1. It’s 8:30 PM on a Wednesday and I’m at the end of a 12 hour day as I sit down to right this, so I promise to make this one short..…So I support a client group that has seen a lot of retirements, lately. 1 I support lots of 30+ year employees that have had long, respectable careers and are ready to move onto the next step.
Conversely, I have been with my current employer for just four short years… and am still in my 20s. Ergo, when a colleague informs me of their retirement it is always particularly striking to me that I am the person charged with managing that transition.
…Ultimately, after nearly half a lifetime spent at our Company, the person seeing them off at the end has fewer years on the planet than they have with our employer.
It is humbling.
…I am not an event planner – I detest much of the work involved with such things and will generally delegate work related to it when it’s put on my plate. But when it comes to an employee’s retirement, it is important to me that they finish their time with the Company feeling special and appreciated. I make sure cakes are ordered and celebratory proceedings are arranged; I want the employee to feel as special as they want to – as special as they deserve. I do this because I imagine that one day I will be at the end of a career that I’ve spent more time doing than anything else in my life, and I want the person(s) seeing me to the end of it to assign the same value to it that I have.
Throughout our careers most of us will have amazing highs and crushing lows. And when the lows come it can feel easy to seek greener pastures. Because frankly, when things get tough it isn’t always easy to find good reasons to stay. Ergo, when one meets someone that performed at a high level at one company for most or all of their career one knows that they made the choice to be part of something they believed in even when it wasn’t always easy to believe.
^This brand of loyalty/perseverance/faith/whatever you want to call it isn’t for everyone, but if nothing else it’s increasingly rare in this day and age, and should be respected.
…I have been a lot of things in my HR career to date to a lot of people – some value added and some quite a bit less so. And I imagine I will be several more things yet… but I should like to always remain someone that honors service.
Does this make sense? As always, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.
This morning I read a great piece from the HR Capitalist Kris Dunn on the utility of flash performance reviews. You can read it here (recommended as it’s a fast, thought provoking read), but in summary Dunn posits that automating the feedback process in such a way that managers receive negative consequences for not delivering timely performance messages to their direct reports would force the dialogue process and cause everyone to be more productive.
…I don’t advocate going as far as the author does here (there are few company cultures that could absorb this sort of change without outsized consequences relative to the positive returns realized), but I *do* think this idea raises some interesting points about the way that we develop habits as human beings and how we can apply our understanding of this process to the way we encourage certain behaviors.
As I’ve written before, every behavior has an associated antecedent (trigger), and consequence (which can be either a negative outcome or reward). The antecedent, following behavior and resulting consequence ultimately sum to form a habit. e.g. ‘X’ happens, in response you do ‘Y’, and as a result you get ‘Z’. Every habit we all have can be broken down in this way.
We see the same thing in our work lives everyday. For example(s):
(Antecedent) A Manager feels that ruling with an iron fist is the way to get things done so they (Behavior) engage in an abrasive, uncommunicative leadership style to get work done before they learn to soften their approach after (Consequence) receiving enough compliance complaints and/or 360 feedback rank downs from their direct reports. Or how about the executive that (Antecedent) wants to cut costs and so (Behavior) underpays their employees relative to the market before they make the decision to pay more market competitively after (Consequence) experiencing several comp related defections of key personnel.
…The fascinating thing here is that it’s really easy for us to point to the consequences of behaviors as the casual factor behind driving most behavioral changes / new habits. And yet, we in HR often attempt to promote new behaviors by focusing on antecedents. We create trainings, give Managers tools, and over-communicate the heck out of which best practices need to happen in order to drive the desired outcome around *insert whatever here*. What we really need to be focused on – as Dunn highlights in his post – is consequences, though. By attaching positive (or negative) outcomes to the behaviors we want to drive or discourage, we can drive much more positive outcomes than we could by making antecedents the point of emphasis alone.
^This is easier said than done though, yes? HR functions often have a lot of influence, but rarely have a great deal of formal power to drive specific business outcomes. And so to attach consequences with behaviors we really need to create consensus at the top of the organization, which means building relationships with business leaders so that they will enforce the roll-out of any behavior-based change management programs.
…Just a Tuesday morning thought stream. As always, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.
1. This is actually the first quote of the week I’ve done that didn’t quote a real person; rather, today I’m quoting the character that Scottish actor and producer actor Sean Connery played in the 1999 film Entrapment.…then we trust.” – Sean Connery 1
…So the past month or so has been a relatively challenging one. Faced with a number of difficult choices and very little data, I’ve made several (in hindsight major) decisions on instinct alone. And while relying on my instincts has rarely failed me to date, unless absolutely necessary I prefer to make calls based on what I know as opposed to what I feel.
With that said, as I’ve continued to gain more experience it has become increasingly clear to me that life is full of uncertainty and murky choices. Ergo, one often doesn’t know if one has made the right call until one is well past the point of no return… at which point hindsight is good for little more than preventing a repeat of mistakes of the past.
Which leaves us with belief.
Belief in ourselves. Belief in other people. Belief in actions and ideas that we may or may not be able to control.
…I think that it is only prudent in matters of importance to direct everything you can to the extent that you can. It is prudent to manage your future and the things that impact it as much as possible. But after that you have to trust your team and the other people around you that have earned that trust.
Sometimes that trust will be rewarded, and sometimes it won’t. But living life any other way is just exhausting.
…So as we get started this week, let’s (as always) make every effort to manage our lives and careers as best we can. But let’s also take care to trust that (once we’ve controlled all that we can) that if we live our lives according to a worthwhile set of principles whilst surrounding ourselves with the right people that those things which we can’t control will ultimately turn out for the best.
^And if they don’t, we’ve at least got hindsight for next time, yes?
1. If anyone knows of where I can find them on Twitter, please share in the comments below so I can update the main post with a link.Check out this great infographic from the folks at Visual Loop Labs. 1 It looks at some of the causal factors behind workplace stress, the signs that you have it, and closes with some steps you can take to treat it. Give it a view, and as always please share your thoughts in the comments section below.
…So this morning I read a great piece from Jacque Vilet over at Compensation Cafe highlighting the way compensation plans must evolve based on the life stage of the company. Vilet focused on how an organization’s pay mix (i.e. salary/bonus/equity) and market competitiveness changes based on if they’re in a start-up, growth, maturity, or decline phase, explaining the causal reasons behind each stage and the steps a prudent compensation professional takes to adjust their structures accordingly. It’s a great piece, and you can read it here.
With that said, this piece got me thinking about what compensation structure might make sense for a business based on its life cycle. As a quick overview, there are four predominantly used comp structures in the U.S:
* Traditional: Range spreads from 20%-40% and midpoints of 5%-10%
* Market Pricing: Range spreads of 30%-80% and midpoints of 5%-15%
* Broadbanding: Range spreads of 80%-200% with undefined midpoints
* Step Structure: Range spreads of 20%-40%, midpoints of 5%-10% w/ steps
…If you want to learn more about the prevalence of each structure by industry this (2012) piece from World at Work is a good starting point. But this evening I want to talk about the utility behind using one comp structure or another based on life cycle. Again, Vilet defines each of the below life cycles 1. If you’re curious to learn more about this topic you can do so on Wikipedia here. Wiki adds a 5th-life cycle stage called ‘renewal’, which is essentially what every organization that avoids decline (and eventually death) must do at various points in its existence.in her piece here 1 quite well, so I will use them below (italics):
1. Start-Up Life Cycle Stage: In this stage companies build capital and start developing their products or services. Much attention is focused on product demand and markets. Each person wears many hats and there is a strong team orientation.
What Comp Structure Might Be Most Appropriate: Market Pricing.
Why it Might Be Best: I’ll note here for the record that market pricing is not so much a compensation structure as it is a compensation philosophy. With that said, the rationale for utilizing a market pricing approach while in start-up mode is that early on in an organization’s life cycle pay needs to be able to flex to accommodate the rapidly changing priorities of the business. It also allows the organization to flex its comp to attract and retain critical employees necessary to the businesses growth without worrying too much about internal equity (or focusing on training for a compensation plan that will almost certainly change multiple times over as the business continues to change).
2. Growth Life Cycle Stage: Companies experience explosive growth and begin building their support structure — including employees — as business opportunities are outpacing resources. Company revenues grow rapidly. It is common to hire over-qualified outsiders for management positions — specifically to take the company forward. Founders may decide to go public due to the need for more funds to take advantage of all the available growth opportunities.
What Comp Structure Might Be Most Appropriate: Broadbanding or Market Pricing.
Why it Might Be Best: As the organization grows and continues to experience significant changes to operations, the company needs to have enough flexibility to react to the market, while at the same time allowing talent to make regular lateral moves as needed without having to take a step back from a pay grade/job band standpoint. Additionally, the organization may be purchasing other businesses and need the flexibility to fit their comp structures into their own.
3. Maturity Life Cycle Stage: A large amount of assets has been accrued and companies are well established in the market. They’re cash cows and have a large market share. They may gradually experience slower growth if products stagnate. In order to avoid decline, they may decide to diversify by acquiring other companies and/or creating new product lines.
What Comp Structure Might Be Most Appropriate: Traditional Grades or a Step Structure.
Why it Might Be Best: As operations begin to stabilize and growth slows, things like internal equity, defining internal career paths, and having a structure that makes sense across all business units starts to become more important. As downsides, having narrower, more clearly defined ranges limits an organization’s ability to attract outside talent based on pay (and provide additional remuneration opportunities for senior individual contributors at the top of their ranges), but the narrow ranges limit disruptive pay issues and free managers and the HR function up from having to constantly market price jobs so that they might focus on other things.
4. Decline Life Cycle Stage: If efforts to re-charge the business fail, companies will decline or go out of business entirely. Company sales, profit, product demand and hiring dramatically slow. They can no longer afford to invest in the business. Unprofitable business units are terminated. A key focus is on cutting costs.
What Comp Structure Might Be Most Appropriate: Traditional Grades or a Step Structure.
Why it Might Be Best: At this point growth has slowed and any operational change is regressive as opposed to progressive. The organization is in a conservation mode, and also unlikely to be either a market leader in pay, able to target top talent, or be concerned about any of the other things (e.g. growth through acquisition, enabling internal mobility etc.) that made market pricing and broadbanding strategies attractive earlier in their life cycle.
…Here’s the thing, though. As with most things comp related… it really depends. I’ve seen mature, large cap organizations utilize broadbanding… and I’ve also seen start-ups utilize step structures. This is because the market, industry and growth strategy a business pursues are often times likely to play just as large a role in what comp structure it selects as its life cycle stage. HR/Comp Pros: Determining what makes the most sense for your business comes down to having a collaborative discussion with business leaders to understand how the talent strategy and business strategy work together.
As always, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.
…So between 30% and 60% of executives hired from the outside fail in their new role within 18 months; they fail for a myriad of different reasons, including a failure to adapt to the organizational culture, poor networking, murky expectations and/or feedback, and – in perhaps a minority of cases – technical competency.
With all that said, perhaps no success factor is more correlated with sticking in a role than how a quickly a leader is able to demonstrate value after starting. This process of immediately making an impact – also known as getting a “quick win” – is perhaps the most reliable way to demonstrate one’s mettle to a new organization, confirming the wisdom of the hire with the leadership team and laying the groundwork for accomplishing other tasks (like those noted above) integral to a leader’s long-term success.
…Of course, getting a meaningful quick win is much easier said than done, as generating one requires a leader to (i) accomplish a visible, clearly quantifiable objective that (ii) doesn’t distract his/her team from their day-to-day objectives whilst (iii) allowing others to share in the glow of success – in the process creating team-building and networking opportunities.
Lately, I’ve found myself thinking about the role HR should play in this process. I am a big believer in the role of HR in making introductions and facilitating conversations between anyone just beginning a new role (particularly external hires) and the key stakeholders they will need to connect with in order to be successful… but beyond that introductory process have often struggled with just how much support I should be providing to new incumbents. One of the best HR Managers I’ve ever met had a process wherein they (i) scheduled time for any new hire to meet all of the department heads in the organization, (ii) trained him/her on the process stuff integral to getting things done, and (iii) had regular follow-up and touch points with them early on to ensure that all was well.
^Unless I know the hiring manager is owning each of these items, I also try to do all of the same things to the extent that I am able anytime I’m on-boarding new talent – regardless of level.
What else, though? I don’t know. Having been new to organizations myself in the past – and having experienced first hand the value of having the aforementioned steps taken on my behalf – I want to take every step I can to ensure a new hire’s success.
…But ultimately one has to fly on their own, right?
Talent pros / Generalist: What steps do you take when onboarding your new hires – executive or not – to position them for success. And conversely, what things have you found it’s a good idea not to do.
As always, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.
…ethics rather than rules.” – Wayne Dyer
I’m sharing this quote (courtesy of self-help author and motivational speaker Wayne Dyer) because it strikes me of late that being in HR can make one cynical about rules if one is not careful. Having been charged with enforcing all manner of various rules (across a myriad of different contexts) over the years, I’ve lost track of the number of times that I’ve been asked to bend or even break a catch-all policy that hasn’t met the needs of an appealing party.
Of course, this is ultimately all well and to be expected; after all, rules intended to apply to an entire population lack the nuance to cover every possible situation by both necessity and design. Broadly applicable policies are intended to give leaders and their teams guidelines on what is acceptable behavior, not a frame of reference on how to handle every situation.
To this point, I have seldom seen a policy that doesn’t – somehow, somewhere – have an exception… but it is also equally true that I almost never see a policy that doesn’t warrant at least one exception. This is because rules – by their nature – are often drawn along somewhat arbitrary lines. Granted, the fact that said lines are arbitrary doesn’t negate the necessity of drawing them… but it nevertheless makes them imperfect and occasionally in need of deviation and/or revision.
…Earlier in my career I struggled with identifying when a policy should or shouldn’t be flexed, but lately I am much more comfortable in this space because I’m more in-tune with my moral compass. See, most of us know what the “right” thing is to do – whether there is a policy in place or not: Knowing what it means to treat someone fairly is not a difficult thing to work out most of the time. But what causes us to sometimes struggle with doing the right thing – despite knowing what steps we should take – are the consequences that can come from being the lone voice in the wilderness. Ultimately, if others in power aren’t behaving in an ethical manner it can be easy to fall into a corrosive cycle of behaving in a way untrue to one’s character due to incentives that encourage one to do so.
Values, you see, trickle from the top down.
…I am fortunate to work with a high character leadership team that makes doing the right thing easy. But I have had times in my life where this was not the case – and suspect that at some point (hopefully far) down the line this will be the case again. Regardless, I hope to always look to be part of the solution by living my values (and communicating the importance of those values to my team) even when it’s tough to do so.
With that said, as we get started this week I would ask that you take care to think about what your actions communicate to your team about your values. Or – if you’re an individual contributor – think about what your actions communicate to your peers and customers. Emphasize what you want to see from your team by recognizing and rewarding the behaviors that you want to see repeated. Practice what you preach.