Win/Win Compensation

Entrepreneurs are a unique bunch. They are right-brained, creative, idea-a-minute, kind of people who are brimming with passion and drive.  This is great of course, except for one thing...  They expect everyone around them to be exactly like they are, and they are confused and frustrated when they are not. This causes them to be constantly on the lookout for a “magic wand” they can use to rectify this. Often, this wand takes the shape of a shiny new compensation plan. The idea being, that the right plan will create the right behavior.

It all sounds like a great idea, but here’s the problem. If all you are offering is money, people will eventually default to their previous behaviour patterns. Sure, you can use money to shape behavior for a period of time, but not forever. That isn’t to say that compensation isn’t important.  It is critical. But as long as you’re paying your people fairly, it’s just not the place to start.

Before you implement a new compensation plan, do everything in your power to find the right people, build an amazing corporate culture, and give them all the training, tools, and support they need to do a great job. Once you’ve done that, it’s finally time to focus on your compensation plan.

A great plan starts with a great strategy. Start by thinking about what type of behaviours you are trying to reward. You can easily trade dollars for hours with an employee, but then that’s all you’ll get in return. What you want is for your people to contribute at the highest level, so ask yourself, what kind of compensation structure would support this in your organization?

In How to Keep Your Top Talent, Harvard Business Review contributors Jean Martin and Conrad Schmidt remind us that “An employee’s rewards should be in line with his or her contributions. If you’re treating everyone equally, you're not doing enough to support and keep the people who matter most.”

For starters, you can opt to pay your employees fixed or variable wages, or a combination of the two. Fixed wages and the benefits that go with them remain the same from month to month.

Variable pay refers to compensation that is based on performance and it has a lot of perks, including:

         Reducing costs associated with poor performance
         Assisting with talent retention
         Promoting teamwork
         Boosting profitability
         Encouraging flexibility
         Building loyalty
         Connecting work directly with company goals
         Fostering creative solutions
         Supporting a culture of continuous improvement

In order for variable pay systems to be effective they must be realistic, valued by your employees, and encourage a corporate culture that will foster your strategic objectives.

SKC Based Compensation Systems (Skills, Knowledge, and Competency) compensate employees for the skills they have. Soft skills like time management, hard skills like languages, and degrees, training, and certification all come into play. You can base your compensation strategy on the core values of your business, the roles your employees fill, or their certifiable skills--whatever you value most.

Incentive-based Compensation Systems reward specified results within shorter time frames, typically a year or less. These short-term objectives tie into your company’s long-range goals, and must be measurable to produce useful results. A gift card, trip, or bonus to reward the month’s top salesperson is a great example.

Profit Sharing plans pay employees based on your company’s profitability in addition to your employee’s regular salary and bonuses.

Gain Sharing organizes employees into groups to discuss operational changes that will increase revenue or decrease costs, resulting in gains for the business. These think-tanks meet on a regular basis to continually improve systems and share in the revenue saved or generated.

Ownership and Stock Options encourage employees to behave more strategically. When employees reap the benefits of the company’s long-term success, they tend to work and think like owners, and that is the direction you want to be heading!

4 basic steps to designing a successful compensation strategy:

Know where you want to go. Begin with the end in mind. What is it you are actually hoping to achieve? Are you attempting to attract only the best and brightest new college grads over the next year or are you looking to hire twenty seasonal warehouse employees for the night shift by the end of the week? Know your objectives and work towards that end. A great compensation system is derived from a plan and a purpose.

Know where you’re at. Understand your current state and environment, and how you got there. Is it based on tradition, market trends, or simply happenstance? Be realistic about the benefits and drawbacks of your present compensation system and ask your top-level managers and employees for their input. 

Know the players. Do you have the right people in the right positions? Does every single employee on your payroll belong there? Are your key roles filled with exceptional top talent? Do you know what motivates them and how to retain them? If you don’t, there’s no time like the present to start asking questions.

Know what you’ve got to work with. Define the compensation tools available to you, and establish how to use the best methods to your mutual advantage. Will your employees receive a fixed wage, a variable wage (such as a sales commission) or a combination of the two? Will your incentives be based on team or individual performance? Do you want to reward skills, knowledge, and competencies above loyalty and tenure?

Stop thinking of compensation as a burden. Here are 8 ways your compensation system can work for you:

Pay for value, productivity, or quality as opposed to time whenever possible. It’s what an employee does with the time that is important. Basic hourly rates with no room to reward excellence are not motivating to top talent.

Tie pay rate to skills rather than position whenever possible. When employees are motivated to improve their skills, everyone wins.

Tie variable pay to individual and team or overall company performance. It is important for your employees to identify with the growth of the department or organization as a whole, not just their own performance.

Design a clear and concise compensation plan that is easy to understand. When employees see a direct correlation between their efforts and the success of the company, they know exactly what success looks like.

Provide regular feedback, instill measurable KPIs, and let individuals and teams know how they are doing on a regular basis. It gives employees the opportunity to ramp up efforts on their own if they are falling short in any areas.

Reinforce excellence by giving any incentives, bonuses, or raises in a timely manner. Behavior tends to be repeated (and emulated) if it is rewarded quickly, but something gets ‘lost in translation’ if too much time has elapsed. A predictable annual bonus is ‘too general’ to have any real meaning and comes to be expected for no real return on investment. Instead, tie that bonus to excellence for results that will knock your socks off.

Make sure your top talent knows their value to the company. Show them--not just by the zeros on their paycheck, but by non-monetary rewards as well, and by recognition, both private and public.

Remind your employees that benefits are wage alternatives. It can be easy for employees to take the added financial value of medical, dental, and child-care benefits for granted. Have comprehensive benefits in place, and ensure your team remembers and recognizes their value when it comes to compensation.

Your compensation system is part of your brand and should reflect your corporate culture at every turn. No matter what combination of compensation strategies you use, ensure that every dollar you spend on compensation has a purpose and drives your business continually forward.

12 Simple Ways to Show New Hires They Matter

Onboarding and Orientation are your first opportunities to develop a meaningful and lasting relationship with your new hires. Onboarding is an ongoing process of building engagement from the first point of contact until the employee becomes established within your organization. Orientation is the crucial stage of the onboarding process where new employees learn about the company and their new responsibilities within it.

Studies have shown that taking the time to lay a solid foundation during the onboarding process boosts employee retention and benefits everyone involved:

  • Staffing turnaround times are substantially shorter
  • Other employees carry less of the burden and focus on their top priorities
  • New hires are useful and productive quicker and stay with the company longer
  • Candidates can be proactive and take steps to familiarize themselves with the company on their own time, reducing their stress and your expense

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Ensure your incredible new employee’s first day is productive, purposeful, and organized to make a great first impression and improve your odds of retaining top-tier talent. Here’s how:

1. Send a personalized email to welcome the new employee a day or so before their start date. Include time, date, location, and the name of the person who will be heading up the orientation. List anything they should bring with them. Identification, meals, special equipment or clothing--make a comprehensive checklist and keep it current. Let new hires know what to expect on their first day. Include organized links to employee handbooks, FAQs, legal paperwork, policies and procedures, videos, and tutorials. These systems should be continuously improving as you get feedback from your new hires.

2. Prepare your staff. Gather your staff (or send an email) a few days before your new hire arrives. Encourage and facilitate ideas to welcome and successfully onboard fresh recruits. Note their job title, direct supervisor, and pertinent information, and get your team excited about what this new player is bringing to the table. Select an amazing company representative to show them around. Choose an ambassador wisely to ensure your corporate culture is accurately and positively reflected. They will be responsible for helping them settle in over the next few weeks, and even years. Involve senior leadership, mentors, and A-Players to put your company's best foot forward. 

3. Nail the basics. It really isn’t rocket science. New employees require some basic tools to get started. It is astonishing how many first-day horror stories are out there--new hires showing up to a workplace that has failed to provide them with a desk, a computer, or even the most rudimentary supplies. Implement an excellent automated onboarding system, but be sure to provide a personal touch as well. There is no shortage of paperwork with new hires. A comprehensive introduction package complete with business cards, email account, keys, security codes, calendars, and the like let people hit the ground running. Add important dates and benchmarks to their calendar, including training, follow-ups, performance reviews, and meetings to allow new employees to feel like part of the team immediately. Your employees should have the tools they need at all times, but it is especially important at this fledgling stage. You get one chance to make a first impression--make the most of it.

4. Go above and beyond. Be unique and memorable. If the new employee has recently moved to your area, provide a welcome package for the family. Gift certificates for great local restaurants. Maps. Points of interest. Tips on getting around. A local gym membership. Think outside the box to welcome your new hire and it will not soon be forgotten. What better opportunity to showcase your culture, your vision, and your values than by fostering an immediate sense of community?

5. Teach new hires to speak your language. A comprehensive glossary of company acronyms, industry terminology, and buzzwords makes the whole process less intimidating and facilitates quicker assimilation, integration, and productivity. We’ve all been “left out of the loop” at some point and know how unpleasant and counterproductive it is. Letting people in on your lingo is a simple and effective way to catch someone up-to-speed quickly and make them feel like part of the conversation from the get-go.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

6. Make remembering names foolproof. Remembering names is a daunting task for many of us at the best of times. It can cause a great deal of anxiety and requires a lot of brain power. During orientation, new hires should be focused on learning tasks at hand. Take the pressure off by creating an organizational chart with individual and team photos. It lets new employees breathe easy and avoid embarrassment by studying at their leisure later. Be sure to include name, contact information, position, and supervisor.

7. Meet the team. Start with the new hire’s immediate supervisor, then team or department members. Nothing sets someone’s mind at ease like meeting the people they’ll be working alongside. Try not to introduce too many people at once, and ensure your new hire can steal a moment to review the organizational chart, names, and photos along the way.

8. Tour the facility. Getting the ‘lay of the land’ helps people to relax in their new surroundings. Where do you park? Where is the supply room? And more importantly, where are the donuts? Take this opportunity to go through security protocol, check that all keys and ID cards work properly, and ensure that your new hire is confident and comfortable getting around.

9. Answer their questions. Getting the same questions time after time? Your FAQs and handbook probably require improvements. Take the time to lay the groundwork by answering questions thoughtfully and thoroughly. Don’t be afraid to say “I’ll get back to you on that.” No one has all the answers 100% of the time, and it sets the tone for transparency and doing things right--the first time!

10. Paint a clear picture of what success looks like. Just like our amazing office manager says, “clear is kind.” Just because someone has amazing skills and capabilities doesn’t mean that they will automatically ‘translate’ in their new position at your company. Even expert new hires can feel a bit like a fish out of water when they find themselves in a new environment. Clear, measurable goals and realistic expectations set the right tone from day one.

11. Get started. Find a practical way for your stellar new hire to make a valuable contribution on their very first day. It cements the relationship and creates an air of excitement and possibility.

12. Follow Up. Everyone has questions. Ensure that a dedicated team member is available to answer them. Schedule a post-orientation follow-up (with a senior manager if you aren’t available to do so personally) after their first week, and at key intervals for their first year. New hires are particularly susceptible to turnover during the first three to six months. Onboarding is a process, and if you do it right, your employee retention rate will skyrocket. New employees who feel valued and heard tend to stay with organizations for significantly longer periods of time.


You spend untold fortunes recruiting, vetting, hiring, and training stellar employees. Don’t let your time and money go to waste. Make sure your new hire’s first year is positive and productive, and you will see far greater job satisfaction and long-term employee retention.
 

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