Tag Archives: Compensation

business card job title

Using Job Titles Instead of Pay to Compensate Employees

Writing a lot about compensation today! I also have a piece up about 3 ways compensation policies can cause employee turnover as well in case you want to check it out. . 

This past week I was talking with a friend and he explained that his job title had recently been changed from “XYZ specialist” to “XYZ manager.” He laughed and said that, of course, it didn’t come with a pay raise. I know those kinds of “promotions” are common, but I also explained to him that even if a raise didn’t come right away, having a title like that could lead to higher pay down the road.

For starters, even if there is no pay change, the recognition of your hard work with a title change can give you a sense of satisfaction with your work. Dan Pink’s book Drive talks about the three areas we need to hit in order to create an engaged workforce: autonomy, purpose, and mastery. This recognition hits squarely on the mastery piece, especially if the title change is conveyed appropriately. We want to feel like masters of our own domain, and that transition in job title can be one way of realizing that. Continue reading

press compensation transparency framework

How Pay Transparency Affects Equality, Engagement, and More

Next week I’m heading up to Massachusetts to talk about pay transparency to a group of HR and business leaders. Of all the topics I could have spoken about, why pay transparency?

First of all, it’s becoming more and more of an issue because of legislation that prevents employers from asking about salary history. Research shows that women are less likely to ask for higher salaries and these laws are about trying to reduce negotiations so that women and men have more equal pay for equal work.

Secondly, in a workplace where trust is at a premium, all the research points to considerable links between trust, transparency, and employee/business performance. We can’t have engaged employees without trust and transparency, and employers can’t succeed without engaged, energetic employees. It’s all connected!

The Options for Transparency

Employers have a range of options when it comes to transparency. They can be transparent about:

  1. Business decisions–why certain decisions are made and how they affect the workforce
  2. Job opportunities–are you sharing open jobs with internal staff or hoping they don’t find out about them and try to make internal moves?
  3. Compensation decisions–do workers know how decisions are made around compensation or is it a “black box” where decisions are made without any clarity or insight?

Deloitte’s research says that high-performing companies are 4.5x more likely to have a well-defined communications strategy, sharing information on pay determinants, budgets, and distribution.

The Spectrum of Transparency

The first thing that appears in your head when I say transparency around compensation might be a company like Buffer. Buffer posts its salaries on the website for the public to see. Yes, really. The company also shares radically about its business plans and other information openly. While this has worked out for the firm, it’s not something I’d recommend for everyone.

There are clear pros and cons for a fully open and transparent approach. The benefits include clear expectations, consistent compensation schedules, and difficulty to discriminate. However, the issues can include a lack of connection to performance, lack of organizational agility, and a significant difficulty to motivate/retain top performers.

Without some measure of transparency, bad things happen. For example, Lawler’s research shows that workers routinely OVERestimate the pay of their peers and subordinates and UNDERestimate the pay of their superiors. That means they are less happy with what you’re paying them!

Additionally, Helliwell and Huang’s research points out that a 10% increase in organizational trust is equal to a 36% increase in pay for workers. They want, need, and crave trust (and transparency), and it’s as important as a pay bump to get it!

Making it Stick

I have developed a five-part process called the PRESS framework that guides employers through the decisions that improve transparency.

press compensation transparency framework

What are your thoughts on compensation transparency? Is your organization doing a good job of this, or would you like to be doing better? 

*If you’re interested in having me speak at your conference or company on this topic please feel free to reach out to me!

money pay gap

Can Artificial Intelligence Solve the Pay Gap Problem?

Note: if this concept interests you then you definitely need to click here and sign up to get a heads up when my new book is coming out later this year. In the book I tell dozens of similar stories along with leveraging research and examples of AI technology to support HR, recruiting, and talent. It’s written in my usual, down-to-earth style and will introduce you to a wide variety of use cases, vendors in the HR tech space that are doing interesting work with AI, algorithms, machine learning, and more. Learn more: http://AIHRBook.com

money pay gapPay parity is all about ensuring that women and men earn the same pay for the same work, yet the gender pay gap is still alive and well. Sources vary but one estimate put it at 11% back in 2016 (source). For every dollar a man earns, a woman earns 89 cents. But can an artificially intelligent system that makes decisions without bias or regard for someone’s gender solve this problem? For example, if you could design a system that schedules work shifts and pay rates based on a blind algorithm that does not factor gender into the decision, you would logically expect to find that men and women earn the same in such a system, correct?

But what if I told you this isn’t the case? Continue reading

Compensation Transparency: Advice for Getting the Balance Just Right

When we think about tools like Expedia and Yelp, we realize the value of transparency in the marketplace. The
underlying issue is information asymmetry – when one party has more information than the other, that party
has additional leverage in a discussion or negotiation. Leveling the playing field between two parties in an
exchange helps both to feel like they got a fair deal, which is essential in an employment situation. This
specifically applies to compensation as well. There is value in openness, and companies that find the right
balance can reap the benefits of pay transparency

Research Supports an Open Approach: Research points out that companies where employees understand the pay philosophy are more likely to see engagement from employees. A sense of trust and openness at work can create bottom-line business results. On the other end of the spectrum, pay secrecy has proven to limit business impact. This combination of factors clearly makes the case that businesses need to seek transparency at some level.

Trends in Transparency: A wide variety of trends have contributed to this increased demand for compensation transparency. From the deep insights offered by tools like Charity Navigator (and other online transparency sites) to the media sharing stories of corporate corruption and scandal, many drivers have created an environment that is ripe for additional openness.

Delivering a High-Quality Employee Experience: The good news is that any organization can improve pay transparency. Using tools like transparency audits and frameworks, companies can deliver a culturally-appropriate level of openness that improves the employee experience. These methods help organizations to make decisions (both big and small) in search of the right balance of transparency.

The Business Case for Transparency

Several years ago, Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist and professor at Duke University, performed an analysis of country-specific organ donation rates. His findings showed that countries like Austria and Poland had higher than 99 percent donation rates, but countries like Denmark had dismal rates in the single digits. He wanted to find out what made each group different, because Denmark is very similar to its neighbors in terms of culture, religion, and other socioeconomic factors.

It turned out that the key influencer was not an intrinsic one at all. Each country’s Department of Motor Vehicles actually used a different method for enrolling someone in organ donation. For Austria and Poland, the enrollment form’s default was to participate in the program. For countries like Denmark, the enrollment form required them to opt into the program. That small difference led to significant impacts on organ donation and availability, and it offers a compelling lesson on how our default reactions can shape outcomes.

The lesson here is, given the choice, we should default to transparency. For some business leaders, it is reflexive to protect information, keeping it secret unless they have a good reason to share. While working as an HR leader, I performed plenty of coaching with my executive team focused on the concepts of pay transparency and business transparency in general. I always told them their default should be to share openly unless there are specific reasons not to. The benefits of this approach include greater awareness and engagement in the employee population.

If you’re interested in reading and learning more about compensation transparency, be sure to check out our free eBook on the topic underwritten by the great team at Salary.com, where this content was pulled from. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic!

Your Uber Drivers are Cheating Because They Don’t Want an Algorithm for a Manager

If you missed the news this last week, a pair of researchers have published a report showing that Uber drivers are gaming the system in order to earn more money, reduce pickups, and fight back against what they see as a tyrannical algorithm. Here’s a blurb from PBS:

As University of Warwick researchers Mareike Möhlmann and Ola Henfridsson and Lior Zalmanson of New York University say in their best academese: “We identify a series of mechanisms that drivers use to regain their autonomy when faced with the power asymmetry imposed by algorithmic management, including guessing, resisting, switching and gaming the Uber system.”

Algorithmic management is, of course, the software Uber uses to control its drivers. As Mareike Möhlmann puts it: “Uber uses software algorithms for oversight, governance and to control drivers, who are tracked and their performance constantly evaluated.”

A joint statement from the authors elaborated: “Under constant surveillance through their phones and customer reviews, drivers’ behavior is ranked automatically and any anomalies reported for further review, with automatic bans for not obeying orders or low grades. Drivers receive different commission rates and bonus targets, being left in the dark as to how it is all calculated. Plus drivers believe they are not given rides when they near reaching a bonus.

Small wonder then that, according to Lior Zalmanson, “The drivers have the feeling of working for a system rather than a company, and have little, if any interaction with an actual Uber employee.”

So what are the drivers doing in response? Gaming the system by tricking the algorithm.

The researchers report that drivers organize mass “switch-offs.” The dearth of drivers in a given area then triggers the surge pricing mechanism.

The authors conclude by summarizing their findings, pretty much as formally as they began: “We found that [the drivers] actively tried to regain some of their lost control and sense of autonomy. We reported four observed driver behaviors. We found that drivers tried to guess and make sense of the system’s intentions. They utilized forums such as UberPeople to share these stories and gain social support. In many cases, these stories were echoed by other drivers, creating an urge to act. This resulted in a range of practices to resist the system, by switching to alternative systems and even gaming the system to their advantage.”

While the rest of us aren’t switching out our managers for an algorithm any time soon, it’s important to note some of the key statements in this piece that relate to all of us as employers.

The drivers have the feeling of working for a system rather than a company, and have little, if any interaction with an actual Uber employeePeople want to interact with people. That’s not Uber’s business model, but we’re seeing now yet another strain on the company based on a fundamental fact that humans are social creatures.

When you work for a nameless, faceless system (or algorithm), it becomes much easier to cheat the system and fight back. It’s different if you’re having weekly conversations with real people who care about you and your success. Remember this idea when you’re trying to find out how to connect your remote employees.

We found that [the drivers] actively tried to regain some of their lost control and sense of autonomy. Is it any surprise that workers would like some sense of control or autonomy in their work? It’s a foundational management and leadership premise to provide autonomy to workers, yet Uber tries to treat its drivers like nothing more than the robots that power its algorithm and platform.

Do we really have to have a newsflash that reminds this company that people are, um, people? They have hopes. Dreams. Desires. And they will find a way to get them if they feel like they are not appreciated or supported appropriately.

Drivers receive different commission rates and bonus targets, being left in the dark as to how it is all calculated. Plus drivers believe they are not given rides when they near reaching a bonus. One of the first lessons you learn in HR? Don’t screw with someone’s pay. Whatever you do, be transparent and don’t make people guess about how their compensation works, or you run the risk of creating a black hole of negativity and gossip that will swallow the company whole.

In a previous job a big part of my compensation was a quarterly bonus that my family depended on. It never failed that each and every quarter the deadline for payment would pass, I would raise the question, and eventually it would get paid. But why make me or any other employee have to go through those hoops for that? It makes me wonder if I would have ever been paid ANY of it if I hadn’t brought it to their attention. When it comes to how pay is structured, be clear about the expectations, be transparent about the process, and for goodness’ sake pay people when you say you will.

Okay, that’s enough from me. What are your thoughts on this specific issue or these general issues? Am I on point? Off the mark? 

3 Examples of Evidence-Based HR in Action

evidence based approach to hr

Last week I had the pleasure of presenting a workshop based on metrics, evidence-based HR, and change management. The session was a lot of fun, because we were able to tie the three topics together in a variety of ways to help reiterate not only why each of them matters, but how each of them can really build value when used in conjunction with one another. HR is often using anecdotal information (if any at all), conjecture, and pure hope to make decisions, but we can do better. Today I want to go a little deeper than my post last week on “keeping up with the Joneses,” focusing more heavily on the evidence-based HR piece.

Note: We covered a relevant topic recently on the podcast: 3 Examples for Measuring HR’s Business Impact.

If you’re not familiar with evidence-based HR, here’s a primer:

Evidence-based human resources is the practice of identifying solutions and approaches that have a strong empirical basis.

In other words, we don’t just use gut instinct, an interesting anecdote, or anyone’s opinion to make our point. We use data and other solid evidence to support our decisions at every possible turn. But where does that evidence come from?

Sources for Evidence-Based Decisions

Here is a list of sources I offered the audience as credible options for finding research materials:

  • Management journals (scholar.google.com)
  • HBR
  • SHRM Foundation
  • Deloitte/Bersin
  • i4cp
  • CEB
  • ATD
  • CIPD

If you just do a quick Google search for one of these organizations and the topic you need to research, you’ll more often than not find something to help make your case. I actually had participants do this during the session, focusing on areas like recognition’s impact on productivity (definite linkage), using talent pools for faster hiring (no data we could find), and other relevant HR activities.

Be careful not to just grab a story of a company that is doing neat things and grabbing headlines, because that’s not enough to warrant good evidence. You want to find information from a study or some other data-backed approach that helps to lend credibility to your eventual decision. If it’s just a neat anecdote, then you’re really not improving the process any more than just making a decision based on gut instinct.

Making an Evidence-Based HR Decision

There are six key steps to making an evidence-based decision in the workplace.

  1. Asking: translating a practical issue or problem into an answerable question
  2. Acquiring: systematically searching for and retrieving the evidence
  3. Appraising: critically judging the trustworthiness and relevance of the evidence
  4. Aggregating: weighing and pulling together the evidence
  5. Applying: incorporating the evidence into the decision-making process
  6. Assessing: evaluating the outcome of the decision taken

Using this approach can help you to not only leverage evidence, but think critically about how valuable the evidence might be relative to other sources of data and information about your problem. Instead of going with the normal approach of “Bob said this worked at his last company,” we can use more credible sources of information to frame and resolve the issue.

Examples of Evidence-Based HR

Seeing this practice in action is the most powerful way to really “get” the value it can offer. I originally was turned off by the idea of having to research everything HR does on a daily basis, but in reality we make relatively few key decisions like those an evidence-based approach to HR would help with. For instance, New York spent more than $75 million on teachers to help increase student performance and teacher satisfaction. The result? No improvement. There is already data available that could have shown that this kind of approach has not yet been proven to deliver strong results (this examination of multiple studies still came away inconclusive, or “cautiously optimistic,” calling for additional research). Despite the lack of evidence, someone went ahead with the program anyway.

Here are a few examples of how it works in practice.

  • Selection Techniques-Your hiring managers are often used to creating high pressure interview situations to “see how candidates will respond.” They also like using tools like application data and GPA to filter out candidates. You find research that demonstrates the validity of their methods is in some cases no better than performing a coin flip to make a hiring decision, helping to sway them into using more structured methods and assessments for hiring decisions.
  • Employee Recognition-One of your managers is resistant to using recognition because “everyone can’t get a trophy” and she doesn’t want to “coddle” her workers. You find some existing research that points to the value of recognition not just in increasing worker satisfaction, but in increasing productivity as well, helping the manager to see the benefit to her and the team by improving her recognition skills and practices.
  • Performance Management-One of the trends in the US is “disposing” of the traditional approach and taking a different avenue for rating and assessing performance. You want to make this move with your company because you feel like your existing process is not adding organizational value. There isn’t much data, if any, available to support the different approach, but there is some data showing that collaborative environments support better teamwork and cultures than those focused on forced ranking and distribution of employees.

Leveraging research can drive immense value across the board, even for organizations outside the private sector. For instance, the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center, which repairs military aircraft for the US Air Force, used new research methods to speed repair processes for C-5 aircraft, allowing reductions in working capital of approximately $50 million (source: Deloitte).

While many of us aren’t working hands-on with aircraft, we still have the company’s largest budget item, its people, under our purview. Isn’t it time we started treating them like the valuable assets they are, managing them to the best of our abilities with the most relevant research and information available?

Salary Negotiation: It’s Not a Zero Sum Game

In every company, there comes a time when someone makes an offer to a candidate to come and work for them. What is interesting is the wide variety of advice in the marketplace that advises candidates on how to handle that critical negotiation.

Years ago I got my start in blogging by sharing career advice with job seekers looking for an edge in the hiring process. My peers constantly told people that for the strongest negotiating position, they should hold out as long as possible. In other words, it followed the old adage “the first one to speak in the negotiation loses.”

But that’s not necessarily true.

salary negotiationWhen I was recruiting, I wanted to find out from the candidate early on, whether through a job application question or through an informal conversation, what sort of salary range they were looking for. If it wasn’t offered, I would share the range of the opening early in the process. Was I showing my cards? Yes. But I was also attempting to conserve a valuable resource: time. Continue reading