How to Make Compensation Conversations a Culture-Builder

This is an excerpt from our ebook collaboration with BambooHR “Getting Smart About Compensation.” Download the full guide here.

Conversations about comp don’t have to be negative, even when you don’t have budget for monetary adjustments. Managers and HR employees at every level can learn from the steps below to turn compensation conversations from awkward interactions to company culture builders.

Be Open:

Listen. Your company’s attitude about compensation conversations will be very clear to your employees. If they know you’re open to these conversations, they’ll know that you value them and that you care about them feeling valued.

Conversely, if they know you’re not open to compensation discussions — that they’re taboo or uncomfortable — they might just leave for another job. Employees would often rather leave than have an uncomfortable discussion about pay, so make sure your employees know your company values open conversations about comp.

Take It Seriously:

Be sincere. Sometimes the very act of having a serious conversation about compensation can make the difference between an employee feeling valued or not. Remember, comp is the communication of how much we value our employees; if they’re feeling undercompensated, they’re feeling undervalued, and that is deeply emotional.

Don’t Be Offended:

Talking about compensation is inherently highly emotional, but make sure to look beyond the emotion and don’t be offended. If you have an obviously adverse reaction to a compensation conversation, you can unintentionally entrench your employee in negative emotion. And HR pros and managers need to know these conversations can happen at any time; after all, compensation is why we work. Everyone is thinking about compensation all the time.

Be Positive:

When you do get asked about comp, if you don’t make it a positive experience, you could be telling the story that you don’t care or that you hate talking about it with employees. This could create a culture where future compensation conversations are stifled, and it’s easier for your employees to simply leave for a new job instead of asking for a raise. Given the ubiquity of social media in this “sharing age,” your reaction to a comp conversation will be shared, and it’ll become part of your cultural narrative. So make it a positive experience, even if you don’t think the outcome will be a good one.

Be Objective:

This means diving in and addressing any misalignment by focusing on actual value and the employee’s value drivers. This can help remove emotion from the conversation and focus it on a more constructive outcome.

Be Proactive:

Don’t wait for the subject of compensation to be brought up by your employees. Schedule regular conversations around comp throughout the year. Having designated periods where you talk about compensation can make employees feel that you care about being competitive in your market and making sure they are fairly compensated for their value. It can also help employees who think their comp is out of alignment feel at ease — because they know comp review time is coming. Simply having it scheduled can help them feel more comfortable about the discussion.

Want the step-by-step on creating and maintaining a modern compensation plan? Grab your copy of “Getting Smart About Compensation” today!

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