All in Communication

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.

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.

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…

We have been living in an age of 3% annual increases for several years.  Sometimes it’s a bit more; sometimes it’s a bit less. On average, it’s not too inspiring. We do our best to give a bit more to our best performers, but those in the middle must fend for themselves. It’s not hard for them to find a time machine.

Stop. Take a quick evaluation of the fires you are currently trying to put out. Do any of the following sound familiar? Unplanned succession planning? Short-term incentive plan that doesn’t align well with recent company performance? An equity plan that is undervalued by participants or running out of shares? Market pricing that your talent acquisition team claims is off-target? Pay levels and execution that do not match your compensation philosophy (or vice versa)? Your list may differ, but I know you have a list.

IPOs and equity compensation have become almost mythical in the media and entertainment. Because of this they are often mythical in the eyes of your employees. We have all read about the massage therapist, artist or receptionist who became multimillionaire when their company went public. We have all see the headlines about twenty-something billionaires.

A growing best practice is building regular reporting summaries at critical decision and measurement points. These summaries often include pictures or easy data visualization because our brains are best at remembering images. These summaries become a diary of our past. At their best, they also include the "why" of each decision. This approach to remembering history is seen in things like "Facebook memories" and old family videos but is very new to the world of total rewards.

I promise you if NASCAR tossed its rule book, teams would immediately build better, faster, and more incredible race cars. The best teams would become better. The most innovative teams would try new things, most of which could be proven to work elsewhere (Formula 1 aerodynamics, next generation tires, lightweight cars, etc.) Those who stick with their old cars would seldom compete at any race and would never compete for a season title.

Consultants are not magic. We usually know the same things you know. Sometimes we have better data. Sometimes we have more polished techniques and tools. Sometimes we have more complete answers for questions. Mainly, we have an air of outside credibility (and the weight of a decent consulting fee) that makes people believe they should listen.