Reward: Scientific Solution or Art-Form?

May 22, 2018

Recognising that networking groups and learning sessions are often targeted at Heads of and Directors of Reward, Frazer Jones have been keen to offer more insight and discussion to those seeking to develop in their careers, and who have ambitions to reach a very senior level themselves.

For the first in this series of events for future leaders in Reward, Alison Jenkins, VP Compensation and Global Reward Partner at Pearson, spoke to Reward practitioners from sectors including Media, FMCG, Insurance and Fin-Tech about lessons from her own career. Topics included:

1) Science vs. Art: The Endgame, and The Journey There

Gone are the days when Reward was a “back office” function, thought to be run by “spreadsheet geeks”. In reality, the need for business-facing Reward functions has increased dramatically, for a number of reasons. These include M&A, business growth, industry regulation and more complex executive pay structures which are extensively scrutinised by the media. Not only are we starting to see the pivotal role that Reward and MI play, and how this impacts the wider HR team’s ability to make sound strategic decisions, but importantly the need for Reward to bring that data to life. Alison highlighted the importance of reward professionals being able to evaluate data and predict trends, to influence and empower the wider business, and in particular, people managers, to make good reward decisions.

One attendee who recently made the move from an investment bank into the FMCG space noted how changing industries threw him out of his comfort zone. Investment banking focused 80% on Science, or the empirical application of data to the environment, often with little contextual analysis. In contrast, FMCG must be more creative with how staff are rewarded, simply as a consideration of less financial resources available. This leads to a greater reliance on how the message is delivered and how that message is reflected through employee engagement survey data.

2) Trusted Advisors vs. Police Force: “Stress Testing Their Thinking, So They Can Own Their Decision”

In order to be seen as a trusted advisor, Alison talked about how important it is to allow managers to make their own decisions and for reward to equip them with the tools to do so. Reward functions must be an active listener, stay objective and respond to the business with conviction.

Alison discussed the fact that pay is emotive and highly personal, meaning that the vehicle of Reward communication is often as critical as the message itself. At Pearson, Alison aims to provide more open communication around reward. It is essential that employees understand why and how the business has come to a particular decision but moving to a greater level of transparency and openness is a journey.

3) Performance vs. Culture: Is the Bell Curve Effective in Deciding Performance Related Pay?

Performance related pay is a highly-debated topic, with many firms in multiple sectors claiming it is too rigid in approach. The Future Leaders’ discussion identified that there is a time and place for performance related pay, however, a much more holistic approach needs to be taken to ensure that employees focus on delivery of objectives in line with company culture. This allows firms to reward high performers whilst being true to their individual values, thereby encouraging positive behaviours.

Feedback from the attendees has been incredibly positive, with many highlighting how beneficial it has been for them to gain exposure to a highly successful Reward leader, and insights into how other businesses address their Reward strategies.

If you would be interested in joining the next Aspiring Reward Leaders event, please get in touch!