Silence Isn’t Golden

untitled1I hope your employees aren’t complaining about your compensation programs. If they are complaining out loud, then the problem has likely been there for a while and you need to address it post haste. But, that’s not what this article is about. We all can, and do, identify problems as they become vocal. I want to talk about compensation programs that people aren’t complaining about.

Most of us have been taught that silence is golden. That simply isn’t true in our line of business. When it comes to pay, if people aren’t talking about it then you are not getting real value from the program.

Chant our industry mantra along with me: Attract. Motivate. Engage. Retain. One more time…

1. If people aren’t talking about your company’s pay programs, then they have no power to attract. They may be helpful in convincing someone to work for you, but only after they have decided to apply for the job. The power of attraction implies that people are inspired to apply, at least in part, because of the pay programs. The goal is employees, recruiters and perhaps the media, discussing your great pay programs as a way of bringing talent through the door.

2. Silent motivation is powerful, but extremely rare. It is unlikely that you, or your managers, have the ability to longingly stare at an employee in a way that makes them want to achieve their potential. It’s more likely that the silent stares will result in a complaint with HR. Your employees’ silence about their pay is also a good sign that it doesn’t mean too much to them. You want to have managers using your programs to help communicate goals and lead people to success. In addition, you want employees talking about how their efforts, and the success of the company, are helping build a better life for them and their families.

3. Engagement is often missed in our mantra, but I am calling for it to be included from now on. Engagement requires communication. I’ve never met a fully engaged employee who wasn’t also talking about positive things with their coworkers. Imagine taking your kids to an amusement park this summer, only to be greeted with silence the entire day. It wouldn’t matter if they rode the rides and ate the food if they didn’t show any enjoyment. You want pay programs that have enough impact to be talked about as a reason to work at your company.

4. The best retention programs are those that are constantly visible, instead of programs that are only considered when someone is deciding whether they should leave. The easiest way to retain people is to have them so engaged and motivated that leaving doesn’t even come up. The strongest true retention tools only work if they work to stave off thoughts of leaving. Here’s what you want: Employees need to see the signs that staying is better than leaving, when leaving is not yet a strong alternative. Once you have lost their will to stay, retention programs serve as little more than emergency life support.

So, look around and listen to your staff for the next few weeks. Are they discussing the pay levels you worked so hard to calculate? Is there buzz about the incentive plans that came as the result of hard fought sessions with managers and the holders of purse strings? Or, are people silently going about their business? Perhaps silence isn’t so golden after all.

Dan Walter is the President and CEO of Performensation a firm committed to aligning pay with company strategy and culture. Become a better business leader.Everything You Do in COMPENSATION IS COMMUNICATION” was written by Comp Café writers, Dan Walter, Ann Bares and Margaret O’Hanlon. It lays out a practical approach to communications (with helpful worksheets for each step). Dan has also co-authored of several other books you may find useful including “The Decision Makers Guide to Equity Compensation”and “Equity Alternatives.” Connect with Dan on LinkedIn. Or, follow him on Twitter at @Performensation and @SayOnPay.