One, an inspiring keynote address by author and networking expert Mark Scharenbroich, challenged all rewards and HR professionals in the room to get better at making authentic connections with the people they want performing for them.
Author of Nice Bike: Making Meaningful Connections on the Road of Life, Scharenbroich punctuated his points with personal stories from both his life and his work, as well as anecdotes from organizations he has worked with. Throughout his compelling presentation, the message was clear: “Embrace your journey [as HR and rewards professionals] with a passion to serve others — when you do that, people will follow.”
He also noted that “every problem is an opportunity to engage and connect with customers” inside and outside of your organizations.”
Scharenbroich accentuated employees’ needs — everyone’s needs, for that matter — to belong to a group or a cause; that “people will stay where they feel appreciated, recognized and part of the game.”
But in their session directly following the opening keynote, Jay Schuster and Patricia Zingheim, of Schuster-Zingheim & Associates Inc., cited their yet-to-be released research on What CEOs Want from Total Rewards as proof positive that, if you ask the bosses of HR and rewards professionals, as they did, you’ll find they want their rewards programs to be centered on nothing of the kind.
What CEOs want, they said, are proof of individuals’ value in terms of business goals. As Schuster put it early into the session, “If you’re here to hear about pet insurance, you came to the wrong session.”
According to their research, he said, an impressive majority of the CEOs they interviewed (I plan to write about this later and supply all the numbers from their report) “aren’t even interested in best practices and benchmarks” — they don’t want all the paperwork HR comes in with “frequently changing definitions and the wording of performance management and what it needs to consist of.”
They simply want HR to focus on results that make good business sense and compensation plans that reward the individuals and the behaviors and the results that will take them in the direction they want to go.
And more alarmingly, the CEOs they interviewed don’t feel HR executives are delivering on that, not really in the least.
“They think we’re becoming shoe-shiners, not adding real value to the business,” Schuster said.
One good pointer the two did share was that giving company stock to high-performers was very attractive to the CEOs they interviewed. They considered it, in Schuster’s words, “a piece of the pie and a fraction of the action [as opposed to] giving teddy bears.”
So what’s the joint message here for HR and rewards professionals? Obviously, your approach will be your own; just know this indication from CEOs suggests it should be customized in terms of adding value to the business you’re in, not the businesses you’ve studied or benchmarked. One tech company Schuster-Zingheim studied, for instance, adopted a multiple-tier workforce, with three-to-five-year work agreements for core professional talent, keeping pay and benefits in transition as performance is proven. It worked, and continues to work, for them.
Zingheim’s checklist for drafting your own rewards program includes: How does a program change reflect real business success? Does it add value to the business? Is it cost-effective compared to other organizations? Does your reward structure help to upgrade the performance of your organization? (The list goes on; to be continued when I take this up again.)
Also, the two stressed, take chances. “If you’re going to err,” said Schuster, “err in favor of best performers.”