The Bartender says, “Hey the two of you make a nice couple, what kind of work do you two do?” The HVAC Guy says, “ I design and maintain systems that keep organizations productive – I keep things cool in the summer, and warm in the winter – nobody complains, everybody stays focused and engaged in the buildings I maintain.” He then turns to the lovely Investigative Reporter. She stares at them both incredulously and finally says, “I look into any situation and root out half-truths, scams and cover-ups – I make people aware of the real story and protect them from making big mistakes based on false information.” The bartender, having seen his share of mismatched couples, rolls his eyes and says – “yeah, ok – good luck with all of that . . . “ and moved his way down the bar towards a group of what appeared to be HR professionals playing hooky from a professional development seminar . . . Well, believe it or not these two very different personality types stayed together, and today, their daughter is the prototypical Compensation Manager!
She has merged the best from both of her parents – her Dad’s knack for dialing in just the right temperature, and her Mother’s hard-nosed, no nonsense view of the world.
OK, ok - a little context . . . Fellow HR/Compensation Blogger Chuck Csizmar posed a great question the other day: What is your Comp Guy Persona? I always read Chuck’s stuff and at the time I posted a reply, but since then I have been considering not only my “comp guy” persona but the future and “desired” persona of the Compensation Manager.
Back Story: The economy is obviously down / stagnant. Companies aren’t doing a lot with merit budgets. Voluntary turnover is low to nonexistent. A lot of theories are being popularized that pay for performance isn’t all its cracked up to be . Survey participation is low. Bonus plans are not paying out.
Is this the end of Compensation Management? No! These issues actually put an incredibly important focus on Compensation Design, and the onus falls on HR and the Compensation Manager to get this right - arguably, now it is even more critical to get it right then when things are going gangbusters from a workforce perspective!
If you set a rate incorrectly, or miss a survey anomaly, or don’t pay attention to your variable pay plan during the “go-go” times it is likely to get lost in the wash. Make that type of mistake when your labor budget is teetering on the edge and you are likely to have the CHRO and CFO in your grill.
With all that said, I believe there are at least two things the Compensation Manager must do right now – #1 Address the temperature of the organization, and #2 be skeptical and investigate the whole story.
#1 THE TEMPERATURE OF THE ORGANZATION. The role and persona of the Compensation manager must evolve, and I think the best foundation is that of the HVAC Guy. Yup, you read that right… the HVAC guy.
He is the guy that designs and installs the machinery and controls for regulating the temperature for the Organization. He regulates the temperature based on:
1. The needs of the Business (factories versus offices)
2. The preferences of the employees (feedback, maintenance calls)
3. The external pressures (winter, summer)
4. The Expense / Costs (economical, sustainable)
As you can see the HVAC Guy is critical to keeping the business running. He balances a lot of very familiar needs as a Comp Manager (business context, employee preferences, external labor market, costs). If the environment is too hot then people get tired and slow; if its too cold, folks are bundled up shivering and productivity drops. But when the temperature is just right – no one is complaining and the organization can concentrate on productivity, quality and execution. Given the critical nature of compensation, labor budgets and workforce engagement, the Compensation Manager’s ability to “dial in” just the right level of rewards, under the right circumstances, becomes critical to the motivation of the workforce.
#2 BE SKEPTICAL AND INVESTIGATORY OF YOUR MARKET DATA I can’t tell you how many times I see the following issues brushed aside in today’s Human Capital environment . . . “We don’t need to worry about that . . .” ”We aren’t even going to increase pay this year, who cares what the survey says . . . “. Well, the following topics may seem basic but can be very easily overlooked – but when budgets are tight, you better be positive you have the best market intelligence available, and be positive you are using it correctly. This takes a lot of professionalism, effort, healthy skepticism and vim; especially in the face of a perceived lack of interest in the labor market by senior management.
So – back to a few basics – but given what I have seen over the last 2 years, I guarantee you these bear repeating in compensation departments across America. Many of these points were developed in conjunction with my friend Steve Treder at Western Management Group, a fine publisher of compensation data.
- WHO ARE THE PARTICIPANTS IN THE SURVEY?
- Smart employers want their labor market competitors to be in each survey they’re in
- Engage yourself into the process
- Assert your influence
- Personally invite the participants you want into the survey
- WHERE DOES THE DATA REALLY COME FROM IN THE SURVEY?
- Sources of survey data are all around us
- It’s easy to assume that a particular set of compensation market data is authoritative
- It sure looks official, arrayed there so neatly and attractively
- HOW HAVE THE JOBS BEEN MATCHED IN THE SURVEY?
- Never assume that every survey participant’s jobs have been correctly matched
- Insist upon knowing the job matching procedure for every survey you use
- If the survey holds a job matching meeting, attend it!
So – are you the son/daughter of an HVAC Guy and an Investigative Reporter?
If you are a fellow “Comp Nerd” I hope you have at least some of that DNA in you – today’s Compensation Manager must behave like an HVAC Guy, but with the skepticism and business savvy of an Investigative Report.
Do you have what it takes?
Do you agree with the persona?
Please let me know!