7 compensation resolutions for 2017

Developing compensation strategies

This article originally appeared on Payscale

I am a word nerd, and I recently looked up the definitions for “resolution.” As I was in the process of setting my own personal and professional resolutions for the new year, two of them caught my eye: the act of analyzing a complex notion into simpler ones; and the act of answering and solving. These notions of analyzing and resolving are especially relevant in the field of HR, and with compensation in particular.

Here are seven compensation resolutions for 2017, and why analyzing and resolving are so important.

#1: Develop regular compensation reporting

I was working as a compensation consultant when the recession started to ease up. The thing I heard most often from clients was anxiety about how they might be doing relative to the market. They were anxious because they didn’t know. They lacked the information they needed to know not just how to act, but how to react and anticipate questions from employees. As we face uncertainty under a new administration in 2017, knowledge will be increasingly important.

The first resolution for 2017, then, is to develop monthly compensation reporting, or more often if needed. What should you look at every month? At the very least, what’s your market ratio, or how you’re doing relative to the markets where you compete for talent. Depending on your organization’s goals, you may also pick the top 10 most critical jobs or top 12 most valuable employees and track their compensation to market on a regular as well.

Once you have your reporting, don’t hoard it. Share it with your executives regularly. Get them familiar with a compensation dashboard view. It could be something as easy as this report showing, by division, how internal pay compares to market.

Employee Pay to Market

#2: Train managers to communicate about compensation

In 2016, we learned that most conversations about pay happen between employees and managers. Employees feel more engaged and have greater trust in their managers when this is done well. And, most companies don’t trust their managers to have effective conversations about pay. While companies have tried to have one-and-done type training sessions with managers, it’s looking more and more like an ongoing commitment to manager training will have better success at moving the needle on manager proficiency.

In 2017, the second resolution is to build a case for ongoing training to increase manager aptitude in communicating about compensation. In order to do so, they may also need greater understanding about the details and purpose of your compensation plan. You may not have to break the bank to do this. Consider leading manager groups to help them coach and learn from one another!

#3: Make it easy to include managers in pay decisions

It’s not new to want to give managers some discretion in pay decisions. HR and compensation professionals have been building spreadsheets with columns from A to BZ, making sure managers have all the information they may need to allocate increases to those they supervise. It turns out, though, that more information isn’t always better. Sometimes more is less.

The third resolution for 2017 is to find a way to get just the right information in front of your managers. Not sure how? Asking managers what they need to know is the first and most important step.

#4: Reward results, or pay-for-performance 2.0

We spent a lot of time in 2016 evaluating performance evaluation. Many companies changed their processes from either stacked ranking or long and tedious annual reviews to something involving more real-time feedback. 2016 also saw the major Wells Fargo and Zenefits busts, where because of rewarding the wrong behaviors, the wrong results happened.

The fourth resolution for 2017 is therefore to find the right ways to connect pay with results, using modern pay-for-performance, focusing on results, and getting creative about pay.

#5: Seek fresh compensation market data for hot jobs

Talking about a competitive market isn’t new. New for 2016 was seeing how much some hot skills can impact pay for in-demand jobs. Skills like Django and Scala can boost pay by 20-29%! If you’re in a market that’s already somewhat competitive, staying on top of market trends becomes more than a “nice to have.”

So, our fifth resolution is to identify the top jobs and skills your organization needs to accomplish your 2017 goals. Track how compensation moves in your market with real-time, fresh, and accurate data.

#6: Train employees to understand compensation decisions

We’ve talked a lot about millennials, not just in 2016 but over the past few years. One thing we know about this group of professionals is that they are good information-seekers and gatherers. Having grown up with the internet, and due to the prevalence of all kinds of salary information online, they have become quite skilled at acquiring their own compensation data. Typically, the data that employees have access to is not packaged for business use, doesn’t take into account your organization’s compensation strategy, and may not be thoroughly vetted.

2017 is the year to catch up with employees. If they’re already seeking information, why not share the compensation information you have with them? Train them to understand your compensation strategy and how their job fits in to the bigger picture. Our sixth resolution is to decide to increase transparency of your compensation plan, and to train employees about the why of compensation in your organization.

#7: Review compensation strategy

The final resolution for 2017 is to make it a regular practice to review your compensation strategy. Is it supporting your talent strategy? Is it helping you make great hires? Keep top talent? Accomplish your business goals? If not, review and revise. Compensation strategies are no longer set-it-and-forget-it. They’re living breathing strategies that grow and evolve with your business priorities.

With these resolutions in mind, compensation professionals should be able to boldly move into 2017. Remember to keep it simple, and that part of resolving is answering and solving.


Mykkah Herner, M.A., CCP, is a Compensation and Human Resources Professional with ten+ years of HR experience. He has designed compensation strategies for over 400 organizations, poising compensation to drive business results.

See also:
Common compensation conversation pitfalls (and how to avoid them)
8 ways to spot a star performer
The Christmas bonus: a small business owner’s guide
6 cool ways to compensate and motivate your people


– Subscribe to the Hiring Insider newsletter
– Follow Workopolis_Hire on Twitter
– Listen to Safe for Work, the Workopolis podcast
– Post a job on Workopolis now


Previous Post 4 (free!) ways to boost employee engagement


Next Post How to design a great open-concept office space

Scroll back to top