OMG! You Were Right All Along!

untitled11Remember that time you spent weeks modeling a new incentive plan only to have it shot down? They explained that any goals needed to be based on RESULTS! You maintained that the reason interim goals were included, was to ensure that success could be achieved and communicated throughout the process.

Remember that other time you explained to your managers that they needed to have frequent conversations on the new pay for performance program? And, when it didn’t work they told you Continue reading

The Real Cost of Mismanaged Incentives: Wells Fargo

untitledWell, so much for the warm-hearted caffeinated, pick-me-up from the Comp Café. Today is a steaming jolt of quadruple espresso in response to the Wells Fargo incentive pay mess. Let me start with the fact that I have been interviewed a few times about this story and even I was surprised by my response to the question, “What companies in the financial world are considered to have good incentive programs?” I answered that if I had been asked a few weeks ago, Wells Fargo would have been on the list. I guess it’s hard to know what you don’t know.

If you have been under a log for a couple of weeks, please start by reading a couple of earlier Compensation Café Articles (my own When Incentive Pay Goes Rogue! and Jim Brennan’s Excessively Successful Incentives). That foundation will help you understand the following summary.

A couple weeks ago, Wells Fargo was fined about $185 million for fraudulently opening millions of accounts. They also fired 5,300 employees and were the media poster-child for why incentive plans are terrible. At the very least, the plans in question ended up costing more than they delivered. In the past few days, the real costs of these programs are starting to reveal themselves. Recent developments are listed below. Continue reading

When Incentive Pay Goes Rogue!

untitledA friend of mine likes to say: “It’s not that incentive pay doesn’t work well, it’s that it works TOO well. It usually does exactly what it is designed to do, even if that wasn’t your intent.”

Wells Fargo just paid $185M in fines and penalties because its employees fraudulently opened additional accounting for people who were already customers. Often when issues like this arise, someone will blame pay programs. When this happens, compensation professionals usually Continue reading

Are Your Pay Plans Just New Hire “Click Bait”?

untitled5“You won’t believe what this star from the ‘80’s look like now!” “The best banana bread EVER!” “This great trend is your next haircut!”

It happens to everyone. We see the headline and click through to see the interesting pictures or stories. When the new page opens up (and we get past the explosion of ads) we find nothing surprising, new or even interesting. In fact, we are disappointed and annoyed that we were fooled again. Before you stop reading, you should know that this is exactly what many of our compensation programs are doing during the recruitment process.

Attract, Motivate, Retain (and hopefully Engage). This is the mantra of Continue reading

A New Grad Schools Us on Performance Management

6a0134836082f8970c01b7c870d73d970b-800wiThis is my first non-equity focused article in a few months but a high school graduate inspired me to change direction this week. The video below shows the valedictorian speech at the high school graduation of a friend’s kid. It’s five minutes well spent, but here’s s snippet if you are in a hurry.

“No matter how many details I give I will not able to express the full truth about today…As much as I would like to say that I was chosen because of my hard, dedication and intellect, I would be far from truthful in doing so because I have met and studied with individuals more diligent and talented than myself… 4.63. This three digit number is the reason I stand before you. But, what does it really mean? My GPA is just an artificial number meant to measure my academic prowess.”

And that’s where it starts getting really good! In the next section he tells you why Continue reading

Why Equity and Not Just a Bigger Salary?

6a0134836082f8970c01bb0904b74f970d-200wiThis February, the Harvard Business Review published Stop Paying Executives for Performance” by Dan Cable and Freek Vermeulen. The basis of the article is that we do away with all executive incentive pay and replace it with high (in cases much higher) salary. Their argument is that there is no evidence that pay for performance works and some evidence that it is dangerous. Since this post is part of my ongoing “Stock Options on the Precipice” series (earlier articles: 12345678, 9, 10, 11), I will try and focus only on that one aspect of incentive pay. Perhaps some of you will add additional information in the comments.

Note: We are not arguing that top managers such as CEOs should be paid less. That may very well be the case too, but that’s not the focus of our analysis. HBR , Cable, Vermeulen, Feb. 2016

Let’s start with the premise that pay for performance does not work. There is Continue reading

You are Not Lebron James (or Facebook, or Google)

6a0134836082f8970c01bb088b1ce3970d-800wiLebron James has just become the youngest person in NBA history to score 25,000 points in his career. He is not yet 31 years old. You are not Lebron James. It is an obvious fact. You are not 6’8”. You are not 250 lbs. of muscle. You cannot dribble a basketball while running faster than your neighbor being chased by a bear. You cannot leap 3 and half feet into air and gracefully land with a smile. You haven’t spent your entire life optimizing your skills and talents to be the best basketball player in the world. You know this.

Yes, you may be about 31 years old. Maybe you weigh 250 lbs. You might even be 6’8”. Even if these things were true, it would be a mistake to directly compare yourself to Lebron. Lebron is fun to watch, but at no point would you fool yourself into believing you can do what he does. Even those players who contend with him for the title of “best basketball player” don’t try to do things the way Lebron does.

Your company is also not Facebook or Google. Your product is Continue reading

Combatting Self Interest in Pay

untitledProfessor Dylan Selterman (@SelterMosby) is a psychology lecturer at the University of Maryland. Earlier this summer he gave his students an extra credit question that made them select between direct self-interest or indirect self-interest. The question is below:

“Here you have the opportunity to earn some extra credit on your final paper grade. Select whether you want 2 points or 6 points added to your final paper grade. But, there’s a small catch. If more than 10% of the class selects 6 points, then no one gets any points. Your responses will be anonymous to the rest of the class, only I will see the responses.”

Essentially students were asked many questions in this portion of the test. First and foremost, was it in your own best interest? Second, do you think the other students believe it is in their own best interest? Third, how confident are you in getting a good grade on this paper?

People ask me why I believe so passionately that equity compensation can be a great tool for company success. The Continue reading