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Every once in a while I read something that makes me say this person gets it about _________. And in a world in which many people are reading (and saying) similar things, this is not always easy.

…Cue Anne Bares, one of the most insightful comp people around today. She has a new piece up on Compensation Cafe wherein she paints a pretty compelling (data-driven) picture that making most employees happy with their pay is a lost cause. This is because of the combined effects of confirmation bias and the marginal propensity to consume. Or, rather, as we make more money we spend more money (and as such want more money). And starting from this place, it is easy to find examples / evidence to support that we should make more than we do.

Bares goes on to say that – with this in mind – compensation professionals should be focused not on making employees happy with their pay, but on making sure employees understand why they are paid what they are. Unfortunately, such efforts to educate require a level of transparency that many organizations are reluctant to adopt even in cases where they can defend their pay practices.

With that said, the issue of transparency in organizations is a matter I’ll address in another post. Today, however, I’d like to close with a question:

If we start from the place that most employees are never *really* going to be happy with their salary, how should we be looking to engage them? I think the answer lies in tapping into why employees want to learn and creating incentives to create self-directed learning… but that’s an overly general answer that admittedly doesn’t really get at the challenges of engagement (which is rapidly becoming an empty word from overuse) and retention.

…This is just an early morning thought stream. As always, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Best,

Rory

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