This year’s tax reform has had some negative consequences for executive pay. As a reminder, here’s a link to my January article on 162(m). As it turns out, it has also given many companies additional cash which, of course, is absolutely a positive. Many companies have used some of that cash to execute stock buy-backs. This, in turn, has resulted in some executives making additional compensation. How does all of this work and is there a long-term impact?

The world of compensation is filled with odd inconsistencies. Are you motivating someone to retain them, or are you retaining people, so you can motivate them? Are you looking to hire “world-class talent”, or do you want to pay more like your peers? Perhaps the most frustrating is the dilemma of compensation data being absolutely accurate and almost completely wrong.

Triennial merit pay increases are the latest trend in compensation. This exciting new approach to base pay is something to consider before your next round of raises. Once every three years.

I have listed five reasons to consider triennial increases and am sure you can add to this list. I am also sure that naysayers will point out potential problems, but we optimists can chat about those some other time.

The failed Wells Fargo plan focused on the benefit of opening new accounts. The CEO stated that eight accounts per person were the right number, because “eight is great.” It seems that no one was specifically required to ensure those accounts were needed, valuable, or even real. The metric was “more accounts,” the goal was “eight.” Plan designers, I am sure, thought the plan was clear and that people would not cheat. But success depended only on the expectation that people would do what the plan intended them to do. Incentive plans seldom work when founded only in dreams and hope.

I was speaking to the Head of HR at a small, talent-intensive company. We were discussing the cost of long-term incentives as related to their compensation philosophy of paying between the 50th and 75th percentile. Adding equity effectively and economically is always a challenge.

At the companies who eschew variable pay altogether, the problem can be worse. Many of these companies pay base above the median. Over the year, the compounding growth in base pay outpaces the market, their needs, and the companies’ budget. High base pay can be a great approach, but it must be managed and explicitly communicated. Errors in this philosophy can be hard to correct.

Every musician will tell you that a great conductor can draw a better performance than an average one. They provide insight, emotion and energy to everyone involved. The best conductors are also aware when someone needs help or a little more time. They contour the performance of the group to match the strengths of the soloist and they ensure that the music uplifts the visual presentation, rather than overshadow it.

Congratulations, you read this sentence! Not impressed? You shouldn’t be. You probably would be looking at this article if you couldn’t read basic sentences. Celebrating a foregone conclusion is a spiraling path to mediocrity. Achieving the inevitable is not an accomplishment.

This rule is a modification of a proposal that has been floating around for a few years. It is designed to allow individuals who exercise stock options, or vest in RSUs to delay recognizing the income and associated taxes. The theory is that this will allow people to become owners at a lower initial cost and catch up when there is some liquidity in the stock. BUT…

It is the holiday season and during this chilly time of the year many reach for a nip of whisky to create some warmth. Scotch is not a drink for everyone. But, for those who partake little else can replace it. Equity compensation is similar. It isn’t perfect for every company, or every situation, but when is done right it can be a game-changer.