When we have the opportunity to talk with executives and managers about their compensation programs, it can be surprising how many don’t understand the complete picture. While they are usually well-versed in the plan mechanics, such as metrics and targets, they are often in the dark when it comes to the broader rationale behind the […]
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 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 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.
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 companies.
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.
We welcome your feedback on our Compensation Alert eNewsletters. Please contact me at (847) 864-8979 or email@example.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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
No significant relationship was found between work experience and any of the pay preferences measured.
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.
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.
We welcome your feedback on our Compensation Alert eNewsletters. Please contact me at (847) 864-8979 or firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Elicit varying viewpoints – When you diversify, you stimulate debate and receive fresh ideas and different perspectives.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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 figures.
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