Before there were photographs, sailors would return from long trips and describe animals to artists who would then create “official” images. These images helped people feel like they understood what was “out there”. But, in reality, provided almost no useful information. Check out the drawing of the rhinoceros.
You get reports from the Big 4 and compensation consultants. They have pretty charts and easily digestible info-bites. You get market data from survey providers and professional organizations. They include tons of little boxes of information on enormous spreadsheets. There is enough granularity to make you feel like you have everything and can build anything new with grains of sand that are at your fingertips. You have articles from established and new media. They provide insight and new perspective that allow you stay ahead of the trends. You follow twitter and read blogs.
But how much of what you know is factual? You may be surprised.
A report from 24/7 Wall St. touting the “25 highest paying companies in America” is being passed around the internet as factual news. Unfortunately, like so many compensation stories, the report is all sizzle and no meat. People love to cheer or complain about pay. The list that was provided makes it easy by using “facts” that are not really “facts”.
Part 3 of my ongoing “Stock Options on the Precipice” series.
How much equity should I give (or get)?
It’s probably the most common question I get asked. The answer, as I am sure you know, is “It depends”. And, with equity compensation the final answer is even squishier than other types of compensation. Data seems to be all over the place. Trends appear to vary based on who is providing them. It often feels like survey data is pulling companies in specific directions, when it should be reflecting directions that have already been taken. What in the heck is going on?
I was reading a Facebook message a parent posted about their kid’s physics homework and it resonated as a reminder for the compensation world. The question was how do you explain the differences between speed, velocity and acceleration. A few years ago, I wrote an article about Newton’s Three Laws of Compensation Motion and I guess it’s time for another physics lesson.
Speed is a point on a graph. It tells you a whole bunch about an instant. Much of the data we use in compensation is like this. We know exactly the amount or percentage, but we have little information regarding the path to that point. We feel like we somehow already have this information, but in most cases it’s a deception. Most pay data provides as little Continue reading →
I just watched a great TED talk from a few years ago. In it, Todd Rose discusses the “average” in the context of creating learning environments. He provides a fascinating story about the U.S. Air Force and their path to creating effective fighter jets. Just a quick summary: The first cockpits built were based on a series of measurements for the average pilot. But, even as the jets became better and better, the Air Force experienced worse and worse accidents. In the meantime, someone decided to measure a whole bunch of pilots. Surprise! Not a single pilot matched the set of average measurements.
You probably see where I am going with this.
The Air Force took this new information and created new cockpit guidelines that allowed pilots at the extremes to be comfortable. Of course, manufacturers protested, but in the end they built to the new requirements. This necessitated innovations like moveable seats and adjustable controls (where do you think your car got these innovations.) In the end, the new planes had far fewer accidents and much happier pilots. And, everyone lived happily ever after. The end.
At least 50% of those that reach out to me start the conversation by asking, “what does everyone else do.” We all know that the vast majority of companies target the 50th percentile for almost every position. Companies want to build simple vanilla pay programs even when they Continue reading →
Have you ever bought a cool new car only to spend the next few weeks noticing how many other people drive the same car? You give them the “nod” as you pass on the streets in acknowledgement of their obvious good decision. It doesn’t take long to feel like there are far more people smart enough to be driving the same car as you after your purchase than prior. What’s going on here?
Last month I did a presentation with two other professionals covering the topic of how equity Continue reading →