Editor's Note: Did you make it to the big show, the 2017 WorldatWork Total Rewards Conference in Washington D.C. this past week? Lucky for us, our frequent guest contributor Chris Dobyns did - as both a presenter and an attendee. And he has taken the time to provide us with his take on the conference and it's theme of Big Ideas. If you were there, please do share your own impression and take-aways in the comments. If you weren't, feel free to react and ask questions.
Take it away, Chris!
The WorldatWork 2017 Total Rewards Conference and Exhibition in Washington, D.C., is now in the rearview mirror. This year’s conference focused on the ongoing hunt for the next big idea. This, with the goal to encourage, nurture and harness the Holy Grail of creativity and innovation – as a key source of an organization’s competitive advantage.
This year’s conference attracted over 1,100 total rewards and human resources professionals from virtually every state and every continent (although, I didn’t actually see anyone from Antarctica).
The Home Field Advantage
This old adage held at least partly true-to-form, and “home field” apparently extended up into central Maryland, as our organization was honored to be selected to present, It's All In Your Head -- The Current State of Behavioral Science and Total Rewards. Focusing on the explicit linkage between money, motivation, behavior and performance, our topic explained how the combined effects of these areas on human behavior, judgment and decision-making are more nuanced than has been fully understood previously, with these key takeaways:
- An increased awareness of behavioral influences (i.e. biases, values, framing) that are in-play with total rewards in the workplace, can positively influence critical employee behaviors and in-turn improve your organization’s outcomes
- Ethical questions in the use of behavioral interventions can be side-stepped, as long as the objective and the results of the behavioral “shaping” are in the interests of both the employer and the employee
Front and Back
Consistent with the theme, Where Big Ideas Begin – many breakout sessions focused on either increased efficiencies in the total rewards process on the front-end, or enhancements to optimize organization outcomes on the back-end.
Front-end topics included eliminating duplication and redundancy in the functions of your compensation services team, in addition to recurring themes of disruption, innovation, predictive analytics and transforming organizations.
The back-end elements focused on the increasing importance of engagement and employee behaviors linked to total rewards – that showed up in remarks by the opening speaker, Peter Sheahan, our It’s All In Your Head session, and finally – the sales compensation workshop by Eli Lilly, which dovetailed with the behavioral references in the two preceding sessions.
You’ve got to be happy when a plan like that comes together (now, if only we could figure out how to take credit for a complete coincidence . . .).
A number of workshops highlighted the end-state elements of data analytics, metrics, and ROI – all targeting opportunities to better measure and improve the effectiveness and success of pay interventions and the management of total rewards budgets.
Leading By Example
Among the better-than-average sessions I attended, was one featuring the evolution of the airline industry, and specifically the nation’s largest carrier, American Airlines. An excellent primer described the evolution of the airline industry, leading up to deregulation in 1978 – and the countless mergers and acquisitions since then. The presenters did a really nice job of framing the sources of the long-standing antagonism that has existed between labor and management, for decades – that the American Airlines is actively trying to reverse.
Hugely interesting were the efforts by Doug Parker – the new American Airlines CEO, to restore workforce trust in management. He’s doing that by demonstrating an atypical (dare I say, almost unnatural) level of executive compensation restraint. A quote attributed to Parker, that if made by anyone else would have had them referred to Employee Assistance for counseling, was something to the effect of, “ . . . my current compensation package is sufficient, because anyone should be able to live comfortably on $11 million per year”. Who knew?
Hints At The End (of Work)
My favorite presentation featured new techniques in data visualization, by Bryan Briscoe and Paul Reiman. These guys have “performed” together previously and have clearly perfected their act, as they struck exactly the right balance between entertaining and informing their audience. Their brief (and funny) foundation-setting on the dangers of “bad” charts/graphs, transitioned to a fascinating demonstration of sophisticated data visualizations, either for informing or for discovery of previously unrecognized patterns, trends or relationships. And some of the tools clearly reflected aspects of “machine learning” and narrow artificial intelligence.
Bryan prompted a ripple of noticeably nervous laughter from the audience at the end of the presentation with his statement that, “at this point . . . I’m just trying to outrun the robots”.
Something for everyone to think about.
Everyone probably has a different perspective. What’s yours?
Chris Dobyns, CCP, CBP is currently employed as the Chief of Staff for the Office of Human Resource Strategy and Program Design for one of the largest U.S. intelligence agencies. The Office of Human Resource Strategy and Program Design is responsible for organizational effectiveness, personnel assessment, compensation and incentives, occupational structure, recognition and rewards, HR policy, human capital program design, implementation, evaluation and assessment and internal consulting. Chris has worked in the area of compensation for more than 30 years, and has been employed in various compensation-related positions by a number of large, private sector companies including, Sears, Roebuck, Arizona Public Service and Westinghouse Savannah River Company.
“Looking At Start-Up Sketch” courtesy of denisismagilov and fotolia images.