by Ruth Wimberly
More often than not, employees believe that their pay levels are pulled out of a hat. And when employees do raise questions about their compensation, they typically go first to their front-line supervisor: the person with the greatest impact on their morale ... but the least-trained person to offer a good answer.
If the supervisor doesn't know how to communicate salary, he or she tends to make up answers or blame HR and seniorfor the lack of a pay raise. The result is that the employee begins to mistrust the supervisor and the organization. And that breeds low morale and high turnover, a costly business expense.
How can you combat this dilemma? By conducting a compensation-education program for front-line supervisors. This is an excellent tool to explain the organization's compensation philosophy and how it relates to business goals. It can also improve compensation consistency throughout the organization, ensuring equitable treatment of employees. Plus, as a selling point for management, this type of training can reduce the high cost of turnover and employee disgruntlement because employees hear honest answers to their pay questions.
Make sure to gear compensation-education training to the front-line supervisors' level of knowledge. Many supervisors rise from the ranks, so speaking in "corporatese" won't produce desired results.
Here's a general outline of compensation-education training:
- Big picture. Explain how the organization's compensation program emanates from its business mission, strategy, organization structure, and the people and skills needed to fulfill the mission.
- Job descriptions. Discuss their role and how they can make setting pay levels easier.
- Pay-setting tools. Explain how pay ranges are determined. Does your organization use market surveys or other tools?
- Compensation constraints. Explain that salary decisions are based on budget, business goals, economic conditions and employees' performance and skills.
- Role-playing. Through role plays, assist supervisors in answering difficult questions, such as why the competition "pays better," why the CEO makes more money and why an increase in production doesn't always mean an increase in pay.
The result: When confronted with an employee's request for a raise or questions about pay, your newly informed supervisors will be able to educate employees on business conditions and how the organization determines pay.
Ruth Wimberly is the HR director at Pacific Coast Building Products Inc. in Rancho Cordova, Calif.