Is it just me, or is the Christmas marketing train starting earlier and earlier every year? Being a veteran of the retail world, I remember when Thanksgiving and Black Friday undeniably marked the beginning of the Christmas rush. Decorations went out literally overnight, and the Muzak® tracks of nondescript elevator music was quickly replaced with familiar promises of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” or “Santa Clause Is Coming to Town” (I know I’m dating myself). These days, we barely even have time to put away our jack-o-lanterns and costumes before the strings of lights and evergreens are prominently placed in shopping centers and store fronts, and Black Friday sales start the Friday BEFORE Thanksgiving or sooner.
For those of us in the Compensation world, this time of year also marks the beginning of one of our busiest times of the year… Compensation Planning Season. But maybe America’s retailers are onto something with their early reminders of the pending change of the seasons and ever-growing to-do lists. Perhaps it’s a prompt for us to start planning early so we can truly enjoy our holidays in the midst of all the work that goes into planning and meeting our looming deadlines.
Make your List and Check it Twice...
The first key to keeping your sanity is to make your list and check it twice. Be sure you know what needs to be done, by when, and who needs to be involved. Here are some key things to consider when preparing for your compensation planning cycles:
Mark your Calendars
- If individual performance or talent assessments are part of the plan design, make sure you know when the final appraisals or assessments will be available. If you expect to have any stragglers, do you have a plan in place to handle them?
- If your pay-for-performance strategy includes any financial or operational metrics, when will the final results be available? In order to make your deadlines, do you need to consider starting your annual process with preliminary results? If so, is there a plan in place to handle the updates of the final results when they are available?
Get the Word Out
- Are there key changes to processes or strategies that need to be communicated to planning managers and employees? If so, remember to consider your audience when crafting such communications. Remember not everyone understands what a compa-ratio is or why it’s important. Take this time to find the best way to interpret our Comp-speak into layman’s terms. Maybe even solicit the help of a non-Comp-speaking colleague.
- Looking back at the prior cycle’s communications, are there reports that you missed or wished you had? Were there suggestions from your management team that you need to consider? What were your “if only”s?
Be the Good Neighbor
- With so many companies in the process of revamping their performance appraisal processes, make sure you know what those changes are if any and how that might impact your compensation plans. The sooner you know where they’ve landed, the sooner you can react accordingly.
- Don’t forget to give your friends in Finance fair warning that you will soon be calling on them for their data.
- If you don’t own the HR data, make sure you know who your data person is. They will be your best friend for the next several weeks to come.
Seek Outside Counsel
- If you are using a compensation planning solution to help you manage your process, it may be a good idea to engage your vendor as you’re preparing.
- Consider if you need some assistance with any configuration changes to accommodate for any new plan designs.
- Are you aware of any new functionality in your software solution that might be useful for you now?
Before you let yourself get overwhelmed during this holiday season with the daunting task of preparing for the upcoming compensation planning cycle, start your preparations early and engage others sooner than later. No one likes surprises… unless they’re under the Christmas tree!