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What Do You Do?

The holiday season is now in the rear-view mirror and everyone reading this post has recently had to answer some version the question, “what exactly do you do?” Maybe you had to explain it for the umpteenth time to a family member who spent the past year sending you articles about payroll. Maybe you had to explain it to someone who blames you, personally, for the disparity in pay between executives and “everyone else.” Perhaps you had to deal with why you had not yet fixed the minimum wage, income taxes, health care or some other headline issue. Or, this might have been the year where the light went on and someone FINALLY realized that you were some sort of workers compensation attorney. Some of you might have it even worse, your job might include compensation AND benefits. Maybe your title includes the words “total rewards.” Heaven forbid your business card or email signature includes the words analyst, consultant or director. Explaining what you do in a way that everyone can understand can be one of the most difficult parts of the job.

I asked for some help on this post. Some of my esteemed Compensation Café contributors provided two-sentence descriptions of what they do. Some also provided short descriptions of what YOU do.

Here are some of the descriptions of what the contributors do. (Feel free to guess the writer of each in the comment section.)

I help HR leaders leverage the power of thanks and social recognition to empower employees and build cultures of appreciation. Through a more modern and strategic approach to recognition, companies can fuel employee engagement, productivity, and ultimately drive business results.

I assist organizations in solving and resolving their employee pay challenges. From across the street to across the globe, I advise clients as to how best to effectively and efficiently design programs, value positions, measure performance, communicate transparency and ultimately properly spend reward dollars in a manner that benefits both the employer and the employee.'

I work with companies on their employee pay/compensation issues. They may need help on problems with salaries, bonuses or a certain benefit. Some of my work is helping companies with employee pay issues in their offices or manufacturing facilities overseas in other countries. Because the laws about compensation are different in other countries, they may need help in making sure their pay plans are legal.

I try to get people to think in new ways about how people and technology impact business outcomes. 

I diagnose situations and 'splain the range of most applicable HR and compensation policies and practices.  Drawing on many decades of experience with virtually every industry and location in North America, I research, summarize, distill and (hopefully) clarify the range of options available for total rewards applications.

Here are some descriptions of what you do…

The primary role of a comp professional is to ensure the right mix of rewards to attract, retain and motivate people to execute its business strategy.

A comp/TR professional collects and analyzes data, conducts diagnoses, makes presentations and implements the most situation-specific suitable range of optional prescriptions for effective solutions in human behavioral issues.

I think the descriptions above simply prove the point of how hard it can be to explain what you do. The thing about the problem is this: If you can't explain what you do, how can you engage your business stakeholders in helping you help them?

Here’s my stab at it.

A compensation professional figures out when, how and how much to pay people given their company’s strategy, budget and culture. In the end the goal is to pay, recognize and support employees (or consultants, etc.) in a way that allows both the employee and company to be successful.

Or, try this:

I figure out how to pay people and adjust as needed.

I should point out that some of my own family still call me to ask if I can provide stock investing advice (I have some deep expertise in equity compensation, but…no.) Friends still ask me to talk to their bosses to explain why they should get a raise (not generally my day job.) And, of course, people regularly blame me for the wealth gap, executive compensation excesses and the rise in housing prices (I wish I had, but do not yet possess, the power to control any of these.) I think you get the point. My holiday season is usually as fun as yours when it comes to this topic.

I would love to have you post your own two sentence descriptions of what you do. Maybe someone else (like me) can use it at this year’s family reunion or holiday party.

Dan Walter is the President and CEO of Performensation a firm committed to aligning pay with corporate strategy and culture. Get your copy of the new book: “Everything You Do in COMPENSATION IS COMMUNICATION.”Written by Comp Café writers, Ann Bares, Margaret O’Hanlon and Dan Walter. Dan has also co-authored of several other books you may be interested in including“The Decision Makers Guide to Equity Compensation”, “If I’d Only Known That”, and “Equity Alternatives.” Please connect with him on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter at @Performensation and @SayOnPay.

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