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Ann BaresAnn Bares is the founder of Compensation Cafe, and the author of Compensation Force. She is also the Managing Partner of Altura Consulting Group, LLC. She has over 20 years of experience consulting in the areas of compensation and performance management.

Through her consulting practice, Ann works with a wide range of client organizations in auditing, designing and implementing executive compensation plans, base salary structures, incentive compensation programs, sales compensation plans, and performance management systems.

Ann received her B.A. from The College of St. Catherine and her M.B.A. from the J.L. Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. You can reach Ann via email at abares@alturaconsultinggroup.com or follow her on Twitter here.

1. Most job postings cite “X” years of relevant work experience and specific education criteria as requirements to be considered for the position. With this in mind, what prior work experiences and degrees/certifications/training helped prepare you for your current role?

A variety of work experiences across a lot of years have helped me prepare for what I am doing now – running an independent compensation consultancy and trying to influence and contribute to my profession through my writing. I spent a number of years in staff compensation roles at a couple of very different organizations (a technology company and a financial services firm) before moving into consulting roles – first with a global firm and then at a regional firm – and then starting my own business.

As far as education goes, I decided earlier in my career to pursue an M.B.A. at a top business school over obtaining CCP (certified compensation professional) certification – although I have taken a number of the CCP courses that I felt were most relevant to my responsibilities.

Beyond experience and formal education, I am a big reader. Business, non-fiction, fiction. I find lessons for how to do my work (and my life) better in nearly everything I read.

1B. What (if any) additional knowledge or skills that you don’t currently have would make you even better at your job?

Although I pursued a minor concentration in quantitative methods as part of my graduate work, I think I could use a refresher in statistics and data analysis.  Any of us in the field of Human Resources who want to remain relevant in the Age of Data must obtain and maintain at least some level of statistical literacy.  With that in mind, one of my personal goals for 2014 is to up my stats quotient; I have already identified a couple of great online courses suited to this purpose.

2. Some jobs require the incumbent to be very analytical. Others require one to be a strong communicator, and others still require traits like patience, the ability to multitask, self-directedness, comfort with ambiguity, and exceptional attention to detail. Are there any behaviors and/or attributes that you would say are essential to performing the work that you do?

One of the reasons that I love compensation work is that doing it well demands both analytical skills and an understanding of (or at least a deep appreciation for) human psychology and behavior. People with spreadsheet and analytical skills alone do not ultimately progress far in the field of rewards; the opportunity to do strategic and meaningful work comes from learning to connect compensation practices with human behavior at the individual, team and organization-wide levels. That’s where the fun happens!

3. Jobs guru Lou Adler says there are only 4 job types of jobs in the world (producers, improvers, builders, and thinkers). Which type of job are you in?

Lou notes that every job has mix of each work type, with one or two dominant. I think that, like most consultants, my role demands that I play thinker, builder and improver roles. The exact mix will vary for different client circumstances and engagements. In some situations, we are starting from the ground up, trying to create, design and implement a new reward strategy to support a new business strategy and direction. That requires a lot of thinking and building. In other circumstances, I may be working with a client to take a deep look at an existing program in order to understand whether and how it could and should be improved – requiring that I put on an improver hat to help determine where there are opportunities to make the program stronger and position it to deliver better results.

When I worked for bigger consulting firms, I typically managed a project team and had staff to help with the production work. In my current role, like many small business owners, I often have to step in and be a producer in addition to a thinker/builder/improver. It keeps life interesting!

4. Does your job involve either directly or indirectly supervising or managing people? If so, how many direct (or indirect) reports do you have?

My client engagements often involve bringing in and managing other people – either directly or indirectly.  These individuals may be support players, handling research and analytical work, or they may be partners who bring in a complementary background or set of skills necessary to the project.

5. How does what you do impact the business? Think complexity (different types of impacts) and scale (degree of impact). Put another way: Who and what would be impacted if your job wasn’t being done well, and why would it matter that they were impacted?

For most organizations, employee compensation is one of the biggest costs of doing business. At a macro level, doing my job well means that the employer I am serving is spending that money well, in a purposeful and nondiscriminatory manner, in accordance with their stated values and priorities, driving the right behaviors and results, and sending the right messages about what is and isn’t important. Pay problems can make for a very toxic work environment. They create trust issues, reinforce negative and potentially harmful behaviors, undermine an otherwise positive culture, and make it impossible to recruit and keep good talent.

In my experience, pay touches everyone and nearly everything in an organization.

6. Is your job safe? Rate its safety on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being “seated all day in an air conditioned vault” and 10 being “I’m an astronaut going into space”. If your job isn’t safe, what working conditions (specifically) make it hazardous?

Although I have been tempted to wear a flak vest to some employee meetings, where long-unresolved pay issues have created a lot of hostility and resentment, for the most part my job is very safe.

7. Is there anything I missed that people should know about your job? Is there anything else you want to say about what you do?

While you do need to get your basic math and analytics ticket punched to get into the field of compensation, doing it successfully is about so much more than just “the numbers.” Being curious and interested in what makes people and organizations tick is key to getting better at what you do in any area of human resources – and compensation is no different.

Finally, I’d like to encourage anybody who wants to keep abreast of what’s happening in the field of compensation to visit the Compensation Café, where I write with a cheeky and eclectic group of reward professionals every business day. Stop by with your morning cup of coffee and see what’s brewing!

As always, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.