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Great post - and I'm inspired to jump in. I think employees are making a critical point that we, in the rewards field, often overlook because we are so focused on the tree level that we lose sight of the forest.

Pay is a critical expression of culture and the ultimate test of what is valued in an organization. Organizations - ultimately - are what they reward.

I shared a story about this reality drawn from a chapter in the Oxford Handbook on Organizational Climate and Culture back a few years ago - shared here to reinforce my point!


One study does not justify general statements about the meaning of pay in our culture. You need to look at many studies with a variety of employees, companies, etc, before you can attempt general statements.

For example, I have seen studies that show that pay is very important in deciding where to work for certain employees, but once hired, others aspects of the employment relationship take precedence, like the quality of management, opportunities for advancement, and doing interesting work.

Your final statement here is on the money, so to speak:

These explanations are by no means definitive or exhaustive, but do signal the need for more small data to really understand the roles and relationships between pay and culture, and to help driver greater alignment between employees and company leadership.

Not surprisingly, when you frame or define pay as an element of culture, people will report pay as an element of culture.


How was culture defined in the survey? Itj could have different meanings to different people.

Important characteristics of any organization have to include the features that comprise the employee value proposition. Pay is a foundation element that both influences and reflects the enterprise's culture.

To say that pay is an important part of corporate culture is kind of obvious, since most people are employed to earn a living. The more I thought about about the question posed here, the more I realized that we were overlooking an obvious point. The linked reference to a definition of corporate culture by Schein, the father of organizational culture, does not mention pay in the extensive definition, even among the artifacts.

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