Comp round - Does “Silly Season” Really Need to Mean Silly Hours?

Having spoken to several exhausted candidates lately, and being the recipient of emails from Reward Directors close to midnight, it’s clear we are approaching crunch season of pay round for many businesses.

Typically, comp round will start in October where data is analysed and then validated before moving in to November/December when pay round decisions are made based on performance management scores. Christmas is swiftly upon us and the New Year rolls in with pay round calibration (and more late nights), review and sign off, before communication is made to the wider business ready for delivery in March. Holidays are then deservedly booked and the Reward Function breathes a huge sigh of relief! The question on everyone's lips is: “Does it need to be that painful every year!?”

There are a number of factors which contribute to longer hours during comp season, particularly in financial services, with ever changing regulations, complex organisation structures and larger populations to look after, but do employees really need to work 16 hour shifts during this time? Is there too much workload for the number in Reward and therefore is headcount the real issue? Can processes not start earlier in the year so that the mad rush is avoided, or at best, minimised?

Interestingly, a Head of Reward in a household bank confirmed their comp review is an annual process beginning in April, starting directly after new salaries are effective and discretionary incentives have been paid. Discussions start with external salary providers so that initial benchmarking can take place and therefore ensuring procedures are well underway before summer begins. This allows communication to filter through to the appropriate business heads throughout the year rather than solely during peak times, ensuring staff are able to leave work at a more reasonable hour – no doubt music to your ears!

After speaking to a Reward Director in a FTSE20 organisation, it became clear a focal point of increased hours during comp round was because of a high level of attrition within the reward function. Reward analysts would resign during their first comp cycle before fully understanding the processes and reward philosophy of the business, leaving a depleted workforce to commence battle during one of the busiest points of the season. New hires would start and go through a challenging pay review and promptly resign, creating a vicious cycle.

Maybe more needs to be done to retain top talent in the Reward Function, particularly those who have just gone through their first comp round? Perhaps Reward Directors need to educate the HR Business Partners on how pivotal the salary review process is, not only to guarantee a collaborative approach across the business, but to align retention strategies with reward philosophy? Perhaps systems are too temperamental meaning more manual processes are needed across several locations?

Being a specialist in reward recruitment across Financial and Professional Services and having facilitated searches at the junior end of the market in the past, I feel attraction and particularly retention of talented Reward Analysts will prove critical to future pay review processes. Heads of Reward consistently bemoan the fact that gifted Reward Analysts are the most difficult to find, meaning more workload falls to smaller teams because of the lack of talent in the current marketplace. Retaining excellent Analysts would ensure a consistent and more stringent approach to pay review and allow both the employee and wider business to benefit from improved processes.