Compensation- putting the plan in place


Last week we talked about establishing your Compensation Strategy and how to determine the competition and your rationale for certain recommendations.  Once you have a thorough well thought out strategy, though, you need to execute.  Careful, well thought out execution is every bit as important as developing your strategy.  Remember, it is likely that you understand compensation better than anyone else in your organization so start at the top.


Get your Executive Team Bought in

Keep in mind that executive teams have a lot on their mind and are likely not up to speed with why a compensation strategy is important, so start simple. The payroll in a company is by far the largest expenditure and compensation touches all areas like candidate attraction, retention, turnover and satisfaction to some degree.  Pay ranks in the number three spot as to reasons why employees leave positions and the cost to replace that employee is anywhere between 100-200% of their base salary.  Plenty of reason to make sure that compensation is NOT the driving force behind your resignations.


Train your Managers to have Compensation Conversations

Once your executive team is bought into your strategy, it’s time to train your managers to talk about compensation.  We have all heard or experienced firsthand the horror stories of employees finding out what their raise is when their paycheck comes out, never having had a conversation with their manager, or the manager walking into a group of employees, handing each a piece of paper with their raise on it and walking out, thus missing a critical opportunity to further enhance the employee’s satisfaction and level of engagement.  The first step is to listen.  Listen to what the employee has to say, repeat back what you think you have heard.  Share critical information, such as the merit budget pool for the year and the compensation philosophy.  


Communicate the Process

Letting the team know up front and reminding them often of who will do what we go a long ways towards preparing for success.  Communicate the roles that HR will play-to establish salary grades and structures, to provide compa-ratios, to set the merit pool amount and to weigh in on any recommended market adjustments.  The first line managers will be responsible for recommending salary increase, justifying recommendations for promotions or market adjustments and communicating the approved increases to the individual employees. Your executive team has the responsibility to communicate and support the compensation strategy and philosophy they have approved. Employees, too, play a role.  They have the responsibility to ask questions and ensure that they get a satisfactory answer.  Make sure that they know their manager is their first stop, but if questions remain unanswered that HR’s door is always open.

Do you best to create an environment where compensation is not practiced in a black box, but is implemented in a thoughtful, straight forward way, where everyone understands what it is meant to achieve and feels comfortable offering suggestions to enhance the process.  A compensation strategy, created and implemented well, can enhance many aspects of the organization and the employee experience.

Compensation- Getting it Right


This time of year brings all the excitement of the holidays, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukkah, among others.  Amid all the festivities, for many organizations, it brings Compensation planning activities including revisions of salary structures, decisions on merit increases, promotions, adjustments and bonuses.  Before you say “Bah Humbug” let’s take a closer look at how to structure a compensation plan and why it’s so important to your organization. 

For all of the articles out there espousing compensation as a short term motivator, compensation speaks to our employees.  It tells a story of how we perceive their value in the workplace.  There is little that is more important than the value one sees in oneself and that is partly determined by the value others place on us and our contributions.

Ask Questions

You have to start out by asking the right questions in order to determine what your company’s compensation strategy should be.  It’s OK not to have all the answers, they will provide topics for discussion with your internal teams.

What are your goals?   

It’s important to know what problem you are trying to solve before you launch into a strategy to solve it.  Do you have excessive turnover?  Are you having a hard time attracting candidates?  Are you losing your high potential employees at an alarming rate?  Do you need to focus certain groups on different goals

How would you define your market?

Is it defined solely based on a geography you are in?  Do you need to include competitors outside of your geographical regions?  Is it domestic or do you have international competitors as well?  Sometimes, you can get a good clue to identifying this by asking where do your employees come from, and where do they go when they leave?

How competitive do you need to be?   

Some disciplines like Big Data are highly competitive and there may only be a handful of candidates that everyone is competing for.  On the other hand, if your positions are relatively common and there are many candidates available, you may be able to set you target closer to the 50th percentile and be just fine

What and how should you reward?  

What behavior do you want to reinforce and what types of rewards will you give?  The most effective plans focus on a Purpose Statement and/or Guiding Principles.  Your rewards should ultimately drive the culture you are trying to create.  Even monetary rewards come in many different forms.  They could be merit increases, promotions, short term or long term cash incentives.

All of the above questions will help to guide you toward the most effective compensation strategy for your organization and drive employee productivity forward. 


Hierarchy versus holacracy


Before we delve into whether or not holacracy is right for your organization, how many of us know what holacracy is?  Holacracy is a social technology or system of organizational governance in which authority and decision-making are distributed throughout a holarchy of self-organizing teams rather than being vested in a management hierarchy.  In theory, holacracy empowers people to make meaningful decisions and drive change.

Instead of a traditional management structure where questions must go from the bottom to the top and decisions go in reverse, organizations that adopt holacracy empower agile teams of people to make and implement decisions.


Self-organization models typically share three characteristics:

Teams are the structure

In holacracy, there are “circles” or many companies simply call them “teams.” Whatever they’re called, these basic components are not, individuals, and not units, departments, or divisions but they are the essential organizational building blocks.  Individual roles are defined and assigned in order to accomplish the work. As in more traditional hierarchical organizations, there may be different teams for different projects or functions like finance, tech, sales. But self-managing enterprises have a lot more of them. After Zappos implemented holacracy, 150 departmental units evolved into over 500 circles.

Teams design and govern themselves

Although self-organizing companies try to avoid the traditional hierarchy, the teams are a part of a larger structure, which they are actually able to shape and refine. Holacratic organizations have everyone sign a constitution—a document outlining the rules by which circles are created, changed, and removed. So the circles not only manage themselves; within those guidelines, they also design and govern themselves. The constitution doesn’t dictate exactly how people should do their tasks. It explains in a broad way how circles should be created and operate: how they should assign roles, what boundaries the roles should have, and how the circles should interact with one another. 

Leadership is constantly changing

In self-managed organizations, leadership is distributed among roles, not individual people.  People usually hold multiple roles, on multiple teams. Leadership responsibilities continually change as the work changes and as teams create and define new roles. Technology is essential for keeping all these changes straight. The information is accessible to anyone in the organization and each individual’s commitments are visible to everybody at the company. Supposedly, transparency enables cross-team integration.

Although it is becoming a buzz word, holacracy is not being adopted at a rapid pace. The organizations who have tried to adopt it run into a myriad of issues, including increased turnover and decreased productivity given the endless meetings.  While some look at it with interest, others simply say it does not work.  Next week we will delve into some of the issues that have arisen when organizations have tried to implement holacracy.


Let leaders lead


Most who enter the Human Resources disciplines due so out of a desire to help others and to help the organization to align their employee workforce with the goals of the company to further productivity.  Often times, however, we forget to let our leaders lead.  Especially as an organization grows, HR functions need to adopt a “train the trainer” approach more than a train everyone approach.  Although enlightened organizations put their full support and resources into HR functions, the team still has a responsibility to be able to scale the organization without adding significant numbers of HR team members.  Efficiency is key.

Train- the- trainer

A train-the-trainer model allows experienced trainers to show a less-experienced individuals how to deliver courses, workshops and seminars. Usually, a new instructor first observes a training event led by the course designer. A train-the-trainer approach can build a pool of competent instructors who can then teach the material to other people. Instead of having just one instructor who teaches a course for a long time, you have multiple instructors teaching the same course at the same time. This ensures that employees get timely training to complete tasks according to company policies and procedures.

Identify SME’s

SME’s or subject matter experts exist in all corners of the organizations and at all levels.  It is a fairly good bet that your excel gurus are not sitting in the corner office.  Tap those resources!  Find out how has a skill set that the rest of the organization could benefit from and engage the SME to deliver the training. This serves two purposes.  One, it enhances your pool of trainers and two, it gives well deserved recognition to a group of people who might be overlooked otherwise, further engaging them in the business.  

Step out of the way

The inclination is to teach every class to every audience, but the real goal is to get the training out to a broad audience in a timely manner.  Like a proud parent, you need to teach your junior trainers your techniques, ensure that they know their material, do a few dry runs with them and then let them launch.  Will it be perfect, no. Will it improve with time, yes and will you gain far more by engaging your workforce then trying to do it all yourself, a big YES!

Training is not a one and done.  It is a process over an unending period of time that, done correctly, not only teaches a new skill, but also engages and inspires a workforce to do greater things both in their work and personal lives.

Teach a Man to Fish

One of life’s conundrums is the choice of when to do something for someone and when to teach them to do it for themselves.  This is an age old struggle between parents and children, teachers and students, managers and employees and the Human Resources team and our internal customers.  We all want to help those in need whether it’s a child struggling to open a heavy door or an employee who needs a quick answer.  But are we really “helping” when we constantly rush in to be the hero or are we really fueling a need within ourselves?  Might it not actually be better to teach someone how to be self-sufficient and then step back and out of the way?  This would allow you to make a greater and more broad reaching impact.

Especially for those of us in HR who, generally, are in this function because we enjoy helping others, we might want to take a look at how to more effectively “help” others in the organization.  It would be beneficial to have a plan when someone comes to you with a problem.  A way to identify whether this is a crisis and an immediate need or an opportunity to teach someone to be able to do it for themselves.

Urgent or Immediate needs

HR gets bombarded daily with immediate needs or at least needs that the internal customer thinks are immediate needs.  A few examples of actual immediate needs:  Someone has fallen and you need to call 911, someone is making credible threats and needs to be escorted out of the building, access to systems need to be shut down due to an involuntary termination for cause.  These are the types of needs that you will always handle and are probably not teachable, necessarily, to someone else.

Important needs

Important needs are those that are important but not urgent.   Examples might be a question on an incentive plan and how it works or an update on a particular position you are hiring for.  Some critical needs can lend themselves to establishing SOP’s, Standard Operating Procedures.  Requisitions reports can be created and distributed so that managers can check statuses of their openings.  Webinars can be held to explain the nuances of the incentive plans.

Routine needs

Routine needs are those that someone will call you for every time they need the answer. Someone has an address change, or a title change or a change in the car reimbursement program.  Routine needs are wonderful teaching opportunities.  Offer to walk the person through the steps needed and then establish the SOP’s, standard operating procedures,  and let them know where to access them.


Occasionally, you run into those people, or they hunt you down, with on-going, what we will call, un-needs.  This is the desire to have someone listen to them by creating a perceived need.  In these situations, the best thing to do is to politely remind the person that you have a call coming in or must get back to your work.  You can train someone out of this behavior, but not necessarily teach them.

By defining the different classification of needs, you will work more efficiently, have a broader impact and be able to help others to help themselves.

Time management

sherrie suski, time management


There have been copious articles written about time management and everyone no doubt has their favorite strategies. The below are a few that I have found to be helpful in the workplace and in life in general.


Know yourself

Part of being a good time manager is knowing what behaviors prevent you from managing your time effectively. The link below gives you a quick summary spreadsheet for determining what your behavior is to day and what your behavior should be in the future to maximize your time. It is helpful to know when your energy is at its peak- is that early morning, late night or somewhere in between. This will help you to plan critical activities for when your energy level is the highest.



I know this is contrary to many time management theories out there, but wherever possible, multi-task, especially when something does not require your full attention. When you give up the idea of doing only one thing at a time and look for ways to do two, you can get a whole lot more done. Some quick examples: If you’re on the West coast, schedule East Coast calls on your drive into work. Owe the Far East a call back, pop in your earbuds and make the call while you’re making dinner. 6:00pm pst is around 8:00am there.


Touch each e-mail or piece of paper once

This one is big. We all have a tendency to want to “think about” it for a bit and then answer which is likely the answer you would have given in the first place. Force yourself, unless there is truly research that is needed, to answer right away.


Start the night before

A big time saver is to lay out your next day the night before. This allows you to hit the ground running in the morning and not have to stop and get organized. Know what you need to accomplish that day, in terms of key deliverables and follow up items.

Get your follow up items out early so that it allows people time to work on them during the day.


Take a break

While this may sound counterintuitive, often times taking a quick 10 minute break will help you to re- focus and complete a task in a shorter amount of time than if you had stayed with it past your ability to really focus.


Determine what is urgent and what isn’t

Not every e-mail that comes in must be answered right away. Some of the best time managers only answer their e-mails 1-2 times/day. You would be amazed at how many strings of conversation there are where you are only peripherally involved and if you just let them play out, you can catch the last e-mail and be completely up to speed.


Everyone has strategies that work better for them than others. Don’t be afraid to try 20 or 3- and then pick the top 5 that really do save you time and increase efficiency.

Compensation systems

The last component of an effective HRIS is a Compensation system.  A sophisticated compensation system will save you hours of number crunching using excel spreadsheets.  Many of these systems are sold as a component of Performance Management systems, but there are a few stand alone ones as well.  It is always best to integrate where possible because you save yourself the time and effort involved in paying someone to write the integration software for you and the headaches that come with integrating two systems that were not designed to work together.

The capabilities you want to look for in your Compensation Systems are:


Ensure that your performance management system and your compensation system are fully integrated so that all the performance scores from the manager’s appraisal,  employees’ self-appraisals and any 360 reviews you have, flow over to your compensation system.  This will make is significantly easier for your managers to be able to rank employees and doll out the appropriate performance based merit increases.


You want to ensure that your system has the ability to handle pro-rations, preferably down to the day, so that employees who start on September 1st are not eligible to receive the same increase as employees who started January 1st.  If you have implemented an annual bonus program, ensure that the pro-ration will apply here as well.  Also ask if it will handle lump sum increases if someone is at the range max.

Edit Capability

One of the most frustrating aspects of a poorly designed compensation system is when it does not allow for edit capability all the way up the line.  If the spreadsheet gets to your VP’s and they have to send it all the way back to the supervisors to make changes, you will lengthen your process considerably.  You should be able to pick and choose who you want to give edit capability to for each spreadsheet.


Invariably someone will pick an inconvenient time to terminate and you will be left with a situation where you need to assign another person to actually complete the merit increases for their group.  Your system should allow you to select a co-planner or, even better, to switch managers once the process has already launched. 

Custom Reporting

Your system should come equipped with an easy to use and easy to understand reporting functionality.  Nothing is as frustrating as having a new system and then having to dump everything in excel in order to actually manipulate the data.  Spend some time up front fully understand the reporting capability and figuring out whether it will truly provide you with the info you need to report on.

Multiple types of Compensation

Your system should handle base salary increases, short term incentives and long term incentives like Equity awards or RSU’s.  A system that cannot adequately handle long term equity incentives will give you a lopsided view of your employees’ compensation and how that compares to market

As with the other components of the HRIS that we have talked about, putting twice as much time in up front as you expected will yield the best results in the end. 


Sherrie Suski, Microlearning

Micro learning is the new buzz word in the Learning and Development Community.  It is defined as 3-5 minute short, focused learning sessions that are designed to meet a specific learning outcome.  As with many buzz words, the term is often misused and misunderstood. Many have taken it to mean that all learning should be conducted in bite sized chunks as demonstrated in the graphic below which indicates that humans have only 24 minutes per week to devote to actual learning, and that is based on a 40 hour work week, which is a thing of the past for many of us routinely working 60 hour work weeks.   Others will site the growth of the millennial workforce that will make up over 75% of the total workforce by 2025 and their much talked about short attention span of 90 seconds.

However, it is unlikely that complex new skills can be acquired in 24 minutes a week, but new skills acquired can be reinforced, practiced and lead to a performance gain in 24 minutes a week.  This is where micro learning really needs to be focused.  On the refinement and not on the acquisition.  Millennials, right alongside other generations, can be uber focused for longer periods of time when the content is engaging and rewarding.

Microlearning modules are best focused on moving right to the point without all the history behind the why, which should be captured in the original training.  Video should be an important and engaging component, as should real life scenarios.

Microlearning can be an excellent approach to training for simple tasks as it improves retention and fills in performance gaps and is certainly more cost efficient.  However, it should be used in conjunction with, not as a substitute for, more traditional types of learning as it is not suitable for complex tasks and can easily run the risk of seeming fragmented. 

Interview Like A Pro – Part 1

business woman

Landing a job interview is always cause for a celebration. But, once that initial endorphin high wears off, it’s time to start getting ready for the big day. As a human resources professional, I’ve been a part of countless interviews, and have witnessed interviewees with a wide range of interviewing aptitudes. I like to tell people that interviewing is like taking a test. You would never go into a final exam without studying, and you should never show up to an interview without taking some time to prep. Use this post as a study guide, and ace your next interview.

Research, Research, Research

The one mistake that I see time and time again is a candidate forgetting to do their research. Research everything that you possibly can, but at the very least learn about the person interviewing you, the position you are interviewing for, and the company that you are trying to work for. The internet truly holds the answers to everything that you need to know. Search LinkedIn for your interviewer, and learn a little bit about their background. Jot down some talking points about a project they’ve worked on, or the school they went to; everyone loves the opportunity to make a human connection in such a professional setting. Browse through the company’s webpage, and determine what their mission statement is. Be sure that you will be able to come up with insightful and educated answers to any questions you may be asked about the company.


Practice Makes Perfect

Everyone knows that interviews are nerve wracking experiences. One way to ease nerves and guarantee that you won’t blank when asked a question is to practice your answers. Again, look to the internet to find common interview questions, and practice answering them with a friend, or by yourself in front of a mirror.

ProTip: Craft your story. Don’t memorize cookie cutter answers. Instead, remember some key talking points and work to become comfortable with telling your interview exactly how and why you would be perfect for the job.


Find The Right Outfit

First impressions truly are everything, and a poor outfit choice could be detrimental to your chances.  The rule of thumb is to be as professional as possible, and it’s generally always better to be overdressed than underdressed. But, on the same note, be sure to research the company culture. Many industries want to be sure that you’re a culture fit, and wearing a full suit to a startup where everyone wears sweatpants could also hurt your chances of getting the job.  No matter what the wardrobe situation is, always make sure that your clothing is clean, well tailored, and ironed.



Be sure to check back next month for Part 2 of Interview Like A Pro!



For resources and additional information, see these two sites: here & here