VisionLink Blog

Ken Gibson

What Problem does your Compensation Strategy Solve?

One of the “filters” through which the effectiveness of a given rewards plan should be evaluated is problem solving.  Every strategy should be assessed, in part, in terms of the problem it will help resolve. Too often,  compensation solutions that are put in place create behaviors or outcomes that miss the target in solving key barriers a company is facing or, worse yet, create a new problem that didn’t exist before a given pay strategy was implemented.  Here are just a few examples of what I mean:

Certainly, many more examples of this phenomenon could be illustrated. Hopefully, the ones indicated give you an idea of what happens when inadequate attention is paid to solving the right problem with a compensation solution.

This issue is not solely a function of companies developing pay strategies without clearly identifying the problem they are trying to solve. Instead,  they often don’t go quite far enough in thinking through all the relevant implications of a given strategy that’s being considered.  They may be focused on the right problem but the solution they are implementing is creating more barriers than it resolves. Such is the case in the illustrations given above.  The result is a company that perpetuates a plethora of “unintended (harmful) consequences” instead of (positive) “strategic byproducts.”  If companies focus properly on the “right” problem and all of the implications of a considered strategy, the “strategic byproduct” multiple will become self evident and self perpetuating.  Here is an example of solving a problem in a way that creates this positive effect while avoiding unintended (harmful) outcomes.

Let’s think about how this approach solved the problem at hand while creating “strategic byproducts” instead of  ”unintended consequences.”  The company put itself in the position of offering potential recruits a plan that was rich in upside potential while limiting guaranteed income. (Problem solution.) It framed the relationship with the new employee as a partnership with ownership to grow the business. (Strategic byproduct.) It differentiated itself in a competitive talent market without over committing on salaries. (Problem solution.)  Additional strategic byproducts of this approach included an ownership mindset on the part of key producers and a more unified financial vision for growing the business. In addition, the business was able to construct a pay approach that significantly drove value for shareholders while still creating rich payouts for employees, due to a “self-financing” approach to the incentives. It created a “wealth multiplier” environment because all stakeholder rewards were tied to unified, business growth components.

In the end, most organizations need help in avoiding the pitfall of unintended consequences with their pay strategies when trying to solve problems.  They need individuals or consultants that have experience with multiple options for solving key business barriers and can guide the process in a way the leverages the strategic outcomes that are achieved.  The right questions need to be asked and appropriate challenges need to be made to solutions being offered that don’t adequately address the full ramifications of implementation.

This principle can be applied in other aspects of the business as well. For a broader treatment of effective problem solving in an organization see the Dwayne Spradlin article in the September 2012 edition of Harvard Business Review.

To see how phantom stock plans are often used as a strategic tool to solve specific problems within an organization while creating multiple strategic byproducts, tune into our upcoming broadcast entitled, “What is Phantom Stock and Why do I Keep Hearing about It?”  Click here to register.

1 Comment »

  • David Brown on November 5, 2012

    Great blog! I enjoyed reading it!

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Thomas K. Grzywacz
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Storm Industries, Inc.

"VisionLink has helped us successfully engineer a long-term incentive plan that has empowered our company to reward and retain key talent while increasing shareholder value. The knowledge, patience and deep experience of its team members helped us navigate a road that was unfamiliar to us. Ultimately, VisionLink designed a plan that met the high standards of both stockholders and key management employees. We have further engaged VisionLink to address our business succession and transition planning needs."

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"Over the past several years, National Technical Systems has engaged VisionLink to provide insight and direction on a number of executive compensation issues, as well as a performance evaluation of our 401(k) plan. Under its direction, NTS completely revamped executive level rewards to align with our business growth objectives and the strategic plan of the company. VisionLink's insight and direction have been invaluable. NTS has achieved its growth objectives and our executives feel appropriately rewarded for their performance."

Bill McGinnis
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National Technical Systems

"VisionLink arrived on the scene just in time for us. We needed a new framework for our short-term and long-term incentive plans. VisionLink's modeling and forecasting process broadened our horizons and expanded our view of how to use a good incentive system to build, retain and strengthen our senior management team. We remain impressed by their expertise, professionalism and great service."

James Keng
Chairman
Jimway, Inc.

"Our firm has had a long-term incentive plan for over eight years but we never quite felt like it was firing on all cylinders. We hired VisionLink to re-energize our plan, and they did it! We now have a cohesive awards strategy that's fair to shareholders and valued by our employees. VisionLink's team is technically skilled and very creative. We're happy to recommend VisionLink to firms looking to upgrade their management incentive programs."

John M
FTO Inc.

"Our company was like VisionLink's typical clients. We were great at sales and haphazard at how we compensated our people. VisionLink's process brings great clarity and confidence to our growth planning - and makes compensation a great growth capability."

Dan Sullivan
Founder and President
Strategic Coach ©

"The team at VisionLink helped our company structure a long-term incentive plan that parallels the company's strategy for continued growth as a global market leader within our industry. Their approach resulted in a program that our corporate team and executives embraced on both a professional and personal basis. Through VisionLink's guidance and execution, we were able to create both a motivational tool for current team members and a recruiting device to attract future executive level associates. Well done!"

Mark Rhoades
President
Fluidmaster, Inc.

"As a leading direct seller of scrapbook photo albums and supplies, Creative Memories has independent consultants across the country. And for over six years now, VisionLink has helped us to stay connected and administer a voluntary 409A non-qualified plan for them. VisionLink has provided support for all aspects of our plan from notification of eligibility through registration and distribution. The VisionLink support team has offered suggestions for improving processes and provided us with outstanding service year after year."

Guy Walker
President
Creative Memories North America

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