Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 15-06-2015
The other day I was chatting with a new college graduate, one who was expressing interest in Human Resources – specifically within the field of Compensation. After a while the question was raised whether I could describe the typical relationship and interactions between Line Managers, Compensation practitioners and the Finance function. This newbie sensed from their classroom experiences that a tense if not contentious relationship was commonplace.
So I told this little story
One very hot and humid summer afternoon three guys walked into their neighborhood tavern; a Manager, a Compensation guy and a fellow from Finance. Tables were crowded so they grabbed a seat at the bar, ordered a cold one and started a conversation with the bartender.
After a while the Manager glances around the room, taking in the noisy din of those escaping the heat of the day and then says to the barkeep, “I think it would be a great idea if you gave everyone here a cold beer, on the house. They all look like they could use one.”
Hearing this the Compensation guy does his own look-see around the bar, then scratches his chin and mutters, “Well now, perhaps not everyone deserves a fresh beer. Some folks have already had a few, while others have only just arrived and a few tables are drinking the upscale hard stuff. Let’s rethink the mechanics of your “beer on the house” idea.”
While this is going on the Finance guy is frowning at his colleagues. Finally he says, “Where did all this generosity come from, spending someone’s else’s coin, and did you factor in how much this idea is going to cost the owner? Does he have enough money? Will he get anything out of this besides increased costs and a shrunken inventory?”
So the three companions break into a squabble, with each trying to talk over the other two, not really listening to each other but instead pushing their own point of view with increasing enthusiasm.
Finally the bartender shouts above the racket, “wait a minute!” then slaps his hand down on the bar. “I own this place. What are you guys talking about?”
To the Manager he says: “You’re too free and easy with spending my money.”
To Compensation Guy he says: “You sound like you’ll analyze things to death if I let you, all the while losing sight that my business could be at stake here.”
And finally, to the Finance guy: “I like you, and I’ll listen to what you have to say, because you’re the only one who seems to be looking out for me.”
And the moral is . . . .
My new graduate friend slowly nodded his head, taking in the wisdom of my thoughts. “So you’re saying that Senior Management will listen first to Finance, no matter the strength of other proposals.”
“That’s why the Finance guy usually sits next to the CEO at meetings.” Which means that if you want to change this dynamic, you’ll need to partner with Line Managers and with Finance to ensure that you understand their issues and how their concerns, as well as your potential solutions would impact the business.
If you can’t get your act together and collaborate, work together toward common goals, know that the default decision almost always goes to the bean counters. Because they hold the purse strings and are quick to criticize promised “soft” savings or increased revenue (based on likely projections) when compared against “hard” costs (the reality of actually spending money).
Always remember that cost is king, or at least a royal prince when it comes to selling an idea. And the cost should come with a demonstrable benefit that makes the expense worthwhile.
That being said, I toasted the graduate and then we ordered another beer.