Question: Ensuring continued executive support in a long and difficult HR undertaking

Our leadership team feels that our compensation & benefits structure is out of sync with industry standards. As a result, we are paying far too much in some areas and too little in others. Entire industry growth (including us) has been slow in recent years, pushing us to take action sooner.

As head of HR, I am responsible to bring parity to the packages (internally) and tune it better (to the local market conditions). This will be a complex undertaking over next several months, which is likely to affect our employee morale/ turnover.

My main apprehension is that while the leadership team is unanimous in their opinion right now, it may not stay the same as we go through the painful process.

How can I ensure that we do not end up with a failed project, due to lack of continued leadership backing?

5 Expert Insights

Just curious about a couple things....What does leadership truly understand about the process and changes needing to be made? Are all the leaders aware that they themselves might feel a pinch or all they all thinking it'll be someone else and I myself will get a raise?  

And lastly, personally, I would pose your question to the leadership team...and change it to..."How can WE ensure that we do not end up with a failed project when the pain of the process has people potentially change their minds and relinquish their backing, or worse, actively work against it.?"

Let the leadership team solve the problem ahead of time they themselves (some members anyway) may create.

What I believe is important is to create the clarity necessary so employees and management can understand why you are proposing these actions. The biggest challenge would be if you do this in the vacuum and prepare something you believe is right without taking inputs from others.

If you have data supporting your proposal, you have to be willing to share the data and also be prepared to have others challenge your data.

From the way this inquiry is written, it sounds like a very hands-off process:  as if management assumes there's a simple answer, and it's your job to get it figured out mostly alone.  Iva's right: don't do this in a vacuum.  And, to extend Michael's good advice, don't just get numbers, find out some of the issues others have had with these kinds of challenges, and tee those up to the leadership team in advance.

You might check out things like Roger Martin's Strategic Choice Structuring process for examples of extremely efficient ways to make hard decisions that involve management input on the front end so you're not surprised at the back.  Here's a link to his original white paper on this; search the net and you'll find more.

The MentorsGuild "qna" is a great place to learn -- for mentees and mentors, alike. Thank you colleagues.

To the above, I would suggest that you identify the impact of actually implementing the program, as currently envisioned, and share your findings with the leadership team, as a whole – BEFORE making any actual compensation changes. You might do this by focusing on the following groups of employees:

   a. the known informal opinion leaders of the company (and most likely to voice their opinions, most loudly)
   b. employees considered "most valuable" by the leadership team (and most likely to cause leadership team members to want exceptions and variances to be made)
   c. lower-level employees (especially as their $ and % changes compare to higher-level employees)
   d. whatever other personnel groupings you feel would be significantly impacted (positively or negatively) by the program

In advance of that, though, I would suggest you identify, and privately share with each member of the leadership team, a deeper subset of who, on their staffs, would be most impacted on both extremes. (This would likely help them use inductive reasoning to focus on the bigger issues at play, company-wide.)

Importantly, this affords the leadership team the opportunity to modify/tweak the program PRE-launch, as they see fit and as may be a perfectly reasonable thing for them to do based on your findings, saving you considerable time, angst, and backpedaling compared to doing so POST-launch. Similarly, it affords you protection from them saying you were "insufficiently transparent" in sharing the impact of the program with them BEFORE rolling it out – you don't want them saying, "If we had only known..."

That you are not blamed, but, instead, positioned as a smart and savvy executive with the foresight and wherewithal savvy to recognize (and help divert) oncoming freight trains – before it's too late – is a happy byproduct of all this, wouldn't you agree?!

What you have identified is a leadership project ... one that you, as HR, are responsible to oversee and execute.  Viewing it as such, it is important that it be kept alive in terms of awareness of the progress you are making as you execute per your plan.  Thus, providing updates to the team ( as a part of the meeting agenda) is important so that they are kept in the loop of the progress and discovery being made of a project they have designated as important to the organization.  As Michael has pointed out,  it's a 'WE' project.

I appreciate your expressed concern and your organization will to when you achieve the goal.