10 Ways to Manage Pay & Performance

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10 Ways to Manage Pay & Performance

Most employees want the opportunity to earn more pay based on performance, but such initiatives can be difficult for employers to create and administer. Here are 10 things to consider when managing pay and performance.

1. Does your culture align with a pay for performance program?

To be effective, your organization’s culture should align with a pay for performance program. This means that your organization should be committed to rewarding, recognizing, and promoting top performance, and employees should be aware of this commitment. It’s also important that your culture conveys an atmosphere of fairness and objectivity. Otherwise, pay for performance programs will fall prey to perceptions of subjectivity and bias, limiting their effectiveness.

2. What are the goals of the pay for performance program?

A pay for performance program can have many types of goals such as to improve productivity; increase customer satisfaction; enhance product quality; generate more innovation; boost revenues and profits; or reward top performers. Most goals for a pay for performance program focus on improving individual, team, and/or organizational performance. Be sure that the goals of this program are relevant to the business’s goals and needs.

3. What types of performance criteria will be rewarded?

The goals you define for the pay for performance program help determine what types of performance criteria will be rewarded. For example, if your goal is to increase customer satisfaction, the performance criteria may be customer satisfaction scores, number of customer complaints, or general customer feedback. If your goal is to improve productivity, the performance criteria might be quantity of products created, number of processes streamlined, or behaviors that enhance efficiencies. You may also consider making the performance criteria number of goals achieved or the impact of goals reached.

4. How will performance criteria be measured?

Often employers rely solely on performance reviews to measure criteria for a pay for performance program (i.e. a rating of “5” gets the highest incentive). While performance reviews can be a helpful measure, more objective measures of performance that aren’t as susceptible to rating error, supervisory perceptions and biases, or an ineffective form, should also be considered and used to measure performance criteria. Examples of such measures include goal setting, observable behaviors, and actual results (financial, quantity, or quality measurements).

5. Who will measure the performance and make pay decisions?

Sometimes performance can be measured without an individual, but other times, especially in the case of goal setting, observation, and performance reviews, an individual will need to measure performance , typically a supervisor, manager, or leader. Because these measurements are subject to human error, it’s critical that individuals are trained appropriately. Additionally, your organization will need to determine who will make pay decisions. Will you leave this discretion to your managers, providing them a fund to distribute these rewards?  Will HR or senior leaders be involved in the process, and to what degree? Most organizations involve all three groups at some level.

6. What type of pay for performance will you offer for meeting this performance criteria?

Not surprisingly, the most common types of pay for performance are merit pay, individual incentives, and bonuses. These programs tend to be easiest to administer and focus on individual performance. Increasingly, however, we are seeing some employers offer profit sharing, gain sharing, and employee stock ownership programs. While more complicated to administer, these programs have tremendous value, providing greater transparency and line of sight into organizational performance, reinforcing teamwork and collaboration, and offering employees a greater stake in the organization – giving them a true sense of autonomy and ownership. We find that organizations are offering multiple types of pay for performance for different segments of their workforce. This is ideal when different behaviors or results are desired that don’t necessarily fit one reward approach.

7. How much pay will be based on performance?

The trick to determining how much pay will be based on performance is determining what percent or portion of pay will have an impact on employee motivation or specific results you are seeking. Generally, studies find that when only 2-3% of pay is tied to performance, this is not enough to motivate desired behaviors or results. We have seen organizations reserve 2-4% for salary increases (i.e. cost of living, across-the-board, or merit) and 5-15% for incentive/bonus payout (with 15% typically targeted for executives). For example, NorthCoast 99 winners, provide an average of 10.3% incentive/bonus payout to top performers, 5.6% to average performers, and 7.3% overall.

8. What is the timing of payout for the rewards?

Most employers pay out rewards annually, but depending on the type of program a monthly, quarterly, or biannual payout may be more beneficial. Annual payouts may help your organization better manage costs and ensure that you have the funds to pay incentives to employees; however, there are advantages to paying out more frequently. When rewards are distributed closer to the time they were achieved, employees are more likely to view them as objective and relevant to their performance. In addition, paying out more often reinforces an on-going performance culture in which performance matters all year – not just at year-end – and makes supervisors manage performance on an on-going basis.

9. How will the program be funded and what are you willing to pay (the budget)?

Most pay for performance programs are funded using organizational profits or revenues. In this way, organizations frequently make pay for performance dependent on at least two factors: individual or team performance and organizational performance. Each year, you may budget for a percentage of revenues or profits that will be used to pay for performance. Organizational performance would dictate whether payout can occur.

10. How will the program reinforce other HR programs?

Pay for performance, at its best, reinforces and complements other HR programs and total rewards initiatives. What you reward in a pay for performance program should be similar to what you reward in a recognition program and how you promote people. Be sure to send your employees consistent messages about the results and behaviors you’re looking for, otherwise, your message will be lost.

Variable Pay Plans and Incentive Programs

Variable Pay Plans and Incentive Programs

Variable pay plans can be used as a motivation and retention tool for top performing employees.

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Local Trends in Compensation Policies & Strategies

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According to a research study conducted by ERC, the majority of employers (58%) have no written compensation policy. Twenty-percent of respondents indicate having a compensation policy that is confidential, and 21% have a written or published policy that is made available or distributed to employees.

Despite not having a compensation policy, 62% of employers report having a strategy to stay even with the area labor market and 49% have a strategy to stay even with industry competitors.

ERC's HR Help Desk notes that “the foundation of an effective compensation system is a philosophy, policy, and strategy for how your organization will pay employees relative to the market – whether that is above, at, or below market rates. This helps HR make decisions about pay and guides an organization’s compensation practices."

Additional Resources

Preliminary Findings: Intern & Recent Grad Survey

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The preliminary findings of the 2011 ERC/NOCHE Intern/Recent Grad Pay Rates & Practices Survey show several trends in intern and recent grad employment and compensation practices.

  • Over 70% of employers plan to increase or maintain the number of interns they employ, consistent with trends seen over the past three years.
  • 68% of employers are in the process of hiring or have plans to hire new college graduates this year.
  • Organizations are increasingly using interns and new graduates to develop their talent pipeline rather than using them for simply workforce support and special projects.
  • Nearly three-quarters of employers say that they offer at least some of their interns employment after the internship.
  • Work experience is becoming an even more crucial criterion for employers when hiring interns, rising in importance from years past.

View the Intern & Recent Graduate Pay Rates & Practices Survey

This survey reports data from Northeast Ohio employers about their internship and recent graduate employment and pay practices.

View the Results

8 Resources Every HR Professional Should Know About

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We’ve compiled a collection of eight (8) of our favorite HR resources – free comprehensive tools and information that many of our members find valuable for common tasks like staying compliant, administering FMLA, or finding and supporting employees.

1. Staying Legally Compliant

The Department of Labor (DOL) offers a variety of e-law Advisors, interactive tools that provide information about a number of federal employment laws. Employers typically find these tools very helpful in providing greater understanding of compliance and employment law information. Specific e-law Advisors include FLSA, H1-B, Health Benefits Advisor, OSHA, Drug Free Workplace, Contractor Compliance, and more. Similarly, the DOL also provides an Employment Law Guide that helps employers create policies for their handbook.

2. Accommodating Employees

Employers frequently need to support employees through difficult conditions and circumstances. Whether you’re accommodating employees to be compliant or to better support employees as you create a great place to work, the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is an ideal resource that provides ideas and examples on what level of accommodations and flexibility are appropriate for different situations. It also helps employers better understand a variety of disabilities and psychological/medical conditions that impact their workforce.

3. Administering FMLA

Leave administration, particularly FMLA, is one of employers’ greatest responsibilities and challenges. Employers are frequently looking for resources surrounding administration of this law to help them administer it. This site is one of our members’ favorites as it highlights all of the most common forms, fact sheets, and general guidance for administering family medical leave required by the law.

4. Creating and Updating Job Descriptions

O*Net is a comprehensive, free resource for job analysis and job description information. It provides detailed information including a summary of a job, alternate job titles, tasks, tools and technology used, knowledge, skills, abilities, work activities, and work context. It even contains information on interests, work styles, work values, wages and employment trends, and education/training requirements relevant to a specific job. The tool is useful for employers that are creating job descriptions and supports a range of other HR functions like hiring and performance management. The Dictionary of Occupational Job Titles is also another ideal resource for job related information, included within O*Net.

5. Developing Employees

Career One-Stop has all the components of a comprehensive career development service (without the cost). Employees can explore careers, assess themselves, write job descriptions, evaluate and profile their skills, and find developmental programs and resources. This tool, as well as the Ohio Workforce Informer, Riley Guide, and BLS Career Guide to Industries, are other valuable career development tools for employees to utilize when developing themselves and can complement employers’ career development programs.

6. Staffing and Workforce Planning

Employers often seek information about local employment trends that impact their business for staffing and workforce planning purposes. While the Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) provides ideal national information for this purpose, most organizations don’t realize that the state of Ohio provides a labor market website that details information about local employment trends and projections, current employment statistics, supply and demand, and skills/training. In addition, Ohio Means Jobs is a free website to search for candidates and post jobs that also helps employers recruit and staff.

7. Auditing Wage & Hour Practices

FLSA compliance is one of ERC’s most common questions and an area where many employers may find themselves non-compliant. In the event of a Wage & Hour audit, the DOL provides a checklist of items requested. This checklist is not only ideal for organizations being audited by the DOL, but also for those that want to prepare for an audit. You can download this checklist here.

8. Posting Requirements

The DOL makes posting requirements available to employers including information about what organizations must post, citations and penalties, and other information. Click here to view these requirements. Employers can also download PDF posters on this site.

In conclusion, the Department of Labor and other governmental agencies can offer free resources and support for your organization. With vast amounts of information, online tools, free training and webinars, and access to experts, they can be very helpful for employers and particularly HR departments – often in ways that many organizations don’t anticipate.

Additional Resources

HR Training
Gain even more crucial skills and resources to be successful in your HR role through various ERC HR training courses. For more information on these informative training courses which cover all aspects of HR including employment law, compensation, benefits, performance management, orientation, communication, please click here. To view other upcoming HR programs, click here.

HR Help Desk
ERC’s Help Desk staff is exceptional at working with governmental agencies to answer employers’ questions, resolve problems, and locate information, resources, and forms to meet your needs – especially when you don’t have time to do the research yourself. Just e-mail hrhelp@yourerc.com for assistance.

HR Practices
Benchmark how your HR practices compare to other Northeast Ohio employers by participating in our Policies and Benefits Survey. This survey covers benefits, compensation, recruiting, hiring, communication, training, development, and safety practices. Click here to participate.

Other HR Resources
In addition to resources discussed in this article, ERC members enjoy an array of additional resources related to compensation, benefits, and policy information; HR Help Desk service, sample forms, job descriptions, and policies; cost-savings (and free services provided by some of our Preferred Partners); and more. Click here to find out more about the benefits of being an ERC member.

 

Employees Sharing More of Health Insurance Costs

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According to ERC’s 2011/2012 Policies & Benefits Survey, the average health insurance deductible paid by employees (as reported by Northeast Ohio employers) increased significantly from 2009. Employees' co-pay amounts and contributions to health insurance premiums also showed slight increases from 2009.

The results of the survey, which provided detailed information on a variety of health plans and health insurance practices, appeared to suggest that organizations continued to increase cost-sharing with employees to cope with rises in costs.

Specifically, the survey provided detailed information about eligibility for coverage, medical plan options, and detailed practices for HMO, PPO/POS, Indemnity, and High Deductible Plans including percent of medical premium paid; average amounts of co-pays, lifetime maximums, and annual deductibles; and in-network and out-of-network amounts. It also covered information about Health Savings Accounts in terms of average annual contributions, services covered, and out-of-pocket expense limitations, as well as Health Reimbursement Accounts, Prescription Drug Plans, and much more.

 

3 Tips for Updating Your Compensation Program

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Updating your salary structure? Market data discrepancies, pay compression, and alignment with the compensation philosophy are all problems employers experience when updating their compensation programs. Here are some tips to deal with these problems:

Problem 1: Market data shows discrepancies

You’ve established pay rates for your organization’s positions based on a salary survey, but the next year the same survey shows that a given job encountered a moderate salary decrease or large increase. Market data discrepancies are a common problem many employers face when updating their compensation programs.

Salary surveys sometimes show discrepancies annually. These discrepancies occur mainly from differences in participation from year to year (different or new employers submitting data for the job). Other reasons for discrepancies may include organizational factors, such as pay decreases or large merit increases and higher or lower demand for certain skills or jobs in the labor market. To cope with market discrepancies...

  • Use multiple sources of market data (salary survey information) to establish market averages to benchmark your positions versus just using one source. By taking more data into account when benchmarking, you dilute the impact of these market differences on your pay decisions.
  • Although it may be tempting to use the most specific and targeted breakouts available to make pay decisions, these are often more susceptible to variance and discrepancies because they have lower participation. As a general rule, it’s important to use breakouts of data that have the most participation from employers (such as “all employers”). These are the most reliable figures and are unlikely to experience major differences year over year. 
  • Be cautious in making pay decisions annually. Continue to benchmark pay on an annual basis, but only make pay decisions based on distinct trends. Market data is highly susceptible to variance and trends are more likely to become evident over multiple years.

Problem 2: Jobs show pay compression

Pay compression is a common problem organizations experience when revising their pay structures. It results when there is a pay difference between positions requiring different skills and responsibilities – when lower-level jobs are paid as much or more than higher-level jobs. It often occurs when typical adjustments or increases have not been given and instead pay raises are only given to a select few employees (such as top performers). It may also occur when a salary structure is not used. To resolve the issue of pay compression…

  • Determine which positions show pay compression. Is it a job-specific issue, affecting only one or a few employees? Or is it a widespread problem?
  • Create a salary structure with formal pay ranges. This will set the upper and lower limits of pay that employees can earn for a given job or job family. Keep pay ranges updated once they are established.
  • Consider coupling your market analysis with a job evaluation. Job evaluation is often an under-used method of determine pay rates, however, establishes which jobs are most and least valuable to the organization and thereby encourages internal equity. It involves assigning points or ranking jobs according to their value to the organization.
  • If ranges are established, adjust pay ranges by the same figure each year – such as a cost of living or across-the-board increase to ensure that pay keeps in line with the market.
  • Consider using lump sum bonuses instead of merit increases to reward employees who have hit the maximum in their pay range. Similarly, for new-hires with special skill-sets, you may consider offering a lump-sum sign-on bonus.
  • Establish career paths. Pay compression is more likely to occur in organizations that do not have clear advancement opportunities and upward mobility. Such paths provide more opportunities to earn more pay and reward performance. 

Problem 3: Pay not aligned with compensation philosophy

Let’s say that your organization’s compensation philosophy is to pay all of your organization’s jobs at market, which means at the 50th percentile or median pay rate. Perhaps this philosophy has been newly developed or changed since the creation of your current pay structure. After analyzing the market, you find that you are actually paying above or below market for some positions. This is your organization’s position to market.

Your organization’s position to market should not necessarily determine its compensation philosophy. For example, if your philosophy is to pay “at market” and your organization pays “below market” for some positions, this should not lead you to change your compensation philosophy, unless it feels that this is best for the organization’s attraction and retention of talent. To address this problem...

  • Determine whether the philosophy applies to all positions. It’s important to be aware that a compensation philosophy does not need to apply for all positions.
  • Keep pay where it is and “red line” the employees paid above market until the market catches up to their pay rates.
  • Make pay adjustments to employees paid below market, unless reasons for this discrepancy are justifiable.
  • Hire new employees at the “at market” rate.

Updating a compensation structure presents its challenges for many employers, and can be one of the more complex tasks HR encounters. Should your organization need additional assistance with updating its compensation system, be sure to check out the resources ERC offers to support your compensation programs below.

Additional Resources

HR Consulting
Our compensation consulting services cover a broad range of assistance on the total rewards spectrum; from basic job description updates to the complete design of organization-wide base salary compensation systems and variable pay programs. For more information, please contact consulting@yourerc.com.

EAA Reports Northeast Ohio Sales Manager Pay

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According to the 2010-2011 EAA National Sales Compensation & Practices Survey, Northeast Ohio employers report paying higher median total compensation for some sales managers. Specifically, Northeast Ohio employers report higher median total compensation for General Sales Managers and District Sales Managers than other U.S. employers.

 

Northeast Ohio Employers Report Higher Pay for Customer Service Jobs

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According to the 2010-2011 EAA National Sales Compensation & Practices Survey, Northeast Ohio employers report higher median total compensation than employers across the U.S. for nearly all customer service positions surveyed.

Customer Service Managers and Supervisors, in particular, showed the largest differences in total compensation when compared nationally.

 

Customer Service Skills Training

Customer Service Skills Training

This training helps you build better relationships with your customers.

Train Your Employees

8 Steps in a Compensation Project

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8 Steps in a Compensation Project

Compensation initiatives are often on many employers’ agendas, so we’ve summarized eight (8) steps in a basic compensation project.

1. Participate in or purchase salary and wage surveys.

It all starts with having pay data, which is the basis for all compensation systems and projects. Compensation surveys contain information on competitive wages and salaries for various jobs and report data regarding what other employers pay for given positions. Participating in these surveys (which generally requires reporting your employees’ salary and wage information) typically helps organizations save money on receiving the data. 

A good rule of thumb is obtaining at least three survey or compensation data sources. Local resources are ideal, especially if your organization recruits locally.

For example, ERC’s Salary Survey and Wage Survey are a common resource used by many Northeast Ohio employers to benchmark local pay rates.

2. Identify matches for your organization’s jobs.

Once you obtain salary survey information, the next step is identifying the positions in the surveys that match the jobs in your organization. This is generally not done by job title alone.

Instead, employers look for jobs with position descriptions that match at least 70% of the duties summarized.

For some unique positions, it may be difficult to find an exact match. In these cases, organizations typically blend or weight salary data from multiple jobs to create a salary figure that best represents the job.

3. Select and gather data.

After your organization has selected the positions that match, you’ll need to determine what percentile or metric from the survey you would like to use to compare your jobs.

Organizations commonly select this based on their pay philosophy for different positions. Employers may wish to pay some positions above market rates (percentiles above the median) because talent is scarce or the job is critical to their organization’s strategy or mission.

Other positions may be paid below market rates (percentiles below the median) if they lack importance or are easily recruited. The widespread majority of organizations aim to pay most of their employees at market (the median). You can also use the average; however, the median is less susceptible to higher or lower values, and therefore more reliable.

4. Analyze the data.

In order to analyze the salary information, organizations should age the data to a common point in time by an aging factor—such as an average yearly increase (obtained in a compensation survey).  After aging the data, the percentile information gathered from each of the survey sources can be weighted based on factors such as industry data, local or national information, quality of survey, and strength of job match.

Typically, a weighted average is calculated based on these weightings of the survey sources and the percentile information.

This weighted average is usually referred to as the “market average.” Although, there are certainly other metrics of market competitiveness your organization could use.

5. Calculate a market average.

For each job you are analyzing, it’s important to determine where the job stands relative to the market. This is easily done by dividing what your organization currently pays for the position (the current salary or wage) by the market average.

Figures over 1.0 indicate that the job is paid more than the market average; while figures below 1.0 show that the job is paid less than the market average.

While other metrics exist, this tends to be the easiest to calculate for employers.

6. Create a pay structure.

 

7. Address inconsistencies.

After your organization has collected and analyzed the market data and/or developed any pay structures it deems important to its compensation administration, the next step is to address differences or inconsistencies, particularly in terms of differences in market averages/midpoints and rates your organization is paying for positions and external market rates.

These questions often involve considering organizational culture, structure, what it can afford to pay, and what it wants to pay for certain positions.

8. Make adjustment decisions.

After these questions are addressed, your organization will need to determine whether it wants to adjust salaries and wages to be more in line with the market (if differences exist). These are typically termed “market adjustments.”

Other pay adjustments your organization may provide include cost-of-living or across the board adjustments (the same adjustment being provided to all employees), or merit increases, which are commonly based on performance achieved and varied in terms of amount received (typically a percentage of base salary).

There’s no question that compensation initiatives can be challenging projects and typically include more complexity and analysis than these eight steps suggest. Keep in mind that ERC has many resources, including valid local and national pay data and experienced guidance, available to help you in navigating these projects with ease and success.

ERC offers compensation and benefits consulting services including market pricing, total rewards strategy, and more.

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Survey Reports National Pay Trends for HR Positions

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A 2011 analysis conducted by ERC reports how pay for various HR positions in Northeast Ohio compares to pay provided by employers across the U.S, based on data from the 2010-2011 EAA National Wage & Salary Survey. In general, a comparison of salaries for HR positions among employers across the U.S. and just Northeast Ohio employers shows that local employers pay higher-level HR positions (manager and above) near or above the median salary reported by employers across the U.S. Local employers, however, appear to be pay lower-level HR positions, such as generalists and assistants, lower than the median salary reported by employers across the U.S.

View ERC's Wage & Salary Adjustment Survey Results

The survey reports data from Northeast Ohio organizations regarding their actual and projected wage and salary adjustments.

View the Results