Over the last week I had the chance to dialog with Dan Pink via email; the main topic was Teacher’s Pay vis-à-vis the theories and philosophies Dan reference in his book Drive . I have been giving it some thought… and theoretically teacher’s pay is competitive because it is bargained for; both internally (relative to each other within a school or a district) and externally (to other teachers with similar qualifications).

Often (vast majority of the time), teacher’s pay is tenure-based, that is a year 2 makes more than a year 1, and a year 3 more than year 2, etc.  And, the pay scale is typically public.  So, I suppose the motivation as a teacher is to stay within your district and move up the seniority based path.

With that said, it seems like in that scenario, pay is “off the table”.  Isn’t it?  Or, do you define “off the table” and “competitive” differently in this scenario – I mean, what really is “competitive”?

At this point in my thinking, I feel like in this case you have to raise pay to some level that instills value in the teacher – a feeling of worth that they perceive as commensurate with the job…. its not about a competitive labor market per se.

Dan feels to the bargain is broader than just pay….  “Raise the base pay of teachers and make it easier to get rid of the bad ones. imho, that’s a simpler and cleaner solution that the elaborate P4P schemes that are brewing out there”.  

I totally agree… but it still leaves me scratching my head a bit…  If we agree that pay is “off the table” since it is well understood, bargained for, and “competitive”, why do we see many teachers who are disengaged, disinterested and even under performing?  I think its because we are defining “competitive” incorrectly for this type of employment…  its about their perception of the value and justice in the pay, not the labor market per se.

Everyone – please know that  I don’t have an agenda here other than to explore the topic in what appears to be a fairly “controlled” environment.

Obviously I would love to hear your thoughts on this… what do you think?

How do you define “competitive” or “off the table” when it comes to teacher pay?

Are their other jobs where a different definition of “competitive” is required?

Also, click here for an article that summarizes Dan Pink’s views on pay in teaching situations…


Here is a quick question out into the universe

of HR and Rewards  professionals…

Does your company offer a benefit/perquisite where frequent travelers (say 50% or more for periods of a week or more – especially international travelers) are offered a subsidized “nanny” for child care?   

 Please, post a reply! 



So – – – this came up in a conversation the other day…

In today’s world of working single parents, I am wondering if this is becoming something that firms are willing to pay for in order to differentiate themselves in a highly competitive talent market.  Take for example a single mom, who happens to be a very talented electrical engineer for a semi-conductor manufacturer.  On Monday, she learns that the following week she needs to go to Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore before returning back to her home 8 days later.  Sound far-fetched?  Nope – true example.  The Global Company in question is compensating this employee quite well.  After all, she is a talented tech veteran.  In addition to her competitive pay, we assume the firm is at least competitive with the standard benefits (medical, retirement, etc).  Now, let’s say this particular trip (8 days to Asia with flight, hotel, food, etc.) will run about $12,000 in expenses.  Obviously, this employee’s impact on the company’s relationships is large, or they wouldn’t be paying to send her on this trip!

So – – – does the Company want their key global tech veteran worried about her child care during this trip, or focused on Business?

It seems like the going rate for a temporary Nanny is about $150 – $200 per day (varying wildly by area of the country)… roughly $1,200 to $1,600 worth of expense for this particular example.

So – – – riddle me this, for around 10% of the overall expense of the trip, this single mom’s company could offer her a tremendous benefit (piece of mind, priceless) with regard to her child while she travels.

Is it worth it?

Is it a differentiator?

What if the Company offered to pay 50%, or provided a volume based contract and access to a reputable Nanny agency?

Are any companies doing it?  What does the program look like?

Would love to hear from you!



P.S.  Mary Poppins received 13 Academy Award nominations (it shares this record with Gone with the WindFrom Here to EternityWho’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?Forrest GumpShakespeare in LoveThe Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the RingChicago, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; only All About Eve and Titanic have received more nominations, 14 each) and won 5 awards.[ 8]   This makes Mary Poppins the most Oscar-winning and Oscar-nominated Disney film in history.


For the last half-century or so, Iron Mountain has offered records management, data protection and recovery, and information destruction services.  As you can imagine, the digital age has altered this business’ workforce several times over – its 20,000 employees are in diverse and ever changing roles.  Leading the total rewards function for Iron Mountain is Gene Baker.  Gene is a rewards professional’s professional.  He has been in the function for about 20 years and is a consistent contributor and lecturer for World at Work.  I recently had the chance to talk to Gene about his career, his thoughts on the rewards profession, and what he and his team are currently working on.  Here are some highlights….

Character:  Gene Baker, VP of Total Rewards Iron Mountain, Inc. (NYSE:  IRM)

Portrayed by:  When asked what actor would best portray him in a movie, Gene responded with, “I would play the lead role because it’s easier to be an actor than to act like a comp person, it would be like reality TV”.    I have an idea . . . How about Reality TV Star Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino?


Q:  Tell us a little bit about what led you into the HR/Rewards field – was this something you had always dreamed of growing up 

Gene attended Wright State University on soccer scholarship, which he admits was his only focus growing up:  playing soccer and following sports.  “My education in college only had a small influence on my career choice.  Mostly I liked statistics from following sports and had trained my mind to be into numbers even though I am not great at higher math”, Gene admits.  Early on in his career, Gene found that he could memorize employee titles, salaries and even employee IDs.

So, as Gene discussed this, it occurred to me that what he was really doing was viewing the employee compensation and market data reports like he did sports statistics, and this in turned enabled him to respond quickly and accurately to business issues.  “As I grew in my field, I began to see compensation in particular as ‘organizational development with numbers’, or rewards as opportunities, really just the sticks and carrots.”

I asked Gene about career development, and got another sports metaphor….  “I have always taken the approach that you put points on the board as much as possible. That means drive achievement through your work and in your career continually learning and growing.”  After Gene completed the alphabet soup behind his name he went on to join World at Work as an Instructor.  “I believe in making your own differences in life. “

Q: In terms of your HR career, have you had a mentor?  What about a nemesis?  What was it about these people that influenced you?

Gene claims to not have a Nemesis.  I decided to let him off easy on that one . .  but he did mention an important mentor, and the qualities that made the mentor important in his development.   “My mentor is Russ Campanello, SVP of HR at Irobot and my former manager at two firms where I joined him. Russ is the best leader in HR that I have ever seen . . .  he is a great person and lives by his core values.  He makes others better because he is honest and of the highest ethical standard”.  Gene went on to add that, “In HR everything is gray and situational . . .   so with Russ there are no questions of where you or he stands on an issue, you stand together unconditionally”.

Q:  What is the difference between “personnel” and “human resources”?;

“Personnel is the administration of entitlement programs. Human Resources is somewhere between that and driving human capital outcomes. I see the future of HR as some type of human capital services enablement. “

Q:  What is the difference between “pay” and “rewards”?

“Pay is what you receive for coming to work and providing your time and service.  Rewards are a collection of tangible and intangible opportunities and commitments that are attached to a person or a role that are exchanged between employer and employee.”  I like that definition of Rewards….  Well played, Sir.

Q:  How has technology, virtual work environments and social media impacted rewards?

“Lately, I have been trying to find the intersection between organizational development, effective return on investment in rewards, and metrics used to influence leadership to drive change or transformation through an organization.   I am trying to adequately understand and derive data that is akin to reading between the lines.  Sort of like Human Capital Freakonomics. There are untold stories and outcomes in the business world that are able to be seen through a lens that is just being developed and for those companies that can harness that, they will have a big competitive advantage. “

“I see technology as helping drive better decisions through information utilization.  I think technology and social media should theoretically make people smarter and more effective as they tap into their network for resources, but often I see the opposite effect where people use it to be lazy and don’t think”.

Q:  What do you see as the natural evolution of the Rewards function within HR?  Can you predict the future?

Apparently Gene can see the future.  He immediate launched into a rant of flexible total rewards. . . “ I see the future of rewards as a group of professionals consulting with their businesses on driving better outcomes in human capital investment. I think rewards and technology will intersect in such a way that “mass-customization” will be possible and quantifiable. I think employees will be offered a customizable cost to company number and they will elect it based on their needs annually.  I see total rewards professionals as being instrumental in 1) benchmarking values and practices to drive a competitive advantage, 2) setting up customized structured choices that help leadership drive business results through the offerings they give employees”.

Q:  What’s up at Iron Mountain, and what are some specifics that you and your team are working on?  What is it about your industry or company that creates these Rewards demands?     

“Iron Mountain is a great company with great people, but all companies undergo change.  At IRM in Total Rewards we are primarily trying to drive better outcomes in our rewards offerings, retaining our top performers, enabling and incenting success short and long term. We are a services business so our expenditures have to be reasonable and made with some eye towards a solid return. We are really specifically reviewing and changing our rewards programs to ensure they supporting profitable revenue and growth.

Just Rewards…

Elliott Avenue and I would like to thank Gene for is time and candid insights into the rewards profession, and for doing it with a sense of humor.  Watch for the next installment in this series, and of course please provide me with your feedback and ideas . . . who knows, you, like Gene, may just earn your “just rewards” too!

As I type this blog entry I am sitting in opening session of World at Work with Keynote Speaker Daniel Pink.  I won’t go into a long spiel on Pink’s theories, but if you are interested his latest book Drive is a great read, and I love this short video of his his stuff “in a nut shell”, and some truly great animation.   For purposes of this blog, let’s focus on his general premise that to get the most out of people you need to take pay off the table.

Here is my take:

I have always said that being a Compensation Manager is like being the HVAC Technician and working to get the temperature in the building “just right”.  Have you been at work when the AC goes out in your building on a hot summer day?  It’s impossible to concentrate, and you can’t get anything done.  Engagement drops, concentration drops, etc., etc.  The point is, when you take distractions out, and make things comfortable, people get focused and out comes natural motivation and creativity.  (E.g. when I set my 4th grader up to work on his homework, I eliminate as many distraction as I can.)

So – setting base pay to the “competitive” level for a particular job theoretically takes the distraction out of the employment proposition – I get that….  Base pay is totally a hygiene factor.  Get it right, keep it simple, explain it — take it out of the equation — and then you open up the workforce to a lot of true performance levers.

Now, back to Dan Pink and his presentation…. let me just say that Dan Pink really impressed me.  The guy is super sharp, highly educated on a lot of different subjects, and brings it all together in a very motivating and engaging style. I think its worth mentioning that I think a lot of people thought this presentation and Q&A would be confrontational….  Total Rewards people who are employed to build compensation designs to motivate employees versus an author who tells us that incentive pay is actually demotivating.  The only confrontational comment he made (and it was completely tongue in cheek) was that we could rename the conference from Total Rewards to Total Punishments.

Here are a few quick hitters:

“You reward behaviors you like, you punish the behaviors you don’t, CHALLENGE that assumption!!!    If your starting assumption is wrong, then you will make mistakes…”

 “Mechanical skill and performance can be motivated by more money, but once the tasks call for even rudimentary cognitive skill, a larger reward leads to worse performance…”

“If-then rewards are good for simple things, but not complex things.”

“Money is a motivator = FACT   if people are paid differently (Jane and Mary) for essentially the level of work, then it can be profoundly demotivating… “

“Once you pay people “enough”  (or maybe a little more”) it becomes a motivator, because you have taken money off the table – so that they can concentrate on work.”

“Management is a technology form the 1850s.  it is designed to get compliance.  We still need compliance, but more and more we need engagement… Are we using the wrong technology for engagement?”

“Look:  there is never going to be a perfect compensation system..  … you will never dial down the grievances down to zero…. Ever.   But you can minimize the grievances by taking pay off the table, being transparent, and fair.”

“Imagine if Rafael Nadal got feedback once a year rather than constantly.  If he only got feedback once a year in a very awkward meeting how good would he be?”

Dan recommends “do it yourself performance reviews”

-set goals

-call yourself in and give yourself an evaluation

-don’t outsource performance appraisals to management

 Dan’s parting comment:  “Challenge the orthodoxy about what motivates people.  It is essential for economic, social and moral reason…