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There have been enterprises with exactly those characteristics in the past and in the present. Not sure how prevalent that combination of methods are, or how frequently they are emulated, because such "different" and "unique" approaches tend to be resisted in many places. If it's NIH, new, foreign or nontraditional, some declare it can't be "best practice" unless it is modal (most frequently observed).

Jim - good points and thanks for commenting. I know from bitter personal experience that the proponents of NIH can extract a very heavy price. Hence my point that one of the Big Boys will have to go first; if/when that happens, there's a mad rush to follow.

Interesting thoughts, Tony. There is a trend towards "equality" in pay which means less differentiation - even when there are valid reasons. And let's not forget, the impact of more regulations and compliance concerns.

But I don't think everything the Big Boys come up with can filter down to other mid-large companies. OR if they do, it ends up being so many years later that the Big Boys are already onto something else by then.

I read some of the Boston Globe's Best Places to Work survey results tonight. I wouldn't call any of these companies Big Boys. Perhaps true change in the rewards approach is happening with the little boys already. And maybe employees are really looking for something less tangible when their basic needs are being met.


I'm not sure the "big boys" are the first to implement new things. In fact it seems to me it is the smaller companies and even start-ups that blaze the trail. Maybe it's because they are just more "nimble" and can move faster than the "big boys" who are larger and frankly (in my opinion) more bureaucratic.

Karen & Jacque: Thanks for weighing in, and point well taken. If I'd had another 25 words available in the original post, I would have said that this type of innovation is unlikely to first emerge in one of the Big Boys, but rather that it will not be viewed as a best practice until it is adopted by one, at which point the rush to follow ensues...

Agree with Tony, because I knew and counseled the CEO of one such innovator. His was a small/medium employee-owned manufacturer with EVERYTHING totally transparent. He negotiated a leave of absence (he reported to the entire work force) to write articles, give speeches and travel to Big Boys as a messianic evangelist advocating their proven successful approach. Long story short, everyone wanted his firm's financial performance results but all were terrified of the loss of personal power involved and universally refused to adopt the required methods. NIH won again.

Hi Tony,
I think generalizing what happens in public governmental agencies to the privet sector may be overreaching. My perception of HR in the public sector is not a progressive one. I’m sure this is not always the case. Also, being forced to be transparent is different than an approach a company would take that was strategically choosing to do it.

If a company like Google chose to be transparent with their pay their approach and implementation would be very different and be done in a way that would not lead to flattening and compression.

When you look at pay and turnover are you more worried about lower in range paid and performing employees leaving because they feel underpaid or higher performing but pay flattened employees leaving? There is a risk of pay transparency leading to pay flattening and compression but it is not a forgone conclusion. In my opinion the companies that do it first will make sure they do it right and have strong performance management programs and culture. It’s the “me too” companies that will be at a greater risk.

In my opinion, pay transparency is another opportunity to elevate the pay strategy discussion to a higher level to make sure it is done right and imbedded into the fabric of how the company operates and I reject the idea that it must lead to the end of pay differentiation. Through this discussion a company may take an approach that flattens pay as a strategic differentiator and target a workforce that is mission based because of what the company does but I don’t believe pay transparency has to lead to one outcome.

Thanks for your contribution!

Trevor, thanks for your input.

To be clear, I am not advocating for this approach, and I am emphatically not suggesting that the private sector should or can adopt the policies and practices of the public sector. What I am doing is donning my futurist hat and saying that this is where I see trends directing compensation programs.

Transparency may be a strategic choice at the moment, but I suspect it will ultimately be forced on us as either a best practice, a cultural norm, or a legal/regulatory requirement. When that happens, the known effect is flattening and compression, to the point that it becomes difficult or impossible to differentiate base pay. (And I have omitted from this the whole discussion about whether it makes any sense to annuitize into perpetuity someone's past performance in the form of base salary increases.)

None of these developments will obviate the need for performance management, or to find other ways of compensating/rewarding your highest-performing employees. I have speculated about what performance management might look like and what some of those rewards might be.

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