I love talking to employees about their compensation plans. It is always easy to see the people who work at companies with effective communication programs. Whether the staff likes or dislikes the plans they tend to provide similar details. They generally understand the components of the programs. And they have an idea of what it takes to progress within them, earn something from them or otherwise take advantage of them. If I have to be honest, my favorite employees are at the companies that have a terrible (or simply no) communication program. These are fun because it’s sort of like asking a 6-year how an airplane can fly. People have incredible imaginations. We have imagined the Internet and then made it real. We imagined skyscrapers and made them real. We even imagined flying into space and made it real. We are the masters of seeing our ideas become real. We are so good at it; we often assume that our ideas must be real, just because no one has proved that they aren’t. Seriously, I bet you know someone who believes in Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, or really healthy chocolate chip cookies. All are myths, but until you can prove otherwise, they are real to some people. The difficulty is convincing people of the truth after they have already come to a different conclusion.
I find the same is true about professional performance. People who are not given regular feedback have crazy ideas about how they are performing. Poor performers with strong personalities will tell me that they are the best in the their departments. Hard workers with introverted personalities will often tell me that they are probably in the bottom half of the staff. Imagine how much different the workplace would be if the good people knew they were good and the bad people knew they were bad.
Unfortunately employees’ ideas about compensation are very much like this. When given only their imagination to fill in the blanks, people’s pay is always too low, sales staff always make too much and the executives of the company make more money than is possible. I once spoke to people at a $100 million company who told me that their CEO made “at least” $400 million annually. They came to this conclusion based on the fact that he….oops there were no facts!
Ask yourself if you have filled the knowledge vacuum at your company. What haven’t you discussed? How is your staff filling in the details in your absence? If you don’t know the answers to these questions then you have a great project ahead of you for Q2 of this year. First you need to understand what your employees have imagined. Then you need to provide the documentation to support the facts. Finally you will need to start the difficult processing debunking the myths and teaching the reality. Or, you can just wait and interview people later and write a fun blog article about it.