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Performance

How to strategically align compensation and performance management?

The right compensation management practices and policies can make or break your employee experience. Of course, there is merit in linking compensation and performance to drive organizational success, it can lead to several questions and implementation problems as well. 

Read on to get all your compensation management related questions answered.

Why is fair compensation important?

Let’s start with the very basic question of why fair compensation is important and the merits it brings along. It is no surprise that if you are paid more and are compensated according to your efforts, you are likely to give in your 100% and stay with an organization longer. However, there are other factors that support fair compensation:

  • Reduce the risk of turnover: 50% employees are more likely to leave if they believe they are paid below market
  • Retain high-potential performers: High-potential talent brings 91% more value to an organization
  • Increase job satisfaction: Compensation/pay and benefits are 2 of the top 3 drivers of job satisfaction 

Thus, fair compensation as a part of compensation linked performance management has the potential to facilitate better employee outcomes such as engagement, experience and performance. 

Should compensation be tied to performance reviews?

To make compensation fair and inclusive in all aspects, it needs to have a clear foundation. Most organizations have relied on performance reviews as a way of reflecting on performance as a means of compensation decisions. However, there are several competing views both for and against tying compensation to performance reviews. 

Benefits of tying compensation and performance reviews

  • Compensation can act as a great motivator for employees to perform well, which can be reflected in their performance reviews
  • Enable employees to get a clear understanding of what rewards or recognition they get with an increasing level of performance
  • Give employees the opportunity to see the direct value of their performance in tangible ways
  • At an organizational level, it helps to align inputs (compensation) with outputs (performance), enabling efficient resource allocation
  • Ensure that compensation hikes and appraisals are seen as transparent and not arbitrary

Pitfalls of tying compensation and performance reviews

  • It focuses on only those aspects of performance which are under review and not the overall and subtler forms of organizational contribution for employees
  • Performance linked compensation system leads to employees giving themselves  more lenient ratings during self reflection during 360 performance review. Thus, driving the focus away from self reflection as a development practice
  • Biased peer review can also prevent fair compensation, especially when the departmental budgets are limited
  • Sometimes, it creates a blame oriented workplace culture and discourages collaborative problem resolution

Clearly, there are both sides to the story.

The most favorable outcome will be to keep performance as one of the parameters for compensation, but not the sole foundation.

Additionally, as one of the best practices, performance reviews can be conducted on a regular basis, where some are only developmental in nature and others can be tied to compensation management. 

5 compensation best practices today

As discussed, focusing only on performance reviews for compensation management needs a relook. Working with growing organizations, we have curated a list of the top five performance and compensation management practices you can leverage:

1. Keep up with market trends

Ensure that your compensation structure aligns with the market trends so your employees don’t feel underpaid and leave.

  • Conduct a dipstick survey to understand appropriate pay scales
  • Keep your pay structures updated based on market corrections
  • Leverage custom employee pulse surveys to regularly to check their perception on compensation according to market trends

2. Be clear about relationship between performance and compensation

Provide complete transparency and clarity to your employees on what constitutes high levels of performance and what it will take to earn a raise or appraisal.

  • Highlight specific job competencies that link compensation and performance management
  • Don’t rely completely on performance reviews as a means to determine compensation, let them be developmental in nature
  • Gauge performance against pre defined competencies over time

3. Have well defined criteria

Have specific, well defined and measurable criteria for the compensation strategy to ensure that there is complete transparency. 

  • Develop or choose metrics which are easy to comprehend
  • Try to quantify the value for each criteria, including years of experience, education, etc.
  • Account for difference in compensation based on skills, performance levels, among others

4. Communicate benefits effectively

Salary in hand or the pay check your employees receive is accompanied by a range of benefits that are a part of the compensation structure and cost to the company, but are often overlooked by employees. Make sure they are widely communicated.

  • Create a list of all benefits offered to employees and communicate to them via different ways, email, discussion sessions, etc.
  • Be vocal about the value these benefits are able to add over and above their monetary value
  • Illustrate how these benefits also act as tax saving options at times, leading to a more efficient compensation structure

5. Have a standard pay range

Ensure that there is a base pay range for every role and profile with variable additions based on candidate competencies.

  • Have clear guidelines and pay range for each position to set the right expectations
  • Illustrate the competencies/parameters based on which deviation from standard pay range will be acceptable
  • Have a well defined strategy to evolve the pay range and support employee transition from one range to another

How to ensure distributive justice?

The idea of fair compensation and linking compensation and performance management, leads to a very interesting concept of distributive justice. On a broad level, distributive justice essentially focuses on ensuring that the compensation received by employees is fair and equitable and is based on objective and rational grounds which are uniform for all. Here are a few ways to ensure distributive justice:

  • Be transparent about the criteria for compensation and what constitutes as parameters for raise
  • Ensure that measuring of performance/ other criteria for performance is bias free and doesn’t fall prey to halo, horns or recency effect
Measure potential and market value of the employee in addition to experience and expertise to ensure distributive justice for high potential employees 
  • Be fair in your compensation and appraisal assessment

Pay transparency: Merits and demerits

Another interesting component of compensation and performance management that you must acquaint yourself with is pay transparency. Essentially pay transparency refers to how openly or freely employees within an organization can discuss their compensation with others. 

This is not only limited to the check they take home but other perks and benefits they are entitled to. Invariably, many platforms today also enable individuals to anonymously share their salaries online and get insights from others doing the same. However, there are diverse views on when it comes to pay transparency for an organization. 

Merits of pay transparency

Those who advocate for pay transparency believe that it can enable large scale impact for the organization across performance management.

  • Meet employee expectations, build greater trust and augment engagement and overall experience
  • Attract the best talent by showcasing competitive compensation at market standards
  • Reduce chances of biases in salary negotiations and increments
  • Ensure fair compensation and distributive justice among employees
  • Greater employee motivation leading to better organizational outcomes
  • Fewer negotiations allowing employees to focus on adding value to their work

Demerits of pay transparency

However, there is a flip side to pay transparency too with some common pitfalls that need to be addressed proactively.

  • Risk of resentment and conflict if pay scale is not uniform and balanced
  • May lead to comparison of pay scales among peers in the organization with possible backfire
  • Requires strategic planning and meticulous implementation
  • May lead to high levels of turnover in case employees feel they are paid less than what they deserve, in comparison to others
  • Employees might have privacy concerns about their salary being shared with others

How to guide managers to have better compensation conversations?

In the last section of this article, we will focus on how managers play an integral role in compensation and performance management and the best practices to guide managers to have effective compensation conversations with their team members.

Almost 58% organizations do not train managers on pay communications 

This startling statistic clearly highlights how despite the apparent importance of compensation management, the focus on ensuring a seamless process is rather limited. However, organizations today can play a leading role in enabling their managers to have better pay communication and conversations by following these tips:

  • Create a communication toolkit with all the resources including compensation structure, criteria, performance linkage, etc. and share it with all the managers 
  • Conduct regular surveys to gauge employee pulse and data from employees on their compensation and share insights with managers to help create a conversation flow
  • Leverage tools for NLP led sentiment analysis of open ended responses and share guided 1:1 conversation templates for effective compensation conversations
  • Encourage managers to keep compensation conversations and performance reviews as separate
  • Give proper context, especially during an appraisal or raise, with both internal and external factors that led to the compensation decision
  • Communicate the value and importance of the employee to the organization, don’t rely on numbers and monetary increase do all the talking
  • Prepare for the conversation and be prepared for response, be an active listener and patiently address grievances, if any

Final Thoughts

It is quite evident that compensation and performance management are intrinsically interlinked and if leveraged well, compensation has great potential to not only drive performance, but also facilitate engagement, retention and much more.

However, to ensure the same, you need to have a very structured, transparent and fair compensation strategy and policy. Furthermore, you must, don’t forget to invest in training your managers to bridge any gaps and constantly gauge and address employee pulse — to ensure fair compensation for all.

Suggested Reading

10 tips for managers to effectively conduct performance reviews

How often should you conduct performance reviews?

How to use competency framework as a talent management strategy

Performance

How to Use Competency Framework for Talent Development

Talent development is critical for growing organizations which see the workforce as their biggest asset. Focus on developing their talent stack not only leads to a pleasant employee experience, it also augments the overall performance and productivity for an organization. 

While you may come across many ways to facilitate talent development, leveraging the competency framework can help you move the needle very quickly. 

Let's see how.

5 Stages in talent development

Before moving directly to how you can implement the competency framework, let’s quickly understand the 5 stages of talent development.

1. Planning

The first stage involves planning for your talent needs based on your organizational priorities and creating the position profile based on the skills, attitudes and other competencies. 

2. Identifying

Based on the position profile, you need to start attracting talent for the position. You can do so by spreading the word in the right networks, through job portal platforms, etc. The objective is to ensure that you are reaching out to the right network. You can also explore the right candidate for the position internally to considerably save hiring and training costs. 

3. Onboarding

Once you have identified the right person, the next stage of talent development is extending the offer to the person after a thorough background check as well as a competency and expectation match. It also requires creating personalized onboarding plans for the first 30-60-90 days of the candidate’s journey within the organization. Read our guide to employee onboarding to learn more about onboarding do’s and don’ts.

4. Developing

The main focus of talent development starts with providing the right development and learning opportunities to your workforce. This can involve upskilling for both technical and soft skills, leadership building or any development intervention based on the need of the role and position. 

Read: How to create employee development plan based on performance history

5. Retaining

Finally, talent development involves undertaking initiatives to retain your talent. While learning opportunities are important, facilitating engagement, wellness, motivation, etc. all contribute to employee retention. 

What is the competency framework?

If you are wondering how the competency framework aligns with talent development, you need to start by decoding what the framework actually stands for. 

Put simply, a competency framework is a set of behaviors, skills, abilities and attributes that an organization considers imperative for creating a high performance culture. 

The competency framework can be implemented at all stages of the talent development or the employee lifecycle within an organization. The idea is to ensure that certain core competencies are kept at the heart of the decision making that in any way impact the workforce. 

Importance of talent development for employee retention

Competency framework based talent development is very important for employee retention. Talent development practices when undertaken effectively have the potential to encourage team members to stay with the organization for long and at the same time become ambassadors to help attract high quality peers. 

Here are the top reasons why competency framework based talent development matters:

  • Recruit the right person for the right job
  • Provide the right learning and development opportunities
  • Be an active participant in professional growth for employees
  • Train and develop employees for professional obstacles
  • Enable employees to navigate through challenges with mentoring support
  • Enable employees to see a clear career growth path within the organization

Implementing the competency framework: Process, steps and ownership

Now that we have covered the basics of talent development and competency framework, let’s understand how leveraging the latter to advance the former can create a far reaching impact for organizations. 

Step I: Create a competency framework

The first step is to create a competency framework which involves identifying the key competencies which will be instrumental in guiding all decisions around talent development. Depending on the nature of your organization, there can be categories within the competency framework that you seek to focus on. Your competency framework should focus on behaviors, skills and attributes which are critical for performance and overall success. The following steps can help you create a competency framework for talent development:

1. Identify key competencies

  • Establish core competencies that are required to be possessed by everyone in the organization, for instance, teamwork or collaboration
  • Highlight the functional competencies that are required for specific roles and positions, for instance, situational awareness and the ability to think on one’s feet for those in business development roles
  • Identify competencies that align with your core values and are non negotiable, for instance, if your core value revolves around innovation and experimentation, a key competency will be a risk taking attitude

2. Determine behaviors and attributes

  • Define the key parameters for each identified competency i.e. what are the factors that collectively contribute to presence or absence of that competency
  • Establish metrics to judge the level of competency alignment across the workforce and identify the gaps

3. Link to organizational goals

  • Create a business statement of how the competencies can advance overarching organizational goals
  • Focus on the value add they bring along for organizational success
The responsibility of creating the competency framework is collective. It starts with involving the executive leadership to ensure alignment with the vision, people managers to ensure they are ideal for the culture you are trying to build and functional managers to ensure inclusion of right competencies for each role and position. Furthermore, involving those on the ground can be fruitful as they have the best idea of what competencies are critical and others which are good to have. 

Step II: Align the competency framework with recruitment

Once the competency framework for talent development is ready, the next step is to align it with your recruitment process to ensure precise and effective hiring. There are a few steps along the way:

  • Mention the keywords from the competency framework in your position profile or job description
  • Specifically identify 5-7 key competencies for each role important for high level of performance
  • Identify behaviors for each competency to look out for during the selection process
  • Leverage psychometric assessments customized with your competency framework to test your candidates
  • Conduct competency based interviews and assignments for a comprehensive view
  • If there is a significant competency match, identify gaps if any for competency based development later
  • Document results to align performance management for selected candidates
The onus of implementing the competency framework during selection lies primarily with the HR team and recruiters who assess the candidates with different tests and assessments. Team managers and leaders also play a role in assessing functional competencies and fit. 

Step III: Facilitate competency based performance management and development opportunities

Irrespective of whether an employee is onboarded before or after you have implemented the competency framework for recruitment, you need to ensure competency based performance management and development opportunities. 

Performance management

  • Align OKRs and goals with competencies; focus on behaviors that can help drive the key results. For instance if a key result is expand to 5 new markets, a key competency can be adaptability
  • Conduct competency based 360 feedback review; encourage your managers to review performance not just on outcomes but presence or absence of competencies that made the outcomes possible
  • Encourage competency based self reflection for employees to assess their performance based on the competency framework
  • Identify development areas based on competency needs for particular roles as well as the next career path in the trajectory
  • Reward competency based performance and outcomes
  • Measure competencies on an ongoing basis and compare results with recruitment analysis

Talent development interventions

  • Define competency gaps for each position and identify talent development interventions to bridge the same. For instance, if communication is a key competency for a sales role, learning can be oriented towards better communication skills
  • Align developmental interventions with competency based OKRs
  • Identify learning objectives for each role and position and determine how they connect with the competency framework

From a talent development perspective, the focus of the competency framework should equally be on developing employees for their next or subsequent role based on the specific competencies for the same. 

The onus of aligning performance and development with the competency framework lies with team managers as they are best able to determine the performance gaps. Furthermore, employees with their managers can identify competency gaps for better performance and focus on the right learning and development interventions to bridge the same. 

Step IV: Leverage competency framework for succession planning

Finally, the competency framework must also impact the subsequent rungs of talent development where an employee moves up the ladder from one position to the next. Based on the organizational matrix and competencies for each level, you need to identify key attributes that differentiate one level from another and ensure the same is communicated to your employees. 

You should:

  • Help you employees create a career development plan based on your competency framework to help them understand which competencies will enable them to grow
  • Make succession planning a key organizational priority and focus on talent development from that lens

Final Thoughts

In a nutshell, it is quite evident that the competency framework can inform and advance every stage of talent development for fast growing organizations. If you implement such a framework across the employee lifecycle, you will significantly reduce your chances of a wrong hire and will be able to nurture a workforce that aligns on the vision, goals and overall organizational culture. 

A clear competency based talent development approach can help you achieve high levels of performance which is observable and measurable.

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