Similar to when we are driving, compensation professionals must be acutely aware of the conditions around us when we want to implement change. When the weather is nice and the roads are dry, we can speed to our destination with confidence that our vehicles will predictably go where directed. When it gets a bit wet, we take a bit more care and slow down. It may take a little longer, but we know we will reach our destination. The real trick is getting someplace when the roads are icy. Icy roads require patience and deliberate action, even when it is counter-intuitive. If you brake too hard, or turn too quickly, your vehicle loses traction and you lose control. No matter what is happening around you, the only way to get to your goal safely is to stay calm, plan ahead and make small adjustments within the limits of your environment and experience.
In the world of compensation, the roads have been iced over for at least a few years. Regulations keep changing. Shareholders have become more vocal. Budgets have been decimated and philosophies have been critically challenged. These issues and countless others have made our paths treacherous, and yet many of us have not adjusted our approach. We often feel forced to make decisions and act quickly. Outside forces (backseat drivers) demand that we do the dangerous or impossible. As the drivers of the compensation process, we must be able to hear these voices without immediately reacting to them.
I know that your new CEO wants the new plan rolled out in 30 days. Your VP of Sales has found a new magic pay formula and wants to implement it immediately. Some consultant comes in and provides a few great new “quick fixes” that will only work if the systems and staff exist to support them. Regardless of the demands, we must remain at the steering wheel, our eyes on the road ahead, while we calmly explain what must be done to accomplish each item without sliding of the road into the icy waters beside it.
So how do we accomplish this feat? It’s all about slow, smooth actions.
Watch the road ahead carefully. Don’t worry about what’s behind you until the road is safer. When you notice a dangerous area ahead take your foot off the accelerator and calmly plan your next action before taking it.
Drive slowly and keep traction. Rushing on ice only leads to failure. Keep moving forward, but only as fast as you can control.
Avoid sudden changes of direction. Quick turns will result in not turning at all. Too much pushing as you change direction can result in turning to far with little chance of recovery.
Avoid abrupt braking. Start stopping early. If you feel a loss of traction stop braking and start steering.
When it goes bad, accelerate in the opposite direction. If the things start to spin out of control, don’t brake. Keep moving but turn in other direction and slowly accelerate out of trouble.
Unlike cars, compensation professionals can hit icy patches at any time of the year. Some of you have been spinning on ice for so long we have forgotten the fast, safe roads of the last upturn. In the end, the ice will thaw and those of you who were able to navigate the tough times will be well positioned to help your company race into the upturn. Before you decide to make an abrupt change this year ask yourself if the road conditions will allow you to be successful. If not, educate your backseat drivers before you decide to act.