a quick fix solution.

To make things right maybe you’ll have to conduct some research, spend a little time considering possible ramifications, unintended consequences and roll-on effects. So talk to affected employees, gather a wider perspective from those closest to the sore points, delve into the weeds, get behind the symptoms and face the root causes.

Offering a greater incentive dollars to the sales force when quotas are unreasonable isn’t going to get you anywhere.

So don’t simply kick the can of problems down the road, because that can will roll to a stop and you’ll be facing the same challenges again and again and again. Problems will not go away by themselves. Instead, if left ignored they worsen. And if your quick-fix solution addresses a symptom instead of the real problem, you’re wasting time and money while what really ails you will grow worse and ever more difficult to resolve.

You may think that your problem is like a pesky little pebble in your shoe. Have a care that you could be seriously wrong.

Treading Water When You Need To Swim

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 22-01-2015

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Friday Cat Photo, by jim_mccullochHave you ever found yourself relaxed in a comfy chair, either warm by the fire or enjoying a good read with a favorite beverage close by?  Perhaps you’re just letting the day wash over you as you watch TV, or even dosing off a bit?  Maybe there’s a sleeping cat on your lap, curled up against any intrusion.

Now that’s a great picture of someone who’s not living in the moment, but is content with what life has to offer.  Ahhhhh.

Careful now – don’t you go and bother with that image; life is fine and dandy just the way it is, and they want to keep it that way.

And then there’s reality

However, what if you did adjust that picture of warmth and content just a bit, shifting to an office environment with a manager sitting back in their chair, eyes closed with a contented smile.  Now this would be a less rosy picture, at least from a business perspective.  True enough, the imagery would remain a snapshot of someone content with the status quo.  They would exhibit the same relaxation, the same carefree attitude, the same reluctance to move from where they are.  But now the image doesn’t give off the same positive glow.  Something is wrong.

Have you seen this picture at work?  Or have you imagined something like this behind the closed doors of certain individuals that you can name?  Maybe your boss?  Or other higher ups?

But not you, right?

Chances are that a manager with a contented let-life-flow-by attitude isn’t exactly what the boss had in mind at the time of hire or promotion.  Didn’t the job description say something about managing the compensation function, directing the company’s reward programs or even becoming a change-agent for improving pay practices and solving problems?

How is that going to happen with the feet up and the eyes closed?

Who are you?

Ask yourself a simple question.  Are you leading programs and employees, or are you administering  them?  Are you directing what’s going on, or simply going with wherever the flow takes you?  Are you willing to make waves to get things done, or are you content to tread water as the clock ticks on?

There are those out there who have reached a plateau and have little or no fire in the belly for more.  I’ve seen them, and likely so have you.

  • They have little stomach for the constant office politics
  • They want to be liked, which means they avoid any responses that don’t start with “yes!”
  • They may not feel up to the task of making real improvements, so if it isn’t broke they don’t want to fix it.
  • They have the right title, they have the right compensation; they don’t want to risk either.
  • They’re not going anywhere.  They’ve burrowed in until retirement.  Life is good, and they want it to stay that way.

All this isn’t necessarily a bad deal, and I understand the tendency for risk avoidance.  But if the job requirement calls for you to swim to shore, not simply to tread water, then are you performing the job that you’re being paid for?

Admittedly, some companies are fine with administration.  For whatever reason they don’t need to pay for a go-getter, for someone who is going to stir things up.  They’re content with the status quo and only want someone to keep things afloat.  If you have that job, good for you.  Join the bowling team.

But I’m guessing that most companies want more from their Compensation management.  They want leadership, a sense of direction and someone having the gumption to push things in the right direction.  And if that’s the job you have, then relaxing in the comfy chair of program maintenance, being content to continue with the same pay practices, year after year, will define you as a square peg in a round hole.  Eventually senior management will have a “wait a minute!” moment.

Bottom line?  Don’t be treading water when you need to swim.

Get out of your chair and make a difference.

Sounds Like A Good Idea

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 11-01-2015

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See no evil, by allyaubryOne 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.

Is Santa Administering Your Incentive Plan?

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 06-01-2015

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Gifts by stevendepoloIt’s that time again.  The end of the business year, when managers everywhere turn their thoughts to – bonuses!  The calculators are out and every eligible soul from Marketing to Manufacturing to Sales, IT, HR and the Executive Suite tries to figure out how fat that check will be.  For many, it’s the gift receiving season.

Thus the same bad script repeats itself for the annual management bonus process, year upon year upon year:  objectives created at the last minute, embellished accomplishments sloppily recorded, problems and shortcomings diminished or forgotten and assessment forms viewed with disdain – as in, how do I fill out this thing to pump up my results?

More than the mechanics are at fault

The process is flawed, yet the foxes are in charge of the chicken coup – and they offer little hope for reform.  Why?  For those in charge the process works, and self-interest pays its own rewards.  Picture Santa Claus with a large bag of goodies.

Cynical?  You bet.  For many of us in the trenches true pay for performance is an elusive concept best remembered from Compensation 101 textbooks, suitable only for life as it should be, not as it is.  Sad to say, but senior management is often the worst offender.  I’ve seen senior executives manipulate, excuse me, adjust financial results to ensure that their own bonus awards wouldn’t be reduced.  Senior staff always deserve competitive bonus awards, don’t they?  How can you not reward your senior leadership for their efforts?  Once again entitlement trumps performance.

While studies suggest that the I-deserve-it mentality has weakened through the recession years  I’m convinced that it’s still alive and well wherever rewards are viewed as payment due for time served, not for effort and results.

But we go on hoping, trying to persuade leadership that it’s primarily good performance that should provide rewards; that tenure isn’t a compensable factor, that incentive payments should be deserved, not simply an automatic gift of delayed compensation.  Lower level employees are expected to earn their rewards; shouldn’t the same case be made for management?

End of year expectation

Have you ever told an executive that their annual bonus might be reduced because of either corporate or – dare I suggest individual performance didn’t meet expectations?  They would look aghast at the possibility.

But will the situation be any different for the bonus cycle in 2014?  I hope so, but bucking the trend of human nature is far from a sure bet.

To change those dynamics, as well as the effectiveness of your incentive plans you need to stand up and speak up.  The process is starting now, so it’s not too late to have an impact, to instill a management pay-for-performance philosophy in your company – even if it’s only one step at a time.

  • Performance appraisal shouldn’t be an activity list (I was very busy), but a focused statement of achievement against quantifiable and measurable objectives.
  • Let the assessment tell you the rating, not the other way around (“how do I fill out this form to give a 4 rating?”).
  • Confirm that the language on the assessment form corresponds to the performance rating.  Oh yes, you have to check.
  • Assessment forms should be required before an incentive payment is made – negating an old procrastination trick (“oh, just process the check.  I’ll get the form to you . . . tomorrow or the next day“).
  • For the new cycle, start by having objectives established early in the year, not in an after-the-fact crunch at the end.

Granted, you’ll need more than a steely look and a waving flashlight to stop a speeding freight train, so you should educate management about these ineffective and wasteful practices before the cycle starts.  Because afterward may be too late; discipline as a learning tool is best used to prevent problems, not when Santa is already reaching into his bag of checks.

It’s Christmas, the season of light, cheer and new beginnings, so let’s be optimistic.  Prove me wrong and get it right.  Or at least start.

Why I Write; Why You Read

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 24-12-2014

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Questions, by Marina del CastellDuring the course of the year I’m periodically approached by colleagues, clients, casual acquaintances and even those who are strangers, who ask about my compensation writing; why I do what I do, what’s the inspiration for my subject matter (my muse) and whether I have a “message” for the compensation and Human Resource practitioners out there who form my target audience.

And the best question of all is, “how do you get people to read what you write“?

Well, with the year winding down and me feeling a bit reflective on my lengthy career I’ve decided to answer those questions – or at least try to, as I look in the mirror to see what it shows.

Why do I write?

This is an easy one. It’s because I have something to say, and God has given me a modest ability to connect sentences into coherent thoughts that tell an engaging story. That make a point worth making. But there’s more, of course. While I was stepping on all kinds on nasty stuff in the minefield I called a career, I had no one to rely on for practical advice. No one sitting on my shoulder to whisper good thoughts. Most of the self-help books, recordings and even conference speakers I experienced seemed to drone on over conceptual blue-sky ideas and (for me) unrealistic initiatives. Stuff that I knew the boss would have nothing to do with. Ideas that I wouldn’t be allowed to convert into actions, or even plans for action.

Listen today, ignore tomorrow” became a sort of catch-phrase, as the reality of the workplace seemed very distant from the often idealistic preaching of the self-helpers.

So, call it a form of giving back on my part, or of simply sharing the benefits of my experience, but I believe that there’s a lot that can be learned from someone who has walked the path ahead of you. The intent through my ramblings is to help the practitioner with down-to-earth counseling and practical suggestions in practical language, with an added flair for understanding what the reader is facing in their own workplace.

Am I always right? Probably not, considering the wide audience I’m talking to. But the “right” wine isn’t right for everyone, is it?

Oh, and for me the writing is fun too.

What’s my inspiration?

People ask, where do you get your ideas on what you want to write about?

I start with mistakes. I’ve made them, and hopefully have learned from the resulting bruises and headaches. Over the years my bosses and leadership cadre have made mistakes; some learned a valuable lesson over time, while others repeated their judgment errors ad infinitum. And then most recently the experiences of my consulting clients, both domestic and international have suggested topics where offering a few suggestions might improve the day-to-day lives of compensation practitioners. All have served up a cornucopia of story lines.

Most times it’s the use of flawed policies, procedures and every day practices that encourage me to say, “wait a minute. Maybe there’s a better way.”

So there’s no end of possible topics. Ideas come to me in the shower, while driving the car, or writing this article and of course, while living my profession.

Why do people read what I write?

This last question is the hardest of all, as perhaps I’m not the one to ask. Why are you reading this right now? would be my counter question. I’ve been told many times that (for some) my writing is enjoyable, informative, thought provoking and down-to-earth.

That’s not to say that everyone agrees with me, certainly not, but if what I have to says gets the reader thinking, that’s all to the good.

I like to think that I write for the practitioner out there, not the theorist or conceptualist. I have something to say to those with dirt under their fingernails, who live in the trenches every day, struggling to do the best they can. I write to help with practical advice, something you can start or stop doing right now.

People have contacted me to say that my thoughts have made a difference, that it was good advice that they could implement right away. The best compliment of all.

So that’s my epitaph; I write to help. That seems to be recognized and appreciated.

——————

Caveat: No matter the length and breadth of my compensation experience I am neither all-seeing nor all-knowing. I am but a product of my training and experiences, and those experiences likely differ to some extent from many of you out there. Different industries, different companies, different bosses and different working environments, when blended together offer different perspectives to similar challenges.

Which is why I don’t present myself as the “answer man,” but rather as someone who has seen a lot, and done a lot, and experienced a host of different scenarios. So I “suggest” what you might find behind Door # 1 and Door # 2 when you have a decision to make, but rarely would I say that “this is the way it has to be.” Because it doesn’t have to be, and it’s your decision to make, not mine.

I just want to make sure that your eyes are open.

And maybe suggest a better way in the process.

Walking Away From Responsibility

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 08-12-2014

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I give up, by Martie SwartHave you heard of Pontius Pilate?  Two thousand years ago he was the Roman governor in Jerusalem who handed Jesus Christ over for crucifixion.  It was said that in frustration with the local elders Pilate literally washed his hands of the prisoner dispute, telling Christ’s accusers that it was their problem, not his.

His action, or inaction in terms of judgment generated a common phrase that has stuck with me over the course of my career, “pulling a Pontius Pilate” – words usually accompanied by a gesture of washing the hands.  It’s like saying, “I’m done with this.”

Fast forward to modern times and I still see that gesture used today, if not always the phrase, by managers who want to get something behind them.  They “wash their hands” of whatever it is that’s bothering them and walk away.  Or they want to.

The urge to walk away

In Human Resources, when introducing a new program, policy / procedure or simply a new initiative of some sort, there can be a tendency to roll it out with a fanfare and then simply walk away.  Done and dusted, as the Brits would say.  Our work is complete.  Let’s go to lunch.

Hey, I sent out the memo.”

Oftentimes they feel this way because they don’t wish to become bogged down with lingering administrative issues.  That’s not nearly as exciting as the development work.  They don’t see themselves as being responsible past the launch, of having to get their hands messy with questions and squabbles and unintended consequences.   Ewwww!   They also would prefer not to play the role of cop or gatekeeper to ensure that initiatives are properly communicated, implemented and given the time to take root.

It’s not our job to be the police.”  That’s for somebody else.

But who exactly is that somebody else?  Those who may not understand the new initiative?  Those who prefer the status quo in the first place? Or those who have their own agenda to advance, whether in support of or in contrast to the new HR initiative?

Walking away is running away

In actuality walking away after a launch is a sure fire method of causing failure.  You wouldn’t drop a plant into a hole and walk away, would you?  You wouldn’t set your child onto their new bicycle, give a push and then turn away, would you?  So why do you think that simply announcing a new HR initiative is the extent of your responsibilities?  Truth be told though, many out there start washing their hands immediately after the first memo.

But it doesn’t work that way.  It shouldn’t work that way.  Not if the intent is to successfully implement something.

You can’t simply introduce a new program with a few memos and a deck of slides and then walk away.  It takes time.  Time for those affected to absorb and understand the changes.  Time for questions to be raised, and possible adjustment to be made.  Time for mistakes to be made and corrected.  Time for managers and employees alike to become accustomed to the new way of doing things.

Time for what was new to become what is normal.

Finish the job

Human Resources needs to provide leadership during that time, remaining the focal point in the thick of things, leading the way.  Their role would be to nurture the introduction phase, smoothing out the road ahead, eliminating whatever bumps and ruts are discovered along the way.

It’s only by taking on that continuing responsibility, by seeing the implementation of what they’ve introduced through to a successful conclusion, can HR ensure that their new program, policy or procedure is carefully nurtured until it can stand alone.  Until it is the new normal.

Short of that is whistling in the wind, like lighting a candle in the window and hoping that things go well.

When HR walks away, when they wash their hands of something too soon, they’ve left their responsibility half complete.  And half complete is no one’s success story.

Do the job.  The whole job.

Is Half A Loaf Good Enough?

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 24-11-2014

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Horseshoe, by GinaCiardiDuring the course of my career I’ve come across a number of compensation practitioners who seem to think that, at least for them, compensation management is similar to playing a game of horseshoes. That just coming close to target would get you points.  That while actually scoring a three-point “ringer” would be nice, just getting a one-point score for getting close is good enough.  They can “get by” on that.

My father used to call this, “good enough for government work.”

Do you know someone who thinks that way?  Perhaps at some level such a half-a-loaf attitude defines management thinking where you work.

I hope not.  Because it doesn’t help the practitioner or the organization.

Broadening your horizon

Consider this basic tenet of good compensation management or analysis: When considering compensation issues and challenges within your organization it’s vitally important that you take yourself beyond simply answering the question being asked.  Are we competitive?  Does our incentive plan work for the company as well as the employee?  Do we really pay for performance?  Each of these queries could be dismissed with a one word or simplistic response, but does that really help anyone?  Would that advance the knowledge / problem solution that’s at the core of the question?

Practitioners should be expected to have developed an awareness of the bigger picture that lurks behind the original question, and to understand how their responding analysis impacts the business. Put yourself in a position to anticipate the follow-up questions; what does this mean? what do we do now? could there be a ripple effect somewhere?

Your value to the organization, your worth as an employee and as a job holder has a high correlation to your ability to expand your analysis.  Take the blinders off and broaden your perspective.  Consider telling senior management through your response, “I know what concerns you, I understand the implications of this issue for the business, and I’ve considered a wider view of the situation / problem in developing my response.”

Does that sound like you?  It should.

Taking the extra step

In other instances, when researching for an “x” issue you notice a connected “y” factor that may be related, or could have a cause-and-effect impact – but do you say anything?  Do you look further into “y” to explore possibilities and practicalities?

If not, why not?  Because you weren’t asked?

If you had asked someone else to research the original question for you, what in turn would you expect them to do?  How thoughtful a response would you consider appropriate?  So don’t you think that your management would have the same expectations?  Call this, “opportunity lost.”

And what would happen if you didn’t look at that “y” issue – but instead kept your focus strictly on what was narrowly defined when they asked for “x” – and management later uncovered ramifications or unintended consequences, or worse?  Would you still have met their expectations, or perhaps instead you would find yourself criticized or even checked-off as a half-achiever?  It happens.

Are your feet up on the desk?

So I’m asking you, are you going through the motions of your job, treading water and watching the clock tick by, or are you pro-actively developing a career?  Perhaps you’re still waiting to make up your mind. In many quarters non action is considered a response.

And lest we forget, sometimes the boss doesn’t ask the right questions. Wouldn’t it be a plus for you if you could help clarify the issues or be a part of the process that found the answers – the solutions?  Perhaps employ even a bit of tactical strategy as well?  It’s all good for you, or can be.

Your job, or at least a part of it, is to make your boss look good.  And that means helping them succeed in meeting their objectives.  You can’t do that with your blinders on.

Automatic Pilot Is Too Easy

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 10-11-2014

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Easy Button, by Civilian ScrabbleWith the fall of the Autumn leaves the attention of most senior management personnel shifts to the upcoming changeover of the business year.   And that click of the fiscal year calendar is accompanied by the beginning of their new annual incentive plan cycle.  So while the left hand is busy processing performance assessments and award payouts as an end-of-year project the right hand is getting ready for the new cycle.

In many companies this fresh start is automatic, an administrative process not given much thought past doing what they did last year, and the year before.

Here’s a thought.  Instead of issuing another rubber stamp copy perhaps now might be a good time to review your annual management incentive plan and take the opportunity to breathe new life into it.   Because if left on autopilot too long it’s surprising how many extra names find themselves added to the incentive-eligible rolls, slowly adding up what can become significant costs, often without proper review.

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

The Sneak Attack On Your Payroll

Has your company made too many people eligible for the incentive program?  Take a quick look at a 3-year growth curve of positions and employees being included.   Would you consider all these deserving?  Is someone making that decision, or has title or grade designation become the deciding factor?  Meanwhile, can you explain the ROI for the growing cost of management incentive pay?

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

Companies typically use the “Manager” title as an eligibility cutoff, but perhaps what you name a position shouldn’t be the sole criteria.  What about those whose responsibilities include managing people, versus individual contributors who manage a budget or a specific responsibility?  Sometimes they’re all called “Manager.”

Using a grade designation can have its own problems; is everyone in a grade eligible, and if not how do you differentiate between positions, when the company has already deemed each to be similarly valued?  Slippery slope here.

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

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

Where’s My Check, Please?

Something else to look at: is the incentive award at risk?  How many of your eligible employees don’t receive an award each cycle?  If practically everyone receives an award perhaps instead of an incentive plan what you have is a delayed reward program; managers put in their twelve months and expect a bonus payment.

Does your incentive program require behavior above and beyond, with objectives linked to broader company goals?  Or are your objectives only finalized at the end of the cycle, simply to comply with some Human Resource assessment form?

At the lower limits of incentive eligibility some companies start with an incentive target of 5%.  However that low a reward opportunity isn’t a carrot for anyone.  For that small amount of reward you won’t change anyone’s behavior, never mind maintain their attention for 12 months, so why bother?   If behavior isn’t going to change, if you’ll receive the same performance as before, but now for an additional  5%+ cost increase, what’s your ROI?  In my view this money is wasted.

Now is the time that you should have a look-see at the effectiveness of your annual management incentive plan – and to suggest meaningful improvements.   Because once the current payment processing cycle is complete the pressure will be on to roll-out the 2015 program.  And at that point the die will be cast until the following year.

It’ll be too late.