Once upon a time
Once upon a time there was a compensation professional named Roger. He was very experienced and was always viewed as very competent and knowledgeable by management wherever he worked.
But Roger had a problem. He always ended up working for companies whose C-suite members were “all over the map” in terms of what they believed about compensation and how it should work. These companies were rapidly growing and the C-suite members were fairly new in their positions so did not have a long history of working together.
Each member had strong opinions about compensation instilled in them from a previous employer. Because of this Roger had difficulty getting agreement from the group. Even when he got agreement everything fell apart after a few months as each C-suite member gradually drifted back to his/her old mindset. Then Roger had to go through the approval step again. It was like trying to "herd cats."
Going through this constant hassle made Roger daydream about working for a company that had a very stable C-suite team with a long history of working together and a strong consensus on compensation philosophy and strategy.
Finally his wish came true. He began working for a company where the C-suite had worked together for years in various capacities before reaching their current positions. Upon learning this, Roger’s hopes soared.
It never occurred to him that although this group had “jelled” in their thinking on many business issues, including compensation, it might not be as ideal as he thought.
In his first 6 months with the company Roger audited all compensation programs worldwide and put together a proposal for the changes he believed were necessary.
Imagine his surprise when top management didn’t bless his recommended changes. Roger offered many solid reasons for them. There was much discussion. The bottom line from them was “This is not the way we do things. It doesn’t fit our model.” Roger was stunned.
This response by the executives was not just a one-off reaction regarding compensation. It was the same with every business process in the company. Anything outside the "norm" seemed to be off limits.
What Roger had run up against was “organizational memory”. This happens when companies have long track records of success and a management team that has worked together long enough to reach an accord on how business should run. This “memory” becomes firmly entrenched, and if it continues long enough may end up preventing the company from moving forward. It is very difficult to give up something--- especially when it has a history of success.
Here's some things that Roger did to make some progress:
1) He approached the VPs and talked to them one on one. He showed them how his recommendations would impact their BU/division. Some of them agreed with him, and were able to put some pressure on the CEO to take a second look.
2) He sent articles to the CEO that supported his recommendations. To make sure they were credible he sent ones from business pubs like HBR, Forbes, Fortune, etc.
3) He found a reason to bring in an outside consultant and arranged an informal meeting with the CEO. During the course of conversation, the consultant found a way to reinforce Roger's recommendations.
4) Roger compiled data from what the CEO viewed as competitors and showed him what their compensation philosophy was and the kind of programs they developed to support it.
Roger kept hammering away at it, gained some traction and over time gradually made some progress.
Have any of you had "be careful what you wish for" experiences? Care to share them?
Jacque Vilet, President of Vilet International, has over 20 years’ experience in Global Human Resources with major multinationals such as Intel, National Semiconductor and Seagate Technology. She has managed both local/ in-country national and expatriate programs and has been an expat twice during her career. Her true love is working with local national issues. Jacque has the following certifications: CCP, GPHR, HCS and SWP as well as a B.S. and M.S in Psychology and an MBA. She belongs to SHRM, Human Capital Institute and World at Work. Jacque has also been a speaker in the U.S., Asia and Europe, and is a regular contributor to various HR and talent management publications.
Creative Commons image "wishes on a stick" by az jade