Can you think back to when you were first hired or promoted into your current compensation leadership role? Do you recall what it was that your new boss said would be expected of you? Was the message you heard something like this?
- "We just need you to administer the current programs"
- "Everything is working well. Keep it that way"
- "Don't rock the boat; just keep things steady"
- "We're a traditional organization. Don't try to be a trend setter."
- "We pretty much know what we're doing. We just need you to follow along."
Now that's probably not exactly what you were told though, as chances are that no one would ever admit to uttering those words. You must have been mistaken, they would say. Instead, what they would prefer to recall saying to you, or at least what they think they meant, was something like this.
- "We need a game changer, someone to shake things up around here"
- "We have problems (insert specifics here) and we need you to fix them"
- "Someone with your knowledge and experience is really needed here"
- " Tell us what we need to do. You'll have complete leadership support"
- "You have a great opportunity to make a difference here"
Now wait a minute. These are two completely different messages, and would require two separate skill sets and personal motivation in a candidate. The first message wants you to simply administer the current reward programs, to keep the ship afloat, moving in the right direction - and while you're at it don't let yourself step off the line that they've clearly marked out for you. Change agents are not welcome. The status quo is.
The second is quite the opposite message, demanding change, demanding leadership and demanding that you push the organization in the appropriate / proper (not "right") direction.
As a newly minted compensation leader, which message do you want you hear? Which one suits your "sweet spot" comfort level? Which one would encourage you to stay with this organization past your first year?
And lest we forget, there is the very real possibility that you were in fact told one thing (the change agent) while circumstances would soon dictate another (the administrator). This happened to me once, so I know the game is played.
It Depends on You
Chances are that if you consider yourself a change agent personality you won't be happy with the routine administration, though technically you'd be very capable. However, if the status quo is leadership's only objective, the search for competency in candidates would be easier, as even a modicum of technical ability would be suitable. Some organizations might even promote a Financial Analyst or even a long serving Compensation drone. They wouldn't need more.
But the wrong person would drown in such a morass of "if it ain't broke, don't play with it" mentality.
The real state of play may be hard for you to figure out, until you're already ankles deep in the slow speed or the fast speed. And the title they give you won't help, as title inflation can puff up the most mundane environments. You could end up being the VP of (administrative) Compensation.
What's in a title, anyway? Is it a convenient reward for past efforts, like a label, or is it actually a description of what you're supposed to be doing? If you're a Manager in your organization do you manage your responsibilities? Or if you have a Director's title, do you actually direct the affairs of your group? But what if you do have a business card with one of those lofty designations, but on a day-to-day basis you're really just keeping the ship afloat, administering, processing papers and making sure that no one's feathers are ruffled?
Have a care to make sure that your career defines you and builds your title, not the other way around.
Unless you're just going along for the ride.
Chuck Csizmar CCP is founder and Principal of CMC Compensation Group, providing global compensation consulting services to a wide variety of industries and non-profit organizations. He is also associated with several HR Consulting firms as a contributing consultant. Chuck is a broad based subject matter expert with a specialty in international and expatriate compensation. He lives in Central Florida (near The Mouse) and enjoys growing fruit and managing (?) a clowder of cats.
Creative Commons image,"Hand Mirror," by Sarah G