Compensation Management - Meaning and Important Concepts

“If you pick the right people and give them the opportunity to spread their wings - and put compensation and rewards as a carrier behind it - you almost don’t have to manage them.”

Jack Welch

Most of us would have heard the term “compensation” in the context of getting paid for the work that we do. The work can be as part of full time engagement or part time in nature. What is common to them is that the “reward” that we get for expending our energy not to mention the time is that we are compensated for it.

From the perspective of the employers, the money that they pay to the employees in return for the work that they do is something that they need to plan for in an elaborate and systematic manner. Unless the employer and the employee are in broad agreement (We use the term broad agreement as in many cases, significant differences in perception about the employee’s worth exist between the two sides), the net result is dissatisfaction from the employee’s perspective and friction in the relationship.

It can be said that compensation is the “glue” that binds the employee and the employer together and in the organized sector, this is further codified in the form of a contract or a mutually binding legal document that spells out exactly how much should be paid to the employee and the components of the compensation package. Since, this article is intended to be an introduction to compensation management, the art and science of arriving at the right compensation makes all the difference between a satisfied employee and a disgruntled employee.

Though Maslow’s Need Hierarchy Theory talks about compensation being at the middle to lower rung of the pyramid and the other factors like job satisfaction and fulfilment being at the top, for a majority of employees, getting the right compensation is by itself a motivating factor. Hence, employers need to quantify the employee’s contribution in a proper manner if they are to get the best out of the employee. The provision of monetary value in exchange for work performed forms the basis of compensation and how this is managed using processes, procedures and systems form the basis of compensation management.

As the module progresses, readers would be introduced to other aspects of compensation management like the components of compensation management, types of compensation, inclusion of variable pay, the use of Employee Stock Options etc. The aspect of how skewed compensation management leads to higher attrition is discussed as well. This aspect is important as studies have shown that a majority of the employees who quit companies give inadequate or skewed compensation as the reason for their exit. Hence, compensation management is something that companies must take seriously if they are to achieve a competitive advantage in the market for talent.

Considering that the current trend in many sectors (particularly the knowledge intensive sectors like IT and Services) is to treat the employees as “creators and drivers of value” rather than one more factor of production, companies around the world are paying close attention to how much they pay, the kind of components that this pay includes and whether they are offering competitive compensation to attract the best talent. In concluding this article, it is pertinent to take a look at what Jack Welch had to say in this regard: As the quote (mentioned at the beginning of this article) says, if the right compensation along with the right kind of opportunities are made available to people by the firms in which they work, then work becomes a pleasure and the manager’s task made simpler leading to all round benefits for the employee as well as the employer.

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