Fostering a Collaborative Relationship as Compensation Partner
Dec. 10, 2019, 3:03 p.m.
In my earlier and more formative years as a Compensation Analyst, I presumed myself to be the expert. Surely, I knew more than the business did when it came to market matches and job leveling, and they would be nothing less than appreciative that I was willing to spend my precious time culling through salary surveys so I could provide them my expert counsel and recommendations.
I eventually learned that collaboration and transparency provided a much richer partnership and better opportunities for discussion around the jobs. As I developed as a Compensation Consultant and Business Partner, I found much greater success through partnerships with increased transparency and empathy.
Transparency goes a long way
In the cases where we truly had a job that was unique to the business, or one where the market matches were all close, but not close enough, I have found a lot of success in sharing several job descriptions from the salary surveys. By “showing all my cards” and explaining where the data comes from and there was no additional data available, the business generally understood the challenges, and worked *WITH* me to find market matches.
In some cases, if the job level had been agreed upon, but the match was still questionable, sharing the market values for each of the matches being debated often quickly finalized the review. Often, if the roles are in the same function (i.e. – marketing, channel marketing, brand marketing, product marketing, etc…) the market data may not vary significantly from one function to another. When the market data is similar, finding the exact right match may become a little bit less contentious, as the pay band is unlikely to change, especially if a grade structure is in place. I am not suggesting that the finding right match is not important, but rather suggesting that sharing more data may enable the business to make more collaborative decisions and feel less pressured that they only have one chance to “pick the right match”.
Oh, by the way: since we began developing the Compensation Tool as practitioners, our software incorporates a lot of lessons learned as a compensation analyst, including exclusive ways to automate and collect user feedback on your market matches and how to compare survey data within similar disciplines.
Compensation is critically important to attracting, retaining and engaging employees and is almost always personal. Exercising empathy and understanding the problems that your business partners (line managers, HR partners, recruiters, and other stakeholders) was an important lesson to learn.
Before you offer suggestions, listen to your stakeholders. Encourage them to share the issues they are facing and how they think Compensation is part of their challenge and what their expectations are from their Compensation Partner. As crazy as it may sound, but simply asking the question "What do you want to do?" may quickly lead to a resolution.
By acknowledging their needs, their specific challenges, and expectations, you will be able to better solve their issues, while reinforcing the partnership. By allowing the managers to talk through their challenges, my personal experience has been that simply saying things aloud, and talking through the issues, often results in the managers solving their own problems, without even offering any analysis or recommendations. (Just to clarify: it is ill-advised to attend a meeting without the expectation or preparation to provide an opinion or recommendations.)
Though all situations and people will be different, providing a reasonable level of transparency (which may change with each situation) and exercising empathy will help to foster a collaborative relationship which will have long lasting positive results in your interactions with your stakeholders.