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Three Guys Walk Into A Bar

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 15-06-2015

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Railway, by ell brownThe 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.

Would You Have A Drink With Yourself?

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 08-06-2015

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Hand Mirror, by the Italian VoiceHave you ever considered what sort of an impression you make on others at work? No man is an island and all that, so consider that each of us causes ripples among the people we interface with, whether direct or indirect. We leave a mark, for good or ill.

Likely there are three audiences who are interested and watching you; the management above you, peers and colleagues at your approximate level, and those below you in the organization’s hierarchy – whether subordinates or rank and file employees. Now picture each of these groups pondering your actions and developing an opinion.

• Management: Bosses and senior leaders who can have a direct impact on your career. You want these folks to nod their head and smile when they think of you. You would like to be known by name and face.

• Peers: You have to work with these people, to interface with enough human relations skills to get things done. Your goal is to assist work processes and the people surrounding them, in order to ensure that things run as smoothly as possible. You want respect here.

• Rank and file: Either your subordinates or those affected by your decisions / recommendations. These are employees who may be dependent on you, but who may also whisper about you, or spread nasty rumors – or can rally to your cause. You ignore these people at your long term peril.

Each group has a separate agenda, and over time you as a professional practitioner or manager will have developed a reputation by your actions, your decisions (or lack) and through the word of mouth of those who interact with you. The net result is a label, a persona that surrounds you, describes you and marks you as a “type.”

We all get reduced to a “type.” Now ask yourself, would the people you work with, or work for, want to spend time with someone like you? In other words, are you someone admired, someone viewed as a valuable source of experience, someone to learn from? Someone worth knowing?

Or would these same folks cross the street to avoid you?

And this is important because . . . ?

Would you want to have a drink with someone like yourself? If you would, what is it about that persona that you think would make sharing social time a worthwhile effort? If you’d rather not waste your time, what is it about that person in the mirror that’s such a turnoff?

Most in the profession are very intelligent; many are even brilliant technical practitioners. But that’s not what this is about. This a matter of whether that technical savvy, that textbook learning can be converted on a daily basis into the effective application of that knowledge and skill within the work environment; how that application impacts and interacts with those around you.

Too many managers and practitioners “don’t get it” when it comes to dealing with employees – and as Compensation has a direct and constant impact on those employees, this ability to deal with the human element becomes of necessity a critical component of your success – or failure.

Do you see yourself as others see you?

• Do you have a reputation as a numbers person, or as a people person – or perhaps you’re viewed as presenting a balance between the company and the employees?

• Is your interpersonal style one of engagement, or do you prefer to be left alone, to operate as an individual contributor best left to their own devices?

• Are you more comfortable dealing with theories and concepts, or facts & figures, vs. dealing hands on with the political and emotional realities of the workplace? Numbers people are often uncomfortable when required to interact with other employees.

• Are you sensitive to this question being asked? Do those around you sense empathy or arrogance – or simply aloofness?

Recently I refereed an argument about whether the cost of living or the cost of labor was more important in setting annual merit spend budgets. The debaters battled with charts & graphs, regressed formulae and reams of statistics – when a bit of common sense and practical experience would have shown how senior management would react to the question.

Both practitioners missed the point, lost within the argument over technical accuracy and blind to the dynamics of human nature; both ignored common sense and the reality of employee perceptions. Both turned off their audience by their high-toned professorial statements.

Not the sort of reputation you’d like have at work, is it? Not with everyone watching, keeping score.

A well-rounded compensation pro not only understands the technical side, the analytical side to providing competitive rewards in an effective and efficient manner, but is equally comfortable dealing with the softer side, the people side of the profession.

Having an understanding that real people are affected by recommendations, that morale, productivity and engagement have a price tag as real as payroll dollars flowing out of the company, is a critical awareness that every manager should have.

Once you have that combination in place, adding a bit of persuasiveness, of knowing how to change behaviors, will be like owning the mortar that holds all the bricks together.

Then you’ll have a complete (mostly) compensation pro.

That’s someone I’d like to have a drink with.

Learning From Bad Examples

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 07-05-2015

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Cat-reading-glasses-with-paper, by Floho67It’s often said that each of us can learn a great deal from having a good boss to work for, a solid role model of just how a manager is supposed to act.  We hear about learning the “right” way from our mentors, from people we admire, from good leaders.  And we can also benefit from associating with other good employees, learning from the experienced and high performers how things should be done.

That’s all true enough, but how many of us are fortunate enough to find ourselves in that position?  Who even has a mentor these days?  More often than not we find that our leaders are flawed individuals, possessing an odd assortment of quirks, personal biases, affectations and just plain bad habits that we as their subordinates have to live with.  That we have to put up with.

Yes, I’m talking about the lousy boss.

And then of course there’s always  the malingerer down the hall, the employee who is forever out to beat the system, or the clock watcher who won’t make the effort to get out of their own way.  These are each examples of behavior we see practiced all too often, if not every day at work.  Sometimes it’s as though we’re encircled by the dregs of the company’s workforce, from the top of the organization chart to the bottom.

Yet sometimes there is a candle lit against the darkness.  Sometimes we can learn a great deal by the personal failures that surround us.  We don’t have to succumb to it.  But we have to keep our eyes and ears alert, along with an open mind.

The next step is yours.

We can grow tired of fighting the system, of being the lone ranger, seemingly the only one who cares.  It’s natural to have the battery of self-motivation and sense of professional self wear down.   So we can let ourselves drown in this sea of incompetence, work malaise and indifference, becoming absorbed by it, becoming part of the same problem.

Or you can turn lemons into lemonade.  You can take a negative and squeeze out a positive learning experience.  Sometimes it’s simply a matter of knowing not to do what the Bozo does.

What can we learn from the bad behavior that surrounds us?

> What strategies don’t work:  If certain tactics drop you off a cliff, blowup in your face or drive you straight into a brick wall, learn the why behind the failure and promise yourself not to try similar approaches.

> Why poor treatment of others always backfires in the end: When tactics or behaviors fail to engage employees, or worse, elicits worsened performance , morale and attitude, learn the why behind the employee perspective.  Then it’s likely that when you have the chance you won’t make the same mistakes.

> Losing and gaining respect:  When those for whom you have personal and professional respect show little regard of their own for the poor performers, the poor managers, the bad behaviors, take that experience to heart and make sure that you don’t follow a similar tact and end up disappointing those you seek approval from.

> Or you can simply say, “I won’t ever do that!:”  The most basic learning device is to simply go in the opposite direction from tactics, attitudes and behaviors that you’ve seen fail.  At least you won’t have a history of failure automatically repeated.

Granted, learning from bad examples is a hit or miss strategy,  but if you’re paying attention, if you’re watching the results of someone else’s decisions, you’ll have a better sense of cause and effect.  When something doesn’t work, when someone’s actions cause justifiable upset, when someone’s behavior is inappropriate – each are potential teaching moments.

Every action or non action is a decision.  Sitting on the sidelines and watching the world flow by is a decision. But if you’re paying attention each decision or even lack of action can be an opportunity for you to learn to grow, to test the work environment.

You’ll be a better manager, a better employee and best of all a better person because of it.

A Smooth Sea

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 23-04-2015

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Sailing, by Bruce Tuten

… Never made a skilled sailor

I saw this phrase the other day and it really caught my attention.  Folks on LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media are always posting cute, profound or overused phrases that describe personal motivation, self-discipline or even the meaning of life, and I usually ignore them.   I can’t figure out the point of highlighting the obvious.

But this one gave me pause.

Think about it.  If you want to progress in your career, then you have to show those who are higher up than you that you have what it takes.  That you’re capable of rising to the occasion, making the tough decisions and by your knowledge, skill and experience getting the job done.  And how do you show that?  Fix something, improve a process, change behaviors, save money, make the act of change work for you and your organization.  Have an impact.

Conversely, those who only administer reward programs (sometimes known as treading water) don’t do much of that change stuff and are often viewed as having reached a “career plateau,” or as others might view it – they’ve reached a dead end.   Administrators are not the cream of the profession, and rarely rise to the top.

Is it time to look in the mirror?

Where are we going?

Of course, you have to be in the right environment in order to have the opportunity to shine, to enact those wonderful results.  And while we would all like to be employed by smooth running operations, the heroes of our success story are those who created all that smoothness and efficiency.  Not those who came after, who benefit from it today by pushing the “continue” button..

In a practical sense though, how many really smooth running businesses are out there?  It’s a fair statement to make that just about every organization has some program, policy or procedure that isn’t working right.  They all have some aspect of their reward programs that might not be broken, but could be seriously bent or considered charitably as less than effective.

Not sure of your environment?  Try this.

  • Ask questions:  Become the “Curious George” of your organization and learn all there is to know about your current reward programs.  You’ll need to understand the “why” as well as the “what” and “how.”
  • Talk to management:  Gain from their perspective as to expectations, comfort level with the status quo and their willingness to accept change.
  • Set up metric milestones:  Set up a series of base line statistics that describe current elements of your reward programs.  From there you can measure progress toward specific goals. And you’ll also have a graphic story to show management.  Numbers can trump words.

Change for the sake of change

On the other hand, have a care that you don’t try to force an issue.  I’ve seen compensation practitioners push hard to inject new policies, procedures and even cultural initiatives where they simply would not work.  Something they should have known from the start.  We’ve likely all experienced some form of the “round hole, square peg” scenario – where certain ideas are doomed to fail due to management bias, a deeply entrenched culture, employee demographics or a host of other reasons unique to that organization.

But some practitioners will still push an aggressive agenda, more for their own betterment  (resume enhancement, improving their personal experience, career checkmarks, etc.) than for the improvement of their organization.

I’ve seen it done.

So have a care; using your organization as a personal experiment or Petri dish to try out the latest trends can be a problem for you.  And for your organization.

I Don’t Want To Do That

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 14-04-2015

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Screaming Kitten, by GalgenTXOuch.  That phrase coming from senior leadership is still ringing in your head.  You just delivered a fact-based and what you considered compelling argument in support of your compensation program recommendations, and the best you received in return was an indifferent “nahhh“?

They don’t want to do it.  They didn’t even give you much of a reason to ponder, to argue against, never mind provide you with a rationale that you might be able to circle back on with an adjusted recommendation.  The door was shut.  They’re not interested.

It happens

Frustrating as the experience is, anyone who has been in the compensation profession for any length of time can tell you that yes, rejection happens.  Sometimes it happens a lot.  It’s not unusual for those in senior leadership to harbor pre-conceived notions, biases, and preferences (pro and con) that are coupled with a stubborn or even arrogant demeanor.   It may seem that they don’t even listen.  They know better than you and they run the business.  Deal with it.

Talk about trying to push a boulder up a hill!

You do have options though.  To avoid smacking your head against the wall you could serve up proposals that reflect only what you already know they want to hear.  You could be their “yes man” and play to their preferences or help feed their biases by agreeing with them.  That may not be doing your job as a compensation leader, but it would increase the likelihood of receiving a YES response – or at least better your odds.

But if you go down that road what do they need you for? That’s using you to hold up a mirror, and then to administer whatever it might be that they agreed to support.

You could do that.  I’ve seen it done.  I’ve seen people make a career out of that strategy.  Keep your head down so that it doesn’t get chopped off.  Compensation management becomes compensation administration.

Because changing the mind of senior leaders with their heads in the sand, or those safeguarding their own self interests can be a difficult and stressful process.

Odd man out

Then again, maybe you want to stand for something, to believe in something.  Maybe as a professional compensation practitioner you feel strongly enough about something (program, policy, procedure, decision) that you’re willing to raise your hand and say, “wait a minute.”  You know something is wrong and you know how to fix it.  Or at least you know that the ship is going in the wrong direction.  You could be the principled fellow with the persistent voice of persuasive argument, the architect of change, the champion of compensation professionalism.

You could also find yourself out of a job.  Because sometimes rocking the boat can get you tossed overboard.

Or, you could decide that you would find greater job satisfaction by working somewhere else.  Having to deal with mental dinosaurs and the stubbornly backward may be more than you want to keep struggling with.

Strike a balance

But have a care first.  Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water.  Perhaps the right direction for you is neither right (what they think they want) nor left (what your profession suggests is the better strategy), but closer to the center by presenting a balanced viewpoint.  So bend a little, become knowledgeable of those management biases and present reasoned arguments that both incorporate those preferences and still move the organization in the direction you feel is better

Rome wasn’t built in a day, but they got it done, one building at a time.  If you push in the right direction you may only get half a loaf from a recalcitrant management, but it’s progress.   And the next time you might get more.  Just keep (gently) pushing.

Frustrating?  Yes.  Will you lose some battles?  For sure.

But what an achievement you could gain.

Because to give up is to become an administrator.  Would that work for you?

Thanks For The Advice, But . . . .

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 08-04-2015

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Advice, by SoloHave you ever faced a situation where management ignored your advice?   Where they went left when you said go right?

Of course you have.  Likely it’s happened to you more than once.  The experience is a frustrating one, isn’t it?  And can provide more than a little dent to the ego,  if you dwell on it.  After all, you’re the professional, the knowledge expert responsible for Compensation in your organization.  That’s what you’re being paid for.  To know what to do.  Not only should management  be listening to you, or so you think, they should be agreeing with you.

Wake up and smell the coffee

But this isn’t the classroom or a WorldatWork or SHRM certification seminar.  What all too often happens in the real world can be quite a bit different than what you see in the textbooks or hear from conference or webinar speakers.  Sometimes management takes your input, listens to your reasoning and proposals,  but then decides to move in a direction different from what you had recommended.  And they may not even explain why.

Every seasoned practitioner at some point needs to become accustomed to the realization that the recommendations they present to management, be they for large projects or part of day-to-day advice, aren’t always going to be accepted – and not necessarily because they’re bad ideas.  When management decides to go “rogue” on you it’s not necessarily a reflection of your capabilities or professionalism.   Or even mistakes that you might have made.  They simply have a different perspective than you.

In such circumstancesthe decision-makers usually have more angles to consider than only the compensation point of view.  Whether they’re looking at business projections, the potential impact of share price, financial strength of the company or simply confidential plans going forward that you’re not privy to, they need to weigh your recommendations against what else they know that relates to the matter at hand.  Or what they consider more important.  Or simply their own biases for and against certain ideas.

After all, it’s their business, their budgets, their employees.  They can do what they want.  Hard as that may be for you to swallow.

What you have to be careful about is how much you want to push your viewpoint in the face of management reluctance, self-interest or just flat-out personal bias.  Which may not be a career enhancing move.

You need a thick skin

When leadership chooses a different path than the one you’ve recommended, that decision doesn’t necessarily diminish your role in the organization, or the degree to which your viewpoint is valued.  If you’ve done your job and made sure that the relevant information and decision points are on the table, and that your leadership therefore has their eyes open to the issues and the ramifications of choice, you can relax that you’ve done all that there was to do.  You can sleep well tonight.

Because your responsibility is to advise, to offer the best professional recommendations that your knowledge and experience has prepared you to offer.  Management is counting on you to provide this.  That is the measure of your importance.

Consider the police officer making an arrest.  Their job is to gather information (clues) and apprehend a suspect based on those clues.  But then someone else is responsible to prosecute that suspect, using the information gathered by the police.  Or for various reasons they could decide not to prosecute.  It’s their decision.

But we’re still human, and it can rankle.  Often we’ll find that our ego is in full bloom once we make a recommendation – as if anyone who disagrees with us doesn’t respect us or value our opinion.  That they don’t love us anymore.

Get over it.  Shake it off.  Because they’ll be another issue tomorrow.  And you can be a hero then.

Garbage In, Garbage Out

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 23-03-2015

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Why do we assume that practically any survey data we see is an accurate reflection of a competitive market? And by “we” I mean both compensation practitioners and senior management alike.

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

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

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

Questionable origin?

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


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

Let’s take a look at why it’s a good idea to be cautious.

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

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

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

Consider the probable experience of the person completing these survey input questionnaires:

• How many of these input forms do I have to complete for the survey? And how many surveys do we have to participate in?

• Do I have the time to do all this? Maybe I’ll have to hurry a bit. Maybe I can just copy data from one survey to another.

• Do I have to read our own descriptions and compare them, one by one against the survey definitions? Wow, that’s going to take awhile. And the survey definitions keep changing on me. Maybe I can just use the title.

• How do I balance our four page job description against a survey’s 25 word paragraph?

• What do I do when the survey doesn’t have a Lead category, or a Senior Manager? We have four levels within certain job categories, but the survey only counts three.

• I don’t understand some of the the job descriptions I’ve been given, and that happens a lot. And I don’t have time to chase after managers to seek out what they meant. So I’ll make a good faith guesstimate for the survey match. That should be close enough.

• I really hate doing this. What time is it? Ready for lunch?

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

Pricing guide vs. “the answer”

So what are you going to do?

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

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

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

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

Garbage in and all that.

The Modern HR Snake Oil Sales Pitch

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 20-03-2015

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Salesman, by Chris FithallDoesn’t it seem that everywhere you turn these days you face a bombardment of professional 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 better yet contract for their consulting services.

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 answer you need.

  • “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”
  • Etc, etc, etc

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 is contradictory to what you read / heard already – so who is right?
  • Academics often lack credibility in the real world; they “just don’t get it”
  • Folks aren’t paying attention, on account of their own ingrained biases and personal agendas

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.   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?

If the cure is out there, why is the patient still sick?

I’m thinking that the message is wrong, the audience isn’t listening, or perhaps we’re all being scammed by re-packaged “new” thinking.

Which is it?

Be The Hero – You Can Do It

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 10-03-2015

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A. Jackson statue, by dbkingDo you want to be admired and respected by your colleagues, recognized by senior leadership for who and what you are?  Do you want to be known throughout your universe as a go-to person, as a hero amidst the minions?

Then solve a problem.  Stand up and show someone how to get things done.  Clear the pathway; support someone’s idea, save a step somewhere.  Do what it takes to cross the finish line.  It’s a target-rich environment out there, so pick something.

Just do it

It’s not hard, really.  It’s a matter of thinking not so much of yourself first and foremost, but of a greater value that is broader than yourself – and of focusing your attention on getting the results that help the department, the team, the business.   It’s called a giving of yourself.  Of extending yourself.  But at the same time you can benefit in return.

All too often what we see from many employees at all levels of the organization is an effort to be the star, the success story, even at the expense of someone else.  “Look at me,” these eager A-types seem to shout, “look at what I have achieved.”  These are folks who seem to have missed reading the memo on team effort.  These are the “selfies” of the workplace.

We all have them in our organizations.  They surround us.  And don’t we resent them?

Here’s a thought, though.  Isn’t it better to be lifted up (reward, recognition, the pointed finger, etc.) by someone else, then to be constantly trying to push yourself up there?  Doesn’t that ego rush get a bit tiring, what with the constant pressure of looking over your shoulder to gauge the competition?  Do you suffer from periodic stress headaches, where the muscles at the back of your neck tighten to stone?  Are you sleeping well?

Now picture yourself receiving that award, with the accompanying recognition, spotlight, accolades etc.  Nice feeling, isn’t it?  A proud moment.

Not all recognition is the same

I think it does make a difference in how one gets recognized.  I suppose that there are levels of self-satisfaction, but the highest must be when you’re lifted on someone else’s shoulder.   When you hear the cheer of the audience.  Self advertisement, political deal-making and a passive resistance that attempts to hold others back simply cannot provide the same level of genuine personal satisfaction.  Because deep down you’ll know that you cheated to get there.

And others will know it too.

Think about someone whom you really admire, in whatever field of endeavor you like.   Chances are it’s a person who has accomplished something, delivered the desired results, made something of themselves.   They stood up for what they believed in.  They meant something.  Likely that person you admire so much isn’t someone who took shortcuts, pushed others aside, ignored the call for help or otherwise kept their focus solely on the mirror.

Success can be fleeting, especially if built on thin ice.  So why would you want to taint yourself, like success with an asterisk?

Of course you wouldn’t.  But now reflect a bit on how you practice at your relationships at work.  Do you admire only yourself, and act accordingly,  or can you spruce up your act and become more of a team player?  Can you start using the word “we” more than “I”?

Naive?  Perhaps I am.  But I think we need more heroes out there, more decision-makers, more team players and more people willing to make a stand for what they believe in.

But that’s just me.

Cheap Talent Can Cost You

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 28-02-2015

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Appearances, by barkPicture the scene:  your company is seeking to employ a Department Manager, and the leading candidate is currently “in transition.”  Human Resources has pegged the market value of the job at $75,000, but you suspect that the preferred candidate (Bob) will accept $65,000.  A seasoned and experienced professional, Bob was previously paid $77,000 by his last employer, but was caught up in a restructuring staff reduction.  He’s been out of work for almost a year and is getting desperate, worried about feeding his family and paying the mortgage.

When the decision point arrives other, less qualified candidates are already making $70,000 and are asking for $75,000 and up.  Some hiring managers would look at this situation as a no-brainer.  “Let’s hire Bob and save $10,000 to $15,000” would be the smug decision.

That wasn’t hard, was it?   A preferred candidate has been gained at a low ball price.  The hiring manager deserves a pat on the back for saving the company money.   But . . . wait a minute.   Perhaps it should be a boot in the butt instead.

A savvy professional like Bob will have a sense of the competitive market, so he’ll be aware of having taken a significant pay cut to land this job.  So how excited will he be with the offer?  Oh sure, today he’ll be delighted and will celebrate getting a job and finally having money coming in again.  Tomorrow, not so much enthusiasm.

How long before his resentment grows, knowing that he was taken advantage of – gotten on the cheap?  What will happen to his energy level, his engagement, even his morale?  What will he now think of the company, never mind his hiring manager?

The likely future

It’s safe to presume that how you treat a candidate will be discovered at some point by that same new employee.  So when Bob confirms for himself the low ball treatment, what reaction can you expect?

  • Angered by a sense of being taken advantage of he could continue with his job search – looking for a better opportunity – while still working for you.
  • His job performance might suffer, dropping from 110% to automatic pilot to somewhere south of Satisfactory.  He’ll be going through the motions – not exactly the dynamo you thought you had hired.
  • His attitude will turn negative and he’ll morph into another disengaged employee – critical of the company and management, doing no more than he must in order to get by.
  • He’ll ultimately quit, but on his terms and timing.  His anger will have kept simmering and he’ll likely feel little concern as to how his departure affects the organization.

What you now have is a bad hire – a situation that’s unnecessary and easily avoidable if you treat candidates fairly.  Look at it from the candidate’s perspective; when your back is to the wall and you feel your “rescuer” is taking advantage, that feeling causes a pit-of-the-stomach resentment that lingers and festers.  And it costs.

Let’s tally up the cost

The manager claimed a cost savings by the hiring decision.  But when you factor in the longer term ramifications of that decision, how do the initial savings hold up?

  • The hiring decision saved $10,000 to $15,000 per annum by consciously underpaying the candidate.
  • What’s the discounted value of a disengaged employee who doesn’t perform as expected or desired?
  • What’s the value of time lost when Bob quits and the job is vacant again while a replacement is sought?
  • What’s the value of hiring a potentially more expensive replacement (plus agency costs) and perhaps relocation?
  • What’s the value of productive time lost while a new employee gets up to speed?
  • Finally, what’s the subjective value of a discontented employee in your midst, one who is possibly poisoning the attitude of other employees?

So the next time a hiring manager proudly announces how to save a bunch of money on a candidate who’s in transition, take a moment to think it through.  You may want to consider a boot in the butt instead.