A recent client engagement underscored the need and importance of using an online tool in reviewing a sales incentive plan and making recommendations for improvement.

The company is a middle market company located in the Midwest.  It offered the B2B markets a high quality and premium priced product line.  In recent years, there were multiple changes in the sales leadership and several changes to the design of the sales incentive plans.

The primary issue was that while sales revenues had increased 7.5 percent in 2015, the sales incentive payout was more than 200 percent of the previous year. The company needed to implement a sales incentive program for the long term that also fit their immediate needs.

The Approach 

The six-step approach we used is summarized below. Note that in Step 1, we included the use of an online salesforce effectiveness survey to solicit the opinions of both sales associates and perceptions of the senior leadership team of the company.

Step 1: Plan and gather data; use salesforce survey

Step 2: Conduct market benchmarking analysis

Step 3: Interview leadership team

Step 4: Interview selected sales team associates

Step 5: Develop recommendations and refine and specify plan details

Step 6: Present recommendations and deliver final report

The survey itself offered many fundamental benefits:

  • Topical. Contains questions on important topics including: product quality, marketing efforts, quota setting, sales associate training, sales strategy clarity, incentive earnings potential, and time allocation (now and should be).
  • Inclusive.  Able to get input from all the sales associates, rather than from selected interviews.
  • Comparative. Time allocation results compared to overall benchmarks.
  • Quick. It could be completed within 10 minutes.
  • Anonymous.  Participant asked to check off whether he or she was a sales associate or executive.

Survey Results and Their Role in The Recommendation

A few important findings follow:

  • A reality gap exists.  Except for product quality and sales associate proficiency, there was little agreement between the ratings by the sales associates compared to those by the leadership team.  A gap is not unusual. This gap, however, was wider than we have seen in many uses of this tool.
  • Sales Associates view their incentive plan as moderately fair, motivating, and competitive to the external market.
  • The allocation of time for travel was a major differentiator.  Sales associates said they should travel 24 percent of the time, while the executives felt that only 5 percent should be needed.
The online salesforce effectiveness tool’s results were helpful in three ways:  First, the role of the company’s key sales position was not reflected properly in the incentive plan design resulting in the pay mix having too much leverage vs. the position’s role. Second, account retention was seriously underweighted vs. new account acquisition. Third, the company’s limited marketing efforts were insufficient drivers in the selling process.

The next time when conducting a sales incentive plan review or redesign consider using a salesforce effectiveness survey. You will be surprised at your important discoveries or just pleased with confirming data. Both outcomes will increase design effectiveness and improve your sales incentive plan.

Contact Us

We welcome your feedback on our Salesforce Alert eNewsletters and would like to talk with you further regarding your salesforce experience and input. Please feel free to contact Tim Weizer at (312) 479-6411 or tim@salescne.com or Neil Lappley at (847) 864-8979 or nlappley@lappley.com.

We argued in our February Compensation Alert eNewsletter that hiring and paying women was not only the right course, but data and common sense reasoning suggest that it’s simply good business. To underline that topic, this month’s Compensation Alert summarizes a survey reported in the Harvard Business Review regarding why women in their early 30s are leaving their group-of-professional-womencompanies.

Organization leaders report that women are leaving primarily because of flexibility needs and family demands. Women in their 30s disagree.

A recent global survey by ICEDR revealed that leaders believe that the majority of women around the age of 30 leave because they are struggling to balance work and life or planning to have children. Whereas men leave because of compensation. However, according to women themselves–and in sharp contrast to the perceptions of their leaders, the primary factor influencing a woman’s decision to leave an organization is pay. In fact, women are actually more likely to leave because of compensation than men.

To underline the desire for fair pay for women, a survey conducted by Crain’s Chicago Business and an executive women’s group, the Chicago network found what women consider most important deciding whether to stay or leave a job is pay.

Not only are women’s reasons for leaving misunderstood, differences between women and men are overstated. The four top reasons 30-something women and men leave organizations are identical, if in a different order.

 

The survey research comes down to two simple findings. First, women care about pay. Second, women and men leave organizations for similar reasons. Based on these two conclusions, here are several actions that organizations can take:

Do your homework: Analyze job titles and grades or levels with significant populations of both men and women. Determine if there is a bias.  If there is, develop a data-driven plan based on your findings.

Ask, don’t assume: Instead of talking about women’s needs, talk with them. Ask women what are their needs and wants. Then develop a plan to address the results of the study.

Address challenges beyond family and flexibility: While options for flexibility and work-life balance are important, the bottom line is that motherhood is not the primary reason that talented women are leaving organizations. Focusing retention strategies on this alone, without also considering pay and compensation fairness, will ultimately jeopardize retention and advancement efforts.

Propose women’s strategies as broader talent strategies: It is good news for organization leaders that gender appears to have little impact on an individual’s reasons for leaving an organization. There is less a need to segment and complicate talent strategies by gender. Instead, create strategies that address the desires of both women and men.

There is a disconnect between current talent retention strategies and the desires of top female talent. While work-life balance, flexibility and family are important, they are not the only–or even primary–reasons women leave companies. With men and women expressing common concerns about why they leave jobs, leaders have the opportunity to retain and advance top talent, both male and female, by focusing on common priorities: pay and fair compensation.

 

Contact Us

We welcome your feedback on our Compensation Alert eNewsletters. Please contact me at (847) 864-8979 or nlappley@lappley.com to discuss gender compensation issues or other topics of interest.

Companies today are managing more diverse workforces. Pay programs must be designed to attract, retain, motivate and engage employees who have very different pay preferences from employees even a decade ago. A recent study lead by Professor Dow Scott, Professor of Human resources at Loyola University Chicago, along with several other faculties at universities throughout the world, examined how employee characteristics are related to pay preferences.pay-pref-graphic

This Compensation Alert eNewsletter summarizes the results of the survey pertaining to U.S. employees. We will review characteristics such as gender, level of age and education, number of employee dependents, compensation differences, and capability and their effect on pay in the U.S.

The article authored by Professor Scott and his colleagues appeared in the most recent Compensation & Benefits Review. The original survey covered 1,077 respondents in seven countries.

Age

Prior research has found that older workers want more of their pay in benefits than do younger workers. Specifically, older workers prefer retirement programs and job security, whereas younger workers prefer time off, work/life balance and career development.

The recent study found that older workers preferred variable pay more than younger workers. It also found that younger workers favored more pay transparency than did older workers, which seems consistent with the willingness of younger workers to share information on social media.

Annual Pay

One might speculate that workers that are paid more would have the financial capacity to take more risks, and thus prefer variable pay. Participant responses do not confirm that hypothesis, however.  The only significant relationship with pay preferences that was found is a negative one between annual pay and pay transparency indicating that transparency is preferred by those with who make less money.

 

Education

Not surprising was the fact that education had a positive relationship with annual pay. While more educated survey respondents preferred pay differences based on capability and variable pay, they were not found to prefer pay transparency.

Number of Dependents

A strong preference for pay variability was found for survey participants who had more dependents.

Work Experience

No significant relationship was found between work experience and any of the pay preferences measured.

Gender

Prior researchers have found that men place more emphasis on extrinsic rewards, such as pay and rewards, than women. Women were found to prefer jobs with good coworker relationships, work/life balance and developmental opportunities. Men were found to prefer pay based on performance more than women. Women preferred skill and seniority-based pay systems.

Consistent with prior research, the study found that men prefer variable pay than women do.

 

Conclusions

Older survey participants with more education and more dependents had a strong preference for variable pay than did those who were younger, are less educated and had fewer dependents. Younger and lower paid participants preferred greater pay transparency. Pay differences that are based on capability were preferred by better-educated employees.

 

Contact Us

We welcome your feedback on our Compensation Alert eNewsletters. Please contact me at (847) 864-8979 or nlappley@lappley.com to discuss pay differences based upon employee characteristics or other topics of interest.

Equal pay for equal work is a hot business, political and social issue. While we have much work to do, it would be irresponsible not to point out that tremendous progress has been made. According to Pew Research, the estimated dollar gap in pay has narrowed from 36 cents in 1980 to 16 cents.

The gap remains too large, but we can not make a change based on moral grounds alone. Business leaders need to be aware that equal pay for equal work will boost their own organization’s bottom line.
As the father and grandfather of girls, I care deeply about this matter. I understand that there are great complexities involved with this issue. A CEO is measured by gains versus losses, and not on sentiment, particularly for public corporations where a CEO must answer to shareholders. It is critical to understand, however, that paying women equally does not have to come at the expense of profits.
It’s Not a Simple Problem 
Equal pay is a complex issue without a one-size-fits-all solution. By looking at the kinds of jobs women often go into – older women in lower-paying, part-time service jobs for example, compared to young women entering STEM fields – can give insights on where to stress advances. In fact, women, ages 16-34 who currently experience an 87.5 percent earnings ratio, are the most promising in closing the wage gap.
 Recent Studies Demonstrate Benefits
Here are three studies demonstrating why:
  1. An MIT professor reported in the Journal of Economics and Management Strategy that shifting from an all-male or all-female office to one split evenly along gender lines would increase revenue by 41 percent.
  2. A McKinsey & Company study found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to generate financial performance above the national industry median.
  3. A Gallup Study of different business units of two companies in the retail and hospitality industries shows significant differences in revenues up 14 percent and net profit up 19 percent, based on the level of gender diversity in each business unit.
Beyond Numbers, Three Reasons
  1. Elicit varying viewpoints – When you diversify, you stimulate debate and receive fresh ideas and different perspectives.
  2. Tap into $20 trillion in worldwide spending by women – Women control a huge $20 trillion in global spending power. It would make sense for a business to court women’s buying habits. What better way to reach potential consumers than by having women employees who understand their spending habits.
  3. Attract top male and female talent – Employers of choice understand paying women equally fosters and promotes a healthy business environment. When businesses maintain an inclusive culture and pay structure that recognizes women’s workplace contributions, high performers are more likely to want to join the team. Millennials, who are expected to make up 75 percent of the workforce by 2025, are keen to work in an environment that embraces diversity.
Additional Pay Disclosures Proposed
Under a recent proposal by the Obama Administration, employers with over 100 employees may have to send the government more information about what they pay. The proposal is aimed at eliminating the gender pay gap. The 60-day notice period ends April 1, 2016.
Where Do We Go From Here
At the recent Davos Conference, CEOs from companies including Barclays, Cisco, eBay, and Marriott weighed in on men’s roles in increasing greater gender diversity in the workplace. As men make up 80 percent of executive ranks and even more than that at the CEO level, men have a unique role in growing women in the workplace. Hiring and paying women is not only the right course, but data and common sense reasoning suggest that it’s simply good for business.
Contact Us
We welcome your feedback on our Compensation Alert eNewsletters. Please contact me at (847) 864-8979 or nlappley@lappley.com to discuss gender equality or other topics of interest.

With 2016 upon us, odds are that you have introduced a new sales compensation plan. Reportedly, 80 percent of companies make a change, minor or major, to their sales compensation plan annually. A new client recently shared with us that their last compensation plan was viewed by Human Resources “…as far adrift.” They were concerned as it also paid out incentive earnings viewed as excessive and unanticipated.

To avoid a similar concerning situation, here are three key performance indicators, with helpful questions, along with a qualitative tool to assist you in your sales compensation planning efforts.

Incentive Leverage

Analyze the ratio of the average earnings of the top 10 percent of your salesforce compared to the bottom 10 percent. The ratio should tell you something about the type of selling. The less impact and influence the sales role has on the selling process, the smaller the ratio should be. Two questions to ask are:

  • How does the ratio compare to historical pay data?
  • To what extent do sales support and technicians participate in the selling process? Is this support available evenly across the entire salesforce?

Motivation

Compare the actual distribution of performance across the entire salesforce with the expected performance distribution.  It is valuable to conduct this type of analysis midway into the year.

Sales leadership is responsible for the achievement of corporate sales goals and objectives.  Yet it is understood that not all members of the salesforce will meet their individual targets.  You may question, for example, whether your targets are being set appropriately if far too many salesforce members exceed expectations.  According to recent Korn Ferry / Hay Group findings, only 5 percent of sales people achieved the maximum amount of incentive earnings.

Pay Mix for Different Roles 

Financial budgets and operating schedules are designed around expected levels of performance and pay mix. With all the merger and acquisition activity that occurred in 2015 and with 2016 expecting similar activity, sales role clarity and internal logic may need to be examined closely.

When you take into account that the pay mix will vary by role, e.g., sales representative vs. national accounts manager, then the actual mix should reflect the impact the role specifically plays in the selling process.

  • Is the appropriate market data being used to establish or confirm the proper competitive pay mix for the various sales roles?

Salesforce Survey  

An online survey conducted with both the salesforce and headquarters’ management can yield useful information by trying to measure factors that have an influence on the effectiveness of the company’s total sales effort.  Topics such as sales targets, marketing and advertising activities, sales manager’s role, time allocation, competitiveness of the sales compensation program are among the topics that should be included in the survey.
Survey results will give a broader and more holistic understanding of the incentive plan’s environment.  Also, in a number of past surveys conducted for clients, a wide (and surprising) disparity was evidenced between the salesforce’s views and those of headquarters’ management. This disparity indicated other factors needed attention in order to get the desired “bang for your incentive buck.”
 

Contact Us

We welcome your feedback on our Salesforce Alert eNewsletters and would like to talk with you further regarding your salesforce experience and input. Please feel free to contact Tim Weizer at (312) 479-6411 or tim@salescne.com or Neil Lappley at (847) 864-8979 or nlappley@lappley.com.

As we begin a new year, this eNewsletter Compensation Alert reflects on some of the 2015 compensation trends and makes some projections for the upcoming year. But before getting into a compensation-specific discussion, let me review some broader economic base-pay-increasefigures.

Unemployment
Unemployment is around 5.0 percent, down from 5.6 percent at the end of 2014. While current levels may be at or near full employment, somehow it does not feel like everyone who wants a job has one. In addition to the 7.9 million who are still unemployed, there are 6 million part-time workers who would prefer full time if it were available.
 Jobs Creation
The economy created roughly 2.5 million jobs in 2015. That is a 5 percent improvement over 2014, but a 20 percent drop from 3.1 million jobs created in 2013.
Labor Force Participation
The participation rate has been falling ever since the recession hit and continues to fall through the recovery. At the beginning of the recession, when the rate was around 66 percent, it has steadily dropped and is now approximately 62.5 percent. Surprisingly, the rate has been dropping even for the prime working age group, so the trend cannot be entirely explained by the simple demographics of baby-boomers moving into retirement.
Inflation
Most likely 2015 will have had its second consecutive year with sub-1 percent inflation. Continued drops in energy costs are almost entirely offsetting any nominal increases in other consumer price categories. However, the Federal Reserve has deemed the economy healthy enough to raise interest rates for the first time in nine years. A recent forecast by the Kiplinger organization predicts inflation to be above 2.0 percent in 2016.
2015 Results
Last year was more of the same from a base-pay standpoint. Average salary increase budgets averaged 3.0 percent, unchanged from 2014. Workers, like the Federal Reserve, are beating the drum to get wages to accelerate faster. However, five full years into the recovery, organizations have not had to do so. In addition, short-term incentive plan payouts have held steady in terms of average payouts. There has been an uptick in the use of bonus plans, in particular sign-on and retention bonuses. This may be a sign that the competitive labor market is heating up.
2016 Outlook
It appears that 2016 is shaping up to be another year of continued modest gains in compensation levels. When the pain associated with losing too many workers to competitors or the ability to find qualified applicants reaches a tipping point, wage growth will accelerate. Another factor, increase in inflation could also affect wage rates. However, neither is unlikely to happen this year. Look for modest salary growth in 2016, perhaps a one or two-tenths percentage increase in salary budgets over 2015.
There are fast-growing occupational areas such as  tech developers of software and systems software, data-base administrators, and cyber-security experts can be expected to command premium pay. Other fast growing fields in health care, transportation, and financial services will also demand attention. On the other hand, some jobs in decline, such as printing press operators, will not exert pressure on pay levels.
Organizations will likely continue to target key employees and high performers with above average pay adjustments and retention bonuses, while the bulk of the employee population will see more of the same this year. On the plus side, consumer prices will most like stay low. So despite modest increases in salary budgets, those increases are not being eaten by rising prices for goods and services.
Contact Us
Please contact me at nlappley@lappley.com or (847) 864-8979 to discuss compensation trends. Feel free also to forward this email to anyone who may be interested.