Editor's Note: Today's post comes to us courtesy of guest contributor Chris Dobyns, who has generously agreed to serve as "roving reporter" for Cafe readers and share his impressions and takeaways from the WorldatWork 2018 Total Rewards Conference and Exhibition, held recently in Grapevine, Texas. In fact, Chris - who was also a conference presenter, more on this coming - had so many great thoughts to share that we made it into a two post series! Look for Part 2 on Friday!
The WorldatWork 2018 Total Rewards Conference and Exhibition is now in the history books. Hosted at the Gaylord Texan Resort, the conference attracted a reported attendance of around 1,200 participants. This year’s theme was centered around the tagline “Inspired Thinking”, with the goal of spurring innovative and creative thought on rewards and engagement, drawn from the ideas and shared perspectives of speakers, academics, consultants and practitioners, brought together for the conference.
Board Chair, Sara McAuley kicked things off, introducing Scott Cawood, who just completed year one in his new capacity as association President and CEO. There’s still considerable buzz in the fashion channels resulting from the appearance of “the suit” that Scott wore, which is destined for the same “collectible” category as the vintage DeLorean DMC-12 that Scott proudly drives. You have to admire any employee who embraces their organization and their job to this level . . . although for now, I think I’ll show my support with my monogrammed baseball cap, at least until I see more clearly how “the suit” is trending on social media. (Click image to enlarge.)
The Rise of the Individual Employee
Keynote speaker, Josh Bersin, followed and cited research that inferred a rise in the influence of the individual employee in organizations. Bersin suggested that this increasing influence would necessitate improved alignment of pay and rewards with employees needs, interests and values in the future.
This resonated with me, at least partially, since at work we frequently refer to our pay and benefits programs as “the best bad option”. This little bit of gallows humor is unquestionably accurate, because while we tailor our outcomes to satisfy the needs of the average employee, it’s almost always a given that the results will not truly satisfy anyone.
Breakdown on the Breakouts
This year’s breakout sessions understandably coalesced around a handful of recent ideas and thought leadership reflected in publication and other communication channels. These included: pay transparency, CEO pay ratios, gender pay equality, applied analytics, ratingless continuous performance management, behavioral science, artificial intelligence/machine learning and the speculated future of pay and rewards, the rewards process and the rewards professional.
The Good and Rarely Bad and Ugly
The breakout sessions I attended were all quite good, with some obvious level of effort invested in concept and presentation materials development. There were also a couple that I attended (or heard about) that appeared to suffer from either a lack of full preparation or were poorly structured or which failed to deliver on the promised information or outcomes described in the session summaries. These were a very small minority however.
A good example of the latter, was at least one of the two presentations which had at its centerpiece the most recent vogue in performance management, that being the practice of continuous feedback combined with the adoption of “ratingless” performance ratings. This always sounds idyllic, but at least in the session I attended, the presenters introduced the need for a quantifiable metric at the very end, for use in administering and determining actual pay increases. This sounded a lot like a performance rating in sheep’s clothing to me, and apparently I wasn’t alone as it elicited what I would characterize as a ripple of “nervous laughter” from the audience when someone raised the issue in a question.
The Top Three
Of the approximately +80 individual breakout presentations offered this year, I made a concerted effort to attend one session in every available timeslot. Even so, that only allowed me to assess (and “rate”) about one-tenth of the actual presentations. Given that small sample size, these are my top picks for 2018. In the spirit of full-disclosure, I know the presenter teams in the first two selections, and it was solid, past presentations that at least in part drew me to their sessions this year.
To find out which three sessions Chris selected as his tops, come back on Friday for the rest of his Conference Inspirations! (Yes, this is the closest you will get to a cliff hanger at a compensation blog, people.)
Chris Dobyns, CCP, CBP is currently employed as a Human Capital Strategic Consultant 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 35 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.