Superstar. Top performer. Rock star. High potential. Super hero. It's the time of year for these terms to trend. Many organizations are finishing up on focal reviews and determining merit increases right now. Managers are adding up the increases for those who go by these titles because, ever since the recession, you need to show up for work wearing a Marvel costume to be eligible for anything beyond a negligible salary bump.
With just a few bucks to spread around, common sense tells you to bet on the sure thing. But do we really know what that means in our companies? Have we tested our assumptions to determine if our super hero's past success really does measure future "world dominance?" I have wondered about this and was hoping you were, too.
This week, I ran into a timely article in the Harvard Business Review (HBR) that should teach us to be careful. Here's what I mean.
HBR " . . . decided to put our expensively honed analytic skills to work . . . looking at the career paths of the 24 women who head Fortune 500 companies. What we found suprised us . . . All told over 70 percent of the 24 CEOs spent more than ten years at the company they now run, becoming long-term insiders before becoming CEO." Others advanced over decades at a single company to then make a lateral move to CEO at another company.
The median long stint for the women CEOs they studied is 23 years at a single company before becoming CEO. For men in the HBR sample, the median is 15 years. "This means that for women, the long climb is over 50% longer than for their male peers."
Odds are all these women were considered strong performers throughout their long slog. But superstars? I can easily imagine management conversations where these women's focus and commitment were compared less than favorably to someone else's flash. Can't you?
Hard work takes a lot of forms, so let's make sure our decisions for 2015 are as well-considered as possible. So much attention is put on whether an incumbent is "at risk" that, under this pressure, we overlook opportunities to make much more valuable investments in the future. Employees who are truly dedicated to your company's success would not be considered "at risk." Why disdain their commitment and engagement?
Margaret O'Hanlon, CCP is founder and Principal of re:Think Consulting. She brings deep expertise in communications, compensation and career development to the dialog at the Café. Before founding re:Think Consulting, Margaret was a Principal with Towers Watson. She's wondering if you've completed the self assessment on page 73 of Everything You Do (in Compensation) Is Communication? It will help you do a better job on 2014 focal review right away. You can download the book at www.everythingiscommunication.com. Margaret collaborated with Ann Bares and Dan Walter to bring it into the world. Filled with innovative ideas, practical tips and experienced advice, it's a quick read and a valuable resource for building your influence as a compensation strategist.