If It’s Priority You’ll Do It Right

Stickman Priorities Get Done.png

If It’s Priority You’ll Do It Right

Like any complex endeavor, compensation requires a nearly endless series of choices. Because of restraints on time, budget and the will of stakeholders, these choices start with prioritizing what will be done and what will not be done. Prioritization itself is quite simple. Delivering on your priorities is less simple. We all struggle with this at times and when a specific item is missed consistently, it is time reevaluate things.

It is seldom possible to do everything you would like. It is unlikely that you will simultaneously fix your pay structure, while updating your short-term incentive plan for a specific subsidiary, while helping Sales modernize their commissions, while fixing the pricing for new hires in a foreign location, while updating your equity compensation to align with current goals or trends, while finally getting your communication program to an acceptable level. Sadly, just because each of these may be important to you doesn’t mean you can actually do all of them. Prioritization is the key. Often our top priorities are driven by the requests of others, while our own “list” goes stale.

Most of us can prioritize three or four things to be done in a reasonable time frame. The top items must always be support for new laws and regulations, followed closely by CEO and BOD requests. You will get these done correctly because you have no choice. The next items are often biggish projects that we KNOW are in our wheelhouse. They seem fairly easy and often comfortable. They may be a lot of work, but it’s not scary work. The last of the three, or four, highest priorities is usually a project that has been there before…and not been done, or not been done well. A great example is communicating your total rewards programs. Another is often sales compensation.

Most compensation professionals tell me that “communication” is in their top three priorities. Most also tell me that it is seldom top ten budget item. Without a supporting budget, it simply isn’t a priority. Because of this, communications often look and sounds the same nearly every year and deliver the same mediocre results. Because it doesn’t get done, we know it isn’t really a priority.

Sales compensation is usually a different issue. Sales pay is not everyone’s depth of expertise. The budget is often there, but clashing with strong personalities in business development, or pulling control of the plan design from your head of sales can often be a challenge we simply do not want. We may help tweak a plan or provide required adjustments to payout levels, but digging in and building a truly more effective program can stay on the list for years. Because it doesn’t get done, we know it isn’t a priority.

At this point, some of you are probably annoyed with me. OF COURSE, IT’S A PRIORITY, you may be thinking. That may feel right, but the proof is in the results. This is the secret. Your CEO knows that you are great at delivering on priorities because you always deliver on his. Your Board knows this as well. Maybe your CHRO also knows this. This means when you don’t get something done, it’s hard for you to convince people it was important.

So, what should you do? There are two approaches that may help. In my opinion, one is much better than the other. The best solution is to pick one of the things that have been missed in the past and make it your only communicated “personal priority” until it is completed to your satisfaction or moved to the very bottom of the list. This focus allows you to treat your own projects with the same focus and intensity as those from the CEO. Another approach is to simply stop putting these items on your priority list and instead put them on your “nice to have” list. This can be brutally difficult. It can seem like surrendering or even admitting failure, but it is a proven method used by software and hardware developers to ensure on-time delivery of a market-acceptable product.

Please share your best methods for delivering on priorities in the comment section.

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