Getting a new salary structure is a lot like getting a new car. It's really satisfying seeing it there, unblemished, promising, after all the work it took to actually be able to own it. And we all know what comes next, don't we? Get behind the wheel and go.
Well . . . not so fast. This vehicle's a manual. Being in the driver's seat doesn't actually mean you're going to go anywhere.
I've worked with many growing companies just getting their first car, er, salary structure. I've worked with longstanding companies with an old salary structure that took them to the grocery store and back, but surely couldn't get up to speed on the highway like their new structure will. And I've worked with companies that are, or want to be, NASCAR competitors.
The point is, salary structures don't mean the same thing to all of them, even if all three of those companies have nine salary grades that are exactly the same from minimum to maximum. Numbers, like research findings, earn value when they equip us to make good decisions. That means something different in each organization.
The first question is, who's going to drive (the salary structure)? If the answer is the whole family, including managers, you really have to tell the truth about their driving skills. Just as in life, you don't have to give managers their own set of keys if you can't rely on their judgment. If you do give them their own keys when you know they can't yet be relied on, then they have accidents (and your "insurance rates" of employee turnover or engagement go up), you really only have yourself to blame. And, if you haven't given managers the keys when you know they are reliable, recognize that you're doing damage to your relationship with them, to their leadership abilities and to your company's culture.
You can and should wait to give managers freedom until they've hit some milestones that show you they are ready. They make that progress through training, discussion, coaching and demonstrated reliability. No one automatically understands how to manage a salary range and it's no surprise that managers hire over the midpoint, it's just human nature. Leadership and Human Resources need to be ready to guide manager behavior in collaboration, or all the training in the world won't achieve reliability.
If leadership and Human Resources don't have that kind of marriage, don't despair (yet). Start where you can make a difference by talking, often, earnestly and with consistent messaging. No one automatically understands how to manage a salary range. It's a lot like driving a standard shift, actually.
Like I was saying, Everything You Do (in Compensation) Is Communication. Coincidentally, this is the curious but wise title of our popular eBook. Margaret O'Hanlon, CCP collaborated with Ann Bares and Dan Walter to bring the book into the world. You can download it at www.everythingiscommunication.com. Margaret is founder and Principal of re:Think Consulting. She brings deep expertise in compensation, career development and communications to the dialog at the Café. Before founding re:Think Consulting, Margaret was a Principal with Towers Watson.