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I for one, value the alternatives (along with the cash), but find there are also few dollars available for the extracurricular activities, such as conferences.

Focusing on non-cash rewards such as flexibility in scheduling, work from home, etc is the cheapest and sometimes most effective tool in the tool box. The flexibility may be difficult for those in HR who feel that a visible presence is needed in the office - even when everyone else is out.... but it has changed, is changing, and probably depends on your business.

As you noted, Karen, change is indeed constant, although hardly ever consistent in its pace or direction. Other alternatives also include promotions (already implied above), recognition and almost anything prized by the performer. Suggest more, folks, please!

Jim, interesting.

I wonder whether base pay is best used to recognize 'merit' differences. Perhaps using base pay to acknowledge increases in the value of acquired skill? Then use variable pay which does not remain a 'gift that keeps on giving' to acknowledge measured differences in performance?

"Promotions" these days seem to be more defined in terms of 'title inflation' and I wonder about their reward value. If you look at the reward field the organizations that 'go where other organizations have not gone' seem to gain advantage with their workforce.

Yes, Jay: today's constrained increase budgets are insufficient to fund base bumps credibly proportional to the value of notably distinguished performance. Tiny increase differences are imperceptible. More important, the infinite compounding effect of any big base pay increase is often unjustified when the great work in one period turns out to be an aberration in future years.

As you suggest, I feel it would be better in these low-budget times to restrict base changes to the limited role of addressing nominal maturity curve progress. Then use variable rewards (including non-cash and lump sum cash bonuses) for extreme positive outliers.

Promotions remain the source of the largest income gains over time, so they will remain prized even when their application is bogus. As a worker's essential role, KSAs and leverage position change, pay should be adjusted accordingly. But that's easier said than done.

Enterprises that lead don't follow trends but set new ones.

The advantage of variable pay or 'lump sum awards' is they are reusable dollars and do not plow into fixed cost. The 'smart money' is always on the innovators. In this case the organizations (HR peoples' ideas?) that turn a challenge like the 'small base pay dollar increase budgets' into an advantage. Rather than settling for a 'merit budget' that does little, they fund a lump sum budget. A 2% this year becomes a 4% next year because the dollars are used again and again.

The problem we are facing is the 'minimum wage' laws are going to increase the cost of the least skilled in the workforce. What we need is more money to make 'skill building' valuable. Organizations are already seeking ways to minimize the impact of minimum wage increases by more technology, work redesign, etc. So we need to make it attractive for people to acquire needed skills and probably relocate to where they can find work.

If you define a 'promotion' in terms of moving to work that requires more needed skill then I vote for 'promotions'. But too many 'promotions' are just giving out titles with no value added to the organization.

The most successful organizations do not merely look around for a business, product, or service strategy to copy from others. They invent one that makes sense. Yet in human resources we continue to define 'competitive' improperly. It should mean evaluating where your organization and people need to be to 'win the business battle' and create a solution that gets them there.

When the folks sailed for the 'new world' they did not aim for Italy . . .they did something others did not do . . . headed for America.

Good points, Jay. If Christopher C. had heeded surveys, he would have remained in the middle of a convoy from Genoa to Rome. No one remembers those hesitant followers who thought competition meant lining up behind the leader. You can't get ahead by looking behind.

If the world is round, do all good ideas lead back to where we started?

Old ideas become new again, perhaps with a fresh spin.

Is healthcare going back to high deductible plans, where you pay for your services and have coverage for catastrophic losses, like the old catastrophic plans, with added savings accounts.

Performance evaluations became so complicated, the leaders of the pack are doing away with the annual evaluation and going with continuous feedback. But they will find that an annual barometer is needed, so there will be road back to some kind of point in time measure. How else will you judge merit or allocate those variable dollars?

Good ideas never disappear, Karen, but they certainly do get recycled; the best are continually rediscovered and rebranded. To identify relative newcomers to our field, simply note their shock at suddenly discovering a basic truth long known by more experienced professionals.

For more on that specific topic, watch for a forthcoming article entitled "Buzzwords and Baby Steps."

From time to time contractors, particularly open shop or non-union contractors, receive letters requesting copies of certified payroll documents relating to public projects on which they have worked. These requests sometimes come on letterhead from some innocuously named organization purporting to be a benevolent protector of workmen. These requests are almost never innocent and without motive.

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