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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Is Your Employment Relationship in Balance? Tipping the Scales in Your Favour

It is astounding how many conversations I have recently engaged in about this very topic with a wide variety of professionals across many industries and organizations: 

First of all, what do I mean by "is your employment relationship in balance"?  Simply said:  are you as an employee deriving as much benefit out of the employment relationship as your organization is deriving from you?

Let's first identify some examples of what you, the employee, may bring to an organization that is viewed by most progressive employers as valuable attributes:
  1. Knowledge - you may have specialized knowledge, skills, experience and/or professional expertise that is required to be effective within your particular role or organization.
  2. Relationships - you may have solid professional relationships which you leverage to the benefit of your role and/or the organization.
  3. Leadership - you may be an extremely effective leader and as a result of your leadership skills, you are able to positively influence up, down, across, inside and outside of your organization to help you achieve business results.
  4. Work Ethic - you may have an admirable work ethic that enables you to drive sustainable business results over a protracted period of time as compared to others.
  5. Positive Attitude/Personality - you may have an infectious "glass half-full" personality that enables you to focus on the positive thereby creating a magnet for others to gravitate toward, even when times are tough.

If you possess any one or a combination of these positive attributes, then you have to ask the question, am I being rewarded appropriately for them?

Some examples of being appropriately rewarded may include one or more of the following: 
  1. Recognition - are you seeing your fair share of job promotions, competitive annual increases, employee awards, letters of commendation and/or enrollment in developmental courses, etc.?
  2. Growth - are you continuing to grow and develop your skills, knowledge, experience and leadership skills on a personal and professional level?
  3. Remuneration - base salary, commissions, bonuses, etc., are they reflective of your worth as a free agent in the open marketplace?
  4. Respect - do you feel your boss, peers and organization truly respect and value you and your contributions to the business?

Baring this in mind, when you weigh what you bring to the table (i.e., "your attributes") versus what you receive in recognition for them from your organization (i.e., "the organizational rewards"), which one of the following three scenarios best describes your current situation:
  1. When the scales are reasonably balanced between your attributes and the organizational rewards, generally speaking, most employees should be content with their employment situation;
  2. If you happen to be one of the lucky ones where the scales tips in your favour, then be thankful for what you have achieved, but don't be surprised if at some point your employer takes steps to even the playing field; or
  3. If the scales tip in favour of the organization, the question then becomes by how much?  As long as there is not a significant disparity, arguably most employees should be content with their employment situation with the caveat that they need to ensure the scales don't continue to tip away from them. If, however, there is significant disparity, one legitimate reason may be that you are new to the position and there is a steep learning curve.  In the short term, this is perfectly acceptable in many circumstances.  On the other hand, if this is not the case, you should give serious thought to addressing the imbalance (please look to future blogs where I will be discussing ways in which you can address this imbalance in a constructive manner).

Both employers and employees alike need to be cognizant of the ever-shifting balance of the employment relationship scales and make a concerted effort to maintain equilibrium where ever possible.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

I am in Transition ... "Damaged Goods or An Equally Strong Job Prospect"?

Sometimes good -- and even great -- employees are let go from organizations not as a result of performance, but for various other reasons which I'll get into below.  Strictly speaking, these employees have been "terminated without cause".  You often hear people in such circumstances describe themselves as having been "downsized", "right-sized", "made redundant" or "severed".  In outplacement circles, the more appropriate vernacular is to refer to such persons as being "in transition".

There are a litany of reasons why good, loyal and productive employees may find themselves going through transition, including: 
  1. Organizational restructuring  (i.e., their role no longer exists or the role is not viewed as driving the required organizational value).  
  2. Cost reduction measures (i.e., reduction in SG&A or overhead costs).
  3. A new leadership regime (i.e, new leadership wanting to be seen as making overt people changes without fully realizing its impact). 
  4. Political fall-out (i.e, backing the wrong leader, pushing the wrong issue, not being a "yes person"). 
  5. Falling out of favour with the person's boss or peer group or having "personality conflicts" with these people. 
These are some of there more common reasons why good and otherwise capable people may find themselves working with outplacement firms to re-write there resumes and, at times, re-invent themselves and re-calibrate their career expectations. 

For anyone who finds themselves in these circumstance, it is not uncommon for them to go through a number of emotional stages, including: 
  • shock (of the initial event and related notification);
  • anger (at their boss, organization, un-affected peers and coworkers); 
  • embarrassment (what will people think of me); 
  • self-doubt (will I ever land on my feet); 
  • disappointment (when rejection is experienced relating to positions they have applied to); 
  • excitement (as they receive job offers); and 
  • exhilaration (when they land their next career opportunity).
The question often asked behind closed doors by recruiters and hiring managers alike if a job prospect is currently in transition or has been through transition in their recent past is:  are they damaged goods (i.e., sub-optimal performers, organizational cultural outcasts, problem employees, desperate to accept any job offer and/or in some other manner inept)?

Based on my 20 plus years of human resources experience, I would suggest that while it is still vitally important to do due diligence on any prospect that has gone through "transition" and drill-down into the reasons for their circumstances, these candidates may sometimes be seen to bring a higher degree of professional maturity to a role that may not otherwise be present with candidates who have comparable credentials but not experienced transition themselves.  

Nothing should ever be assumed when recruiting and selecting talent for any search assignment!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Look Beyond The Base: "Total Compensation"

Whether you are a hiring manager or a job applicant you should ensure that you have a full and complete picture about all the components of the compensation plan an employer is prepared or able to offer. This is key information for a hiring manager to have so it can be used to sell a prospective employee on all of the benefits of joining an organization.  As a prospective employee, knowing and being able to quantify all of the components of "total compensation" will enable you to make a more informed decision as to whether or not to join an organization. 

The term "total compensation" is most often used to describe not only a candidate's salary and wages, but also all the various plans, programs, benefits and opportunities that become available to the incumbent during their employment.

Other components of "total compensation" can include:
  1. Flexible Work Hours - compressed work week, telecommuting or working from home and flexible working hours.
  2. Professional Development - tuition reimbursement programs, professional association dues payments and funding for attending conferences or workshops.
  3. Pay for Time Not Worked - sick pay, sabbaticals, floater days, vacation entitlements and carry over of vacation days not used.
  4. Health, Accident and Liability Protection - flex benefit plans, competitive levels of co-insurance and no deductions, no caps and or reasonable spending limits on prescription drugs along with travel accident insurance coverage.
  5. Disability Coverage - do short term and long term disability plans exist and are the reimbursement levels competitive (e.g. STD 12 months coverage at 100% of salary, LTD level of 60% of the employees pre-injury earnings).
  6. Deferred Income Benefits - is there a pension plan, does the employer match or contribute to the plan and is the plan a defined benefit or defined contribution plan.
  7. Company Vehicle - does the company offer a company car as a perk and do they pay for the insurance and operating costs (e.g. fuel, maintenance, etc.). 
All compensation considerations need to be understood and assessed in addition to base salary and bonus numbers in order to gain a full understanding of the total compensation an employer is prepared or able to offer.  Knowing all of these components of "total compensation" will lead to hiring managers making a stronger articulation of the job offer and also enable prospective employees to make a more informed decision to either accept or decline a job offer.