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Timely reminder, Ann. As the notoriously close-mouthed National Security Agency demonstrated a few years ago at the Total Rewards global conference, simply announcing your willingness to open your books and show your procedures deflects criticism. Folks know that you can defend anything you are willing to explain. That is ALSO the precise reason they instinctively suspect anything you keep secret. Just offering to expose facts frequently extinguishes misleading gossip.


Ah yes, "lifting the cone of silence"!

Agree that even demonstrating willingness to open the books and explain procedures can deflect criticism ... because it suggests good faith and confidence in the rightness of your practices. And, to your point, secrecy or hiding behind weasel words suggests the opposite.


Need to keep any explanation very simple. If not people get confused and more frustrated.


Good point - confusing people will not get us across the goal line. But my experience leads me to believe that most employees are able to grasp the fundamentals of their base and bonus/incentive compensation programs, if they are designed well and explained in a basic and straightforward manner.

Having said that, though, I have also run into compensation plans that even I can't figure out after spending a couple of hours reading through the materials and exhibits. This takes me back to my baseline assumption that we are talking about a clear, well-designed program to begin with. If not, well, all bets are off!

It appears that you are separating compensation program credibility from the larger issue of organizational credibility. In my experience, you don't have one without the other.

This does not diminish the importance of frequent communication regarding rewards and recognition programs, starting with the philosophy surrounding them. Even in organizations where trust is high, not everybody understands the details of how and why they are paid.

Of course, in those organizations the reason trust is high is because of good communications regarding all aspects of the business, including comp.


Your point is an important one. Without broader organizational credibility it is unlikely that you'll be able to achieve much in the way of pay program credibility. Two thoughts back: (1) The length of a blog post is a limiting factor to this being a truly encompassing discussion of broader trust and credibility in relation to pay, and (2) I do encounter situations where trust in the pay program is decidedly lower than trust in other areas of the organization. I have had employees tell me: "Great company, great manager, love my job and the work I do BUT I don't believe that our pay program is competitive/effective/doing what it is supposed to. My intent was to offer some more pinpointed, admittedly narrow advice relative to angst that is more specific to pay for that reason.

This isn't to disagree with your thoughts though - appreciate your sharing them and making an important contextual point.

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