If everything we do in compensation is communications, our best months are July and August (if your company runs on a calendar year). It's a two-month break between "Let's get our act together" and "How did we do" when we can take some time to be creative.
We'll have some fun with this because it's the summer. But let's be candid first. These 5 things may seem fluffy to you, but you would be kidding yourself. That is, if you're serious about HR programs that advance the business strategy and help deliver annual financial objectives.
Where to start? Picture two whole summer months with a vacation itinerary to get out of town. Lose the HR offices to visit the real world that your employees and managers inhabit.
While we were in our HR offices, we cooked up performance and reward strategies. So on our trips we'll travel with eyes open, listening with pen in hand, to learn whether our strategic stories are coming true. It should be fun.
Here's the plan.
- Go out and grab a cup of coffee or two or five. I'd love it if you could have focus groups so you could chat with employees. But if you can't, don't give up. Take some time to hang around the places where employees take breaks. Listen to what they're talking about. Better yet, offer to buy some of them frozen yoghurt or coffee or iced tea or or or, and chat them up -- not about what's going on in their department, but about what their reactions have been to the year, their hopes and their imaginings about how their career is going and their opinions about how compensation decisions get made in this business climate.
The outcome? You'll find out whether your strategies have been speaking out loudly and clearly.
- Put your ear to the ground. This is a lot like step 1, but this time you're touring around to HR business partners and/or friendly managers for a chat. You'll get an earful, so you may need to offer lunch, too.
The outcome? You'll get better insight into the capabilities of the people on whom you rely for person-to-person communications with employees. You'll also find out who your friends and supporters are.
- Shove your Magic 8 ball back into the drawer. You do need to know the future, but there's no need to make it up. Your managers would love to tell you about their plans for the next 18 months. New capabilities, new talent sources, new opportunities for existing staff. Even though the current trend is to focus compensation rewards on high performers, these decisions can be near-sighted if you are not considering the full range of business needs.
The outcome? You'll build your own business knowledge so you can be a more effective advisor at merit budget time.
- Put your money where your mouth is. Which is meant to be a pun -- here's why. Words on emails, words on paper, PowerPoint presentations are all handy when it comes to getting managers to wake up and smell the roses. Except the hard cases. And depending on your company, you either have a small number or a majority of hard cases. If you haven't seen real change in manager capabilities around performance, recognition and reward, why not invest their time and your money differently this year? Person-to-person coaching will make an impact -- count on relationships to influence manager's thoughts and actions. Include training as the kick off, perhaps, or in the coaching tools, but don't make it the focus. And make sure that manager and coach acknowledge their commitment via objectives in their performance plans.
The outcome? You'll disconnect performance, recognition and reward from HR and connect them to business issues.
Learn to share. Team up with Benefits and whoever else in HR makes announcements and sends requests to employees at the end of the year. Build a common communication plan now and look for places you can collaborate on integrated communications. Be especially sensitive to Benefits communications plans this year, as many organizations need to brief employees on Health Care Reform.
The outcome? A breath of fresh air.
Margaret O'Hanlon is founder and Principal of re:Think Consulting. She joined Ann Bares and Dan Walter of the Compensation Cafe to speak the unspoken -- "Everything You Do (in Compensation) Is Communication" -- at the WorldatWork 2012 Conference. Margaret brings deep expertise in total rewards communications and change management to the dialog at the Café. Before founding re:Think Communications Consulting, she was a Principal in Total Rewards Communications and Change Management with Towers Perrin. Margaret is a member of the Board of Directors of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) Pacific Plains Region. She earned her M.S. and Ed.S. in Instructional Technology at Indiana University. Creative writing is one of her outside passions, along with Masters Swimming.