An HVAC Guy and an Investigative Reporter Walk into a Bar…

By Jeff Haynes

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The Bartender says, “Hey the two of you make a nice couple, what kind of work do you two do?” The HVAC Guy says, “I design and maintain systems that keep organizations productive – I keep things cool in the summer, and warm in the winter – nobody complains, everybody stays focused and engaged in the buildings I maintain.” The bartender then turns to the lovely Investigative Reporter.  She stares at them both incredulously – not speaking at first - and then finally says, “I look into any situation and root out half-truths, scams and cover-ups – I make people aware of the real story, protect them from making big mistakes The bartender, having seen his share of mismatched couples, rolls his eyes and says – “yeah, ok – good luck with all of that . . .” and moved his way down the bar towards a group of HR professionals who appeared to be playing hooky from a professional development seminar.

Well, believe it or not, these two very different personality types stayed together, got married, and today, their daughter is the prototypical Total Rewards Executive! She has merged the best from both of her parents – her Dad’s knack for dialing in just the right temperature, and her Mother’s hard-nosed, fact-based view of the world.

So why is this Total Rewards personality amalgamation important in 2014? Well let’s set some context around the challenges that Total Rewards professionals are facing within the framework of the HVAC Guy and the Investigative Reporter.

HVAC Guy Perspective: What is the “temperature” and how does it impact the organization?

The “temperature” of the labor market is osculating wildly. Coming out of the recession, the US had over 8% unemployment; it’s now still relatively high at about 6.7%, or about 11.8 million people (BLS, Dec 2013).  So, competitive hiring rates should be pretty easy to set and employers should have the advantage right?  No so fast!   More than a third of jobs are going unfilled due to the lack of the right talent (Manpower 2013). And, get this, turnover rates are increasing – over the next 5 years they are expected to rise from 20.6% to 23.4% (Hay Group 2013) as talent incumbents test the labor market.

Woah – what’s an HVAC guy to do?  Is it too hot, or is it too cold?  No one is ever happy!  This puts a lot of pressure on Total Reward programs to attract critical skill sets and retain those skill sets along with other high performers in the organization.  As merit-based base pay programs continue to languish with minimal budgets, and minimal opportunity to truly distinguish critical skills and high performers (Mercer 2013), many organizations are turning to variable pay: More than 80% of firms offer variable compensation programs, and 32% said they plan to increase the emphasis on performance-based pay (Deloitte 2013). Variable pay plans designed to differentiate through segmentation offers a customized approach to getting the temperature “just right” for the organization (WorkforceOne, 2009).    

Investigative Reporter Perspective:  What are the facts and how do “the readers” get information to make wise decisions?

Insightful stories don’t create themselves.  Perhaps once upon a time it was acceptable for a report or spreadsheet with a few data points to cross “a reader’s” desk with some week old information – leaving the reader somewhat illuminated, but still mostly in the dark.  Now static dashboards are a thing of the past, today’s “investigative reporters” are coming up with hypotheses, testing those hypotheses with seemingly unrelated variables, and providing predictive probability analyses.  For example, a “story” might present itself as “turnover” – but as any good investigative reporter knows, there is a story behind the story.  What are the variables leading to turnover – and what do those variables tell us about the characteristics of the workforce - not only now but 12 months from now.  And, what if certain variables could be altered – could we change our destiny?  Wow – now that’s a question worth investigation!

Ultimately, fact-based decisions and predictive analytics is a key element of strategy within HR to enable a competitive advantage (Davenport 2010).  Organizations that pay attention to their “investigative reporters” using business intelligence and workforce analytics within HR drive serious returns (Aberdeen Group):

  • 14% year over year improvement in revenue per employee
  • 2x customer satisfaction
  • 13% increase in workforce utilization

With all that said, I believe there are at least two things Total Rewards professionals must do right now – #1 Understand the “temperature” externally and internally and get it right for their organizations, and #2 be skeptical, investigatory, analytical and predictive.

Of course these two points require advanced HR infrastructure - companies that have consistent, integrated talent management platforms are most effectively able to support segmentation and differentiation efforts in their rewards programs, and are best able to leverage analytics to get the complete story. In fact, firms with integrated HR infrastructure outperform their peers by 40% on revenue per employee (CedarCrestone, 2013).

Today’s total rewards professional – part HVAC Guy, part Investigative Reporter. It takes lot of technical expertise, professionalism, healthy skepticism and stick-to-it-ivness. So – are you the son/daughter of an HVAC Guy and an Investigative Reporter? If so, I look forward to seeing you at the World at Work Total Rewards 2014 Conference and Exhibition where Oracle will be highly visable as a Platinum Sponsor. Maybe we can talk a little HVAC shop, or a little investigatory journalism.

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Jeff has broad HR-related skills, with a special interest in HR technology,  reward systems, performance measurement, incentives, and job structure.  His work has strengthened workforce commitment and motivation, increased labor competitiveness and improved performance. 

Jeff has over 20 years of both corporate and consulting human resources experience spanning a variety of industries, including telecommunications, high-tech, energy, manufacturing, healthcare, higher education and non-profit.  Prior to joining Oracle, Jeff was the Solutions Consultant for Aon Hewitt’s Compensation Outsourcing Division.   Jeff has also worked as an independent consultant and was the Principal consultant for Mercer HR Consulting in the Rocky Mountain Region.  Additionally, he led the global compensation and benefits organization for Micron Technology, a global, high-tech manufacturing firm, and the compensation function of Qwest Communications, a major telecommunications corporation.  He also worked for two other professional services firms: Effective Compensation Incorporated and Spectrum HR Systems Corporation.

Jeff holds a BA in Psychology from the University of Colorado at Boulder and a MBA with a concentration in Management from Colorado State University.  He is a Certified Compensation Professional (CCP) and member of the Rocky Mountain Compensation Association (RMCA). Follow him on Twitter @CompWonk


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