Despite the volume and velocity, our organization has tried to keep current on the ebb and flow of changes occurring in the computer science and IT field. This has included not only market pay, but also changes in work and job qualifications, including an awareness of the talent pool and even insights into the supply chain and where potential candidates for jobs in this area can be found.
Step On a Crack . . . Break Your Mother’s Back
Even in our efforts to remain current in this area, we still missed at least one significant shift a couple of years ago. And when we attempted to catch-up, then we inadvertently offended a number of internal stakeholders. The problem originated, in part, with our organization’s almost single-minded preoccupation with employees having advanced, formal degrees and certifications.
Our infatuation with formal degrees and the value they provide the organization was originally well-founded when the only path to acquiring knowledge, in technical and even non-technical disciplines, was through traditional, formal degree programs. As an organization, we were slow to recognize that the channels job candidates were using to acquire formal knowledge were changing in the last 5-10 years, particularly in the areas of computer science and information technology. Those channels now include MOOC sources, on-the-job-training, the military and even self-taught individuals.
Can You Hear Me Now?
Our “tone deaf” response to this education evolution became obvious when our internal pay practices began to negatively impact employees (Negatively Impact = Prompt Resignations), who were being systematically underpaid only because they lacked a formal degree, and where in many instances they were actually outperforming their degreed co-workers doing identical work.
This prompted a revision of our pay policies, under certain circumstances, to recognize this education equivalence regardless of how it was acquired. However, gaining unconditional acceptance of this decision in an organization where formal degrees had previously conveyed professional status and personified almost the same unique qualities of a four-leaf clover proved to be understandably difficult. This value equivalence was eventually acknowledged and accepted (grudgingly), only after a lengthy education and engagement effort. A hard lesson, permanently learned.
Fast Forward To Present Day
I’ve noted that earlier this year I attended the WorldatWork Total Rewards Conference in Dallas. Besides providing an opportunity to catch-up on changes in the total rewards arena, it also presented an opportunity to touch base with a couple of peers who are in my “friends and family” network.
I was interested to hear that two of them had recently filled vacancies on their compensation teams. What surprised me was that one of the new hires had a prior background as an operations researcher and the other had been a behavioral/social scientist. But neither had much, if any, background in pay and compensation.
I didn’t think much more about this until the final day of the conference. While waiting to hear the final keynote speaker, I spotted someone I knew in a group of people and walked over to say hello. It turned out that the others in the group were my friend’s compensation team, and one individual had been hired just within the past month. When I asked, he indicated that he’d worked as a data scientist with his previous employer but had no HR or compensation experience.
There Are No Coincidences
Three recent compensation team hires, and none with any formal compensation background? We have a saying in our business. One event is an anomaly, two events may be a coincidence, but three events suggests a pattern. What was explained to me is that so much focus is now shifting towards analytics, big data, prediction and even programming that it’s preferable to hire employees for their technical skills, and then provide training in-house on the complementary pay and compensation fundamentals.
As a more “classically-trained” compensation professional, I wasn’t sure how I felt about this evolution in how practitioners were acquiring disciplinary knowledge through different channels . . . an observation I shared with the group.
Listen More Than You Talk
One person laughed and reminded me that in a panel discussion on the future of rewards functions earlier that morning (where I was a panel participant), one of our slides highlighted the likely skills needed by rewards professionals in the future. Which (you guessed it) made no mention whatsoever of compensation experience.
Whether an incredible coincidence or the beginning of a new trend, this reinforces that both awareness and acceptance of change should be the rule and not the exception, as business processes and the talent necessary to execute those processes accelerate with the advances in technology.
Everyone probably has a different perspective. What’s yours?
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.
Original image "Different Shoe Foot” courtesy of Chris Dobyns.