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Do You Need A Compensation Consultant?

Posted by admin | Posted in Articles | Posted on 28-08-2009

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The time will come when you find yourself between a rock and a hard place at work.  Your ability to produce project deliverables will be challenged by staff shortages, multiple projects simultaneously coming due, or the requirement of particular skill sets not possessed by your existing personnel.  And while you are stressing out Senior Management will not let matters slide until circumstances are more convenient.

You need help.  You need it now.  But do you need a hired-gun professional, a consultant?

You could try to find a temporary Compensation Analyst to run some numbers for you, and if that will solve your immediate dilemma you need not read any further.

However, if your challenge is deeper and broader than simple spreadsheets, a proven strategy to ensure success is to obtain the services of a seasoned expert, one who can provide hands-on advice and counsel, who can take data from the analyst and advance your agenda: What does this information tell us?  What can we do now?  What corrective strategies can be employed?

The following circumstances would encourage the use of outside expertise:

  • Technical knowledge is not currently available to existing staff (i.e., international, executive, expatriate or sales compensation).  This may not be the time for on-the-job training.
  • When the current staff is overwhelmed and you need temporary assistance to take charge and drive your project(s) forward
  • Interim replacement for absent staff (separation, leave, etc.).  Someone to fill the gap, holding things together and advancing the agenda until the replacement is secured.

External professionals have the experience and broad perspective to impact your business, not simply report on it.  If used properly and in a focused manner subject matter experts will save you time, money and sleepless nights.

Caution: many professionals currently between jobs (“in transition”) consider themselves temporary consultants while continuing their job search.  Dependent on your time line these individuals may not be able to provide the focus or dedicated support (staying power) that you need.

As you would expect, specialists cost more than general labor, on account of their broad and deep capabilities that are available “on demand”.  However, you should consider whether the expense is justified before you commit.

  • An improper one-time “fix” will cost a great deal more over time (dollars, morale, turnover, training etc.) than if the problem was properly corrected in the first place
  • Consultants have the seasoning and long service expertise to look past the figures to the root causes and underlying issues
  • Someone who has a broad background working with diverse industries, geographies and employee segments will provide a richer perspective as to how best to approach your particular challenges

Of course you can decide to do the work yourself, but that strategy often presents its own challenges.

  • Your staff may be slow to focus on projects additive to their full time job, plus they will need to overcome numerous day-to-day distractions.  Project time lines will be drawn out.
  • Internals tend to focus on easy-to-achieve short term improvements, like low hanging fruit, vs. what core issue decisions are needed to affect a permanent solution.  This is not solving the problem, but shoving it into a closet – with the other skeletons.
  • Managers are often in a hurry to check off the project (problem) as completed (fixed) or “addressed” – the so-called “check mark” management style.
  • Internal staff is often restrained in their thinking by experiences limited to the What and Why of their company.  They may not be able to see out of the box into the wider universe of possibilities.

If you have decided to bring in outside experts, exercise care that you utilize them effectively to gain the maximum value:

  • Proper scoping of the project saves time and money.  Understand the challenge you need addressed, as confusion here leads to greater expense and longer time lines.
  • Scrub your data before handing it over; otherwise you’ll be paying for “grunt” work easily completed by inside staff.
  • Monitor work progress, lest you end up with charges for unanticipated (though not specifically prohibited) work.  The grey areas will cost you every time.
  • Avoid consultants who are incented by billable hours; they may encourage additional steps that render your project(s) more complex / expensive.
  • Be cautious of fancy report formats and four-color charts; you are paying extra for the fluff.

Seasoned external experts have the advantage of concentration; they focus on the project at hand, while avoiding the trap of non-productive time (socializing at work, interruptions, meetings, other distractions from the work at hand).

If you need Compensation expertise to help address your challenges, help you achieve your objectives and partner with you to success, take the step and make the call.  It will be worth it.

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