Neutralize the Mercury in Your Compensation Pool

It doesn’t take much mercury to poison a water source. Just two parts per billion (2 ppb). That’s the maximum amount of mercury that the EPA and FDA allow in drinking water. Any more than this and your body may accumulate this poison and it will slowly, but severely sicken you. You may wonder why I am giving a clean water lesson on the Compensation Cafe blog. Well, every company has mercury in its pool of employees.  We call them malcontents, dissatisfied loudmouths and other fun names, but regardless of their label they are a dangerous substance if ignored.

Most compensation design projects start with stakeholder and influencer interviews or focus groups. My clients are usually surprised when I ask that naysayers and pessimists be included in these discussions. I explain that my objective is to educate them, listen to them and, in the end, neutralize them.

These individuals are often voicing views that others are too timid to say out loud. Yes, they sometimes provide an extreme tilt to an issue, but their core comments often ring true. Their power is that other employees listen to them. You can spend months of effort designing a new compensation program and creating its communication only to have your work poisoned in a moment by a single negative influencer.

Leave these individuals out of the process at your own peril. While they can be disruptive and difficult to control in focus groups and interviews, including them can also neutralize many of their complaints. Listen to their concerns and provide them with constructive feedback before a program has been finalized. Point out where they have good points that cannot currently be incorporated. Show them how other concerns are being addressed. Most importantly make it clear which of their issues are valid and why you will, or will not, be including them in the program design.

Once you make them part of the process, you make them part of the solution. When plans are rolled out these “bad seeds” will still be out there voicing their opinions. The difference will be that they will now be pointing out good as well as bad features.  They will take credit for those aspects where their concerns were addressed and, of course, point out those that were not.

Removing all of the mercury from a water source can be a near impossible task. Diluting it enough to make it safe for consumption simply requires planning, time, resources and effort. Don’t let your compensation program be ruined by a few poisonous malcontents. Address them head on and dilute their negative influence.

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