If there is one universal lesson that we learn as we gain experience in the discipline of employee compensation, it's that there is a knee jerk tendency -- from front line supervisors to senior managers -- to assume that all employee issues can be resolved by throwing money at them. And so the litany, from those who come knocking at our office doors or lining up in our email in-boxes, often goes like this:
"My employees are dissatisfied, so we need to give them raises." Or "my employees are not motivated, so we need to increase their pay." Or "my employees are leaving, so we need to pay them more."
The correct course, if we can manage to pursue it in the face of pressure for the quick pay fix, is to gather enough information to get to the heart of the (so-called) pay problem. To get a bead on what's really happening.
To get there, let's consider a bit of advice from renowned physicist and Nobel Laureate Albert Einstein on solving tough problems under pressure.
If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes. Albert Einstein
How to get to the proper question? Maybe start with the basics: Who, what, where, when and why? If a turnover issue, what do we know about the leavers? In our age of data mining and analytics, we are in a better position than ever before to access the information necessary to better diagnose organizational problems. Or to work them through until, as Dr. Albert advises, we arrive at the proper question, which might end up as something like:
Why are nearly all of the highest rated performers working under Manager X in the Customer Contact Division leaving within their first two years of employment when turnover through the rest of the division is relatively low?
Now we're getting somewhere.
So the next time someone corners you with an urgent employee issue along with a demand for a quick pay solution, ask yourself: What would Einstein do?
Ann Bares is the Editor of Compensation Café, Author of Compensation Forceand Managing Partner of Altura Consulting Group LLC, where she provides compensation consulting and survey administration services to a wide range of client organizations. She earned her M.B.A. at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School and enjoys reading in her spare time. Follow her on Twitter at @annbares.
Creative Commons image "Einstein" by renjith radhakrishnan