Mark Feffer: Welcome to PeopleTech, the podcast of the HCM Technology Report. I’m Mark Feffer.
This edition of PeopleTech is brought to you by ADP. Its Next Gen HCM is designed for how teams work, and helps you break down silos, improve engagement and performance, and create a culture of connectivity. Learn more at flowofwork.ADP.com.
Today, I’m speaking with Brianne Wilson, manager of product management for core HR, compliance and compensation at ADP. We’re going to talk about, obviously, compensation—and compensation philosophy, things you should consider when designing your compensation plan, and why it all matters. It’s not as obvious as you might think.
Brianne, thanks for being here.
First, can you tell me what’s a compensation philosophy, and as employee expectations change, does the compensation philosophy change with it?
Brianne: That’s a really great question. Starting with the compensation philosophy, if we went by my handy textbook, the way to think about it is there’s a lot of metrics out there of what are people being paid in a certain job, in a certain location, at a certain type of company. But when it really comes down to it, as leaders in your organization … Say we’re just starting a business together, and we’re really thinking about how we want to pay people. Your compensation philosophy is your mission statement for how you reward your associates.
While you may have a certain job that makes a certain range, you can say, “We want to be competitive.” While project managers in New York City, may make XY in a salary range, we know that there’s some really great talent here in New York City, and so in order to be more desirable—and we know the hard work that project managers put in—we’re going to increase our range in this particular area, and invest in this area to draw in more of the top talent.
Whereas, there are other areas where maybe we don’t need to invest quite as much. And that’s really what your compensation philosophy is. It’s not so much making sure, if we’re paying people what they expect in the market. It’s really setting that vision statement for yourself.
I talk a lot about that with my teams, in the products we’re building, of compensation being… We often think of it as a science, but if there is an art to it. So it’s an art and a science, but at its core it’s deeply personal, because what you’re paying someone is what motivates them to show up each day. It’s the way a company reflects their investment and respect in you. It’s how they recognize the work that you are contributing, and at the end of the day that’s how you put food on the table and put a roof over your head. Making sure leaders are keeping that in mind helps contribute to a really strong compensation philosophy.
In terms of how that’s changing today, even just what’s happening right now in the world, it all ties to compensation on top of that. The younger generation, there’s a trend now in sharing salary ranges on job postings, which we used to not do. It was very not okay to ever bring up the compensation question in your interviews until you’ve already invested tons of time interviewing. That’s a huge shift, and if we think about the momentum that’s happening… We actually saw this morning on Twitter, somebody saying, “Hey, these companies that are saying they’re progressive, why aren’t you posting your salaries?”
That’s what these upcoming generations are expecting, real transparency in pay, because we don’t live to work. We work to live, and the best way to reduce biases, the best way to ensure everybody has a fair and equal shot is really making sure you know what those salaries and bonus plans and stock options are like.
If you have that strong compensation philosophy, your ability to be transparent to the public about what you’re paying people ideally, and likely to be able to happen together.
Mark: The compensation philosophy and transparency, do they go hand in hand? Or is transparency a part of compensation philosophy?
Brianne: I’d say it’s the latter. The ability to be transparent would be a part of your philosophy. We intend to invest in these areas. We are going to be transparent with the public across all of our jobs. We are going to list them accurately to everyone, so that anyone who’s applying, everybody who works here knows what each other makes. That could be your compensation philosophy.
Mark: As you mentioned, the desires or the demands of employees change over time. How has comp changed over time to meet those demands, especially as the workforce has gotten younger?
Brianne: They are being forced to become more transparent. I’ve seen it happen. [Imagine] if somebody shares with their colleague what they make. And so two people who have the same role uncover there’s a huge disparity, and that disparity might be across a man versus a woman, a white person versus a person of color. This younger generation is just so empowered in speaking up for themselves. That’s going to happen, they’re going to go to leadership and say, “I contribute the same amount of work. I have the same job. I found out this person makes X percentage more than me.” So that compensation philosophy of incorporating transparency is a direct result of those changing expectations.
I think it’s also the way we are operating as a country: The high cost of living, the extraordinary amount of student debt, that especially these younger generations are shouldering as they leave university, the expectation to understand, Am I going to be able to live off of what you might be offering me, and I’m going to work really hard, especially in the tech industry? If I’m going to be putting in a lot of hours, what’s your investment in me, because it’s extraordinarily expensive to keep a roof over your head.
Mark: How is it that companies get their compensation wrong, and why do you think they get it wrong?
Brianne: For me, it all stems back to that idea of a compensation philosophy. Compensation, there are people who are experts in this field. There are actual compensation practitioners. There are certification courses in how do you not only create a philosophy, but how do you actually create structures around that? It’s not always an area that companies are able to invest in, or are aware that it even exists. I’ve worked at many startups, so it wasn’t really until I came here that I even was aware that this role really existed.
I think areas where I’ve seen we sometimes get it wrong is relying solely on the science piece. Organizations understand, “Let’s pull survey data. Let’s go on websites that promote what these salaries are in a certain area, and we’ll just go by those.” If you aren’t being strategic and you’re not thinking about where you want to make that investment, to really pull in top talent, then you might lose out on the people you really want to invest in your for company and who’ll provide the work that you’re looking for.
Often times it’s like a moving target. Sometimes with your compensation structures it’s, “Okay, we’ve done our surveys, and we’ve created our job grades, and we figured out some way to adjust for cost of living.” But it’s not focused enough on enough different criteria or job grades enough to ensure you’re making up for all of the different ways you could be paying for someone.
Where you live is just really one thing that would have an impact on what you should be making, and [how you’re] managing it. Making sure you’re reviewing it on a frequent basis. Some companies only review their compensation structures every three years. It depends on your industry, of course. The public sector is very different from the private sector. You have more leeway in the private sector than you do in the public sector, but I’ve seen them be very much just output-oriented. “Okay, here are our ranges and we’re paying everybody inside the right ranges, and everybody’s comp ratio is 1, and we make sure our high performers are above a 1.” But really it’s about taking that human aspect into consideration when you’re making compensation decisions, and thinking beyond outputs, thinking of outcomes and thinking of insights and impact. It’s not just about your budget.
Some places will start with a budget, and say, “Well, here’s how much money we have. What can we give people?” So they’re not even taking surveys into consideration. I often advise people, “You should have your compensation structure and your compensation philosophy completely outside of your budget, and then figure out how your budget can make that work.”
Mark: You talked before about the science behind compensation, and mentioned that a lot of employers depend on surveys. How does that work out, do you think? Where do surveys fall short?
Brianne: I’m not envious of anybody who has to make these decisions. I have the fun job of just figuring out how to help them.
It’s a lot of numbers. Are you pulling from enough surveys? Are you pulling from the right surveys? Is the population size large enough? And that’s still just the science of getting, “Okay, all product managers in New York City have on average, this looks to be about their range.”
Eventually, enough survey data can get you to that, but again surveys won’t highlight where we’re making missteps as a society, or in different locations. Is that average salary range for product manager in New York missing what the actual cost of living adjustment needs to be? What’s happening in each location? E
Even if you use the surveys to create your structures, when you go in as a manager … This happened to me, the first time I had to do my compensation reviews for my direct reports, I got really, really stressed out, and I was the last person who should feel terrified of this, based on my job. I got really, really nervous. I was like, “Oh, my gosh. There’s all this information that’s coming at me. Oh God, I’ve got a minimum and a max, and here’s my budget and what does it mean? What if I’m a horrible person? What if I just really feel like being mean today? I don’t think this is accurate, but what if I don’t get along with the people who report to me? How do I know that I’m making the right decision?”
I didn’t feel that the numbers were enough, because everybody who reports to me, in my opinion, I’m very lucky to say, they’re all high performers. That doesn’t mean they’re high performers all in the same way. That’s something that surveys cannot assist you in. Even performance reviews, which is your way of evaluating people, that’s still bringing qualitative into the science. Even two of my direct reports, even if they both get four out of five on their performance review, that doesn’t mean those fours mean the same thing. What if there’s a person who’s always been a four? What about somebody who was a two and now they’re a four? What if I knew something was going on with one of my direct reports? They were having a personal tragedy that I knew impacted the work they were doing. There’s a lot of personal touches when you’re making those decisions that simple survey data and compensation structures just really cannot be able to spit out a number and tell you what to do as a manager.
Mark: ADP has compensation data, and I wondered if you could tell me what’s the role ADP’s compensation data can play, and also why is it unique? Why is it valuable?
Brianne: The main thing is the sheer amount of data that we have. ADP processes payrolls for one in six Americans. So we have a ton of data of what we are paying people, and there’s a lot of different ways we can slice and dice that data, to provide insights.
That’s been a big focus for ADP—how do we translate all that data, all that science? Yes, we can contribute to the science. The science is important. We just have this sheer wealth of data that is unlike any other organization when it comes to what people are paying people.
The technology that we have to provide insights, I think, is where we’re really making a huge difference because you can uncover things around diversity and inclusion, and whether or not there’s any unconscious bias happening at your organization, to help you better contribute to that compensation philosophy.
I heard an example of a place where they gave a differential based on gender. They wanted to close the wage gap. They understood that there was a bias happening, so what if we took things like that, those things that we just might not be aware of to add to our compensation structures? Just that sheer wealth of data that ADP has helps to figure out where are we making missteps. I think that’s where we really become powerful in the compensation world as we keep growing.
Mark: My last question is, what do you think the future looks like in terms of compensation? And how do you see ADP building toward it?
Brianne: I think what I see for the future of compensation, it really comes down to shifting that focus from being a science to understanding it’s an art, and being incredibly personal.
Again, the need to shift to transparency, the upcoming generations of our workforce demanding that transparency, and advocating for themselves, the cost of living, the student loans that we’re shouldering, all those things we’ve already talked about here today.
I think that’s what compensation is shifting, making those shifts to being more insight- and impact-driven. Taking those insights and figuring out how we can make change, I think is where I’m seeing compensation heading.
That’s my goal for the compensation products, and where ADP is heading is how do we keep collecting this data, and start advising leadership, and advising leadership and advising our managers on.. maybe you need to make this consideration in your compensation structure. Again, I think it’s such a great example of finding areas where you can put premiums on, give mall percentages here there, to make up for the fact that there might be bias in your organization. Publishing your agenda, your practice of how you create your compensation strategy. This is where I’m seeing things heading more and more. It’s not just going to be compensation practitioners who are aware of how the decisions are being made. We’re starting to show breakdowns of, “You got a 12% increase at your annual review, but here’s all of the decision points that went into it: Your merit because of your performance rating, you got a cost-of-living adjustment, you got a promotion increase, or any other number of reasons.
Really communicating at all rankings in an organization, of why every single compensation decision is made is where it’s heading. I feel like it’s always been a black box. I think that black box is very much about to be very much blown wide open in the coming years as compensation keeps scaling.
Mark: Brianne, thank you very much.
Brianne: Thank you. I love talking about compensation, so anytime.
Mark: That was Brianne Wilson, manager of product management for core HR, compliance and compensation at ADP.
And this has been PeopleTech, from the HCM Technology Report. This edition was sponsored by ADP. Next Gen HCM, designed for how teams work. Learn more at flowofwork.ADP.com.
And to keep up with HR technology, visit the HCM Technology Report every day. We’re the most trusted source of news in the HR tech industry. Find us at www-dot-hcm-technology-report-dot-com. I’m Mark Feffer.
This inspirational woman in STEM lives by a four-word personal mantra: girls can do anything.
Kanyatta Walker’s unapologetically fearless outlook began when she was only three years old. A boy cast as Santa in her preschool Christmas play did not enjoy being on stage and kept missing lines. Kanyatta offered to step in, but the teachers said she couldn’t because Santa was a boy. When it turned out none of the boys knew the lines and Kanyatta did, the first female Santa debuted in the play. The crowd loved it.
In high school, Kanyatta was interested in occupational therapy and planned to major in it in college. Then she did some aptitude tests with a good friend who wanted to join the marines. The recruiter told her she was excellent at math and could pretty much do anything she wanted – except be an engineer.
Kanyatta graduated from college with a degree in software engineering technology and has never looked back.
“I always loved math,” Kanyatta said. “My aunt was a math teacher and the way she explained it just made sense to me. I love that there is always a precise answer. But there is also always more than one way to get to that answer and lots of trouble shooting.”
She was recruited by Accenture, a multinational consulting firm, where she worked in a variety of roles from sales to program manager and development manager. By 25, she was leading a team with a significant budget. “I learned by trial and error. There was so much I did not know and I made a lot of mistakes. But I also knew that teams are a mirror of their leaders. I worked at a grocery store when I was 16. When it got busy, the managers would leave their office and come help wherever needed. After the store was bought by a chain, the new managers didn’t come out of their office to help. I learned how important it is for leaders to understand what people need and show up for their team.”
As her career progressed, Kanyatta realized that there are multiple roles for leaders too. “It’s like a baseball team,” she said. “There are coaches and general managers. Coaches assemble the teams and knows who to play to bring out their best. The general manager deals with the overall strategy and choosing the right coaching staff to create the win.
“To be an effective leader, you don’t personally have to play every position. When I see something I want to do, I work to understand the underlying skills. I see how to unravel things and figure out what I know, what I need to know, and how to learn the skills I need. With core skills and ability, you can do anything.”
The desire to understand executive strategy led Kanyatta to an MBA program at Emory University while she was still working full time leading product managers, business analysts and program managers for a large telecom company. She discovered the perfect combination of math and business in her finance courses. “I can look at a company’s finances and tell you what their strategy is,” she said.
Coming to ADP
After finishing her MBA, a friend helped recruit Kanyatta to ADP in Atlanta. She was excited at the opportunity to combine her business skills with her software engineering experience. She started out as Vice President of Operations working in National Accounts on outsourcing operations. Today, Kanyatta is Vice President of Global Product and Technology – Client Product Support, where she leads teams providing product and technical support for ADP’s business units and clients.
“I love the ability to transform here. As the company is transforming, so are the opportunities for people within the company and our clients to grow. I love helping people connect the dots and see where we are going from process to technology to culture, Kanyatta said.
“I also appreciate seeing women executives at ADP and how women help each other here. I met ADP business unit presidents Debbie Dyson and Maria Black within my first six months, and they always find time and make themselves available to help others.”
Helping others succeed
Kanyatta is also committed to helping others grow and achieve their dreams. She is involved in Women in Technology International and Emory’s Executive Women of Goizueta —while also mentoring and coaching rising leaders in her role at ADP. She loves helping women figure out what they want and how to get there.
“Connecting with others can be scary, but it’s important so you can understand the playing field,” Kanyatta said. “You have to lift your head up to see and for people to see you. There’s no way for people to know how amazing you are if your head is down all the time.
“There are not many women of color in tech, so I always try to say yes when people ask me to speak. It’s important to build bridges and for younger women to see people who look like them doing the things they want to do.”
Kanyatta is quick to say that she does not do it all alone. Her husband is very supportive and encourages her to connect with others and volunteer. Together, they manage a busy family schedule with their 12 year old daughter who is playing softball on a traveling team. “I love being a softball mom and spending time with my family,” she said.
Kanyatta, Kya and Kevin Walker enjoying time as a softball family.
Kanyatta’s advice to others
“Finding commonalities and accepting differences is the key to belonging,” said ADP’s business anthropologist, Martha Bird.
When I started to consider belonging at work, I knew exactly who to call — ADP’s business anthropologist, Martha Bird [MB]. Here’s some of our conversation about why belonging matters and what organizations can do to create and sustain a culture of belonging.
HB: Having a sense of belonging seems so important to how we move through the world and how we relate to our work. What is belonging?
MB: Belonging almost strikes people as poetic. It seems like a feeling, so it can resist the critical lens we need to unpack it.
People think of belonging as a psychological state, but it is actually cultural. It’s the notion of being inside or outside and relates to enacted phenomena like what the cultural norms are around us and how we compare ourselves to those norms.
Everything cultural is nested in other things and is influenced by power, resources, how things have been done in the past, and what the expectations are for the people involved.
Kids can feel like they don’t belong because of their clothes. New employees can feel like they don’t belong because of the jargon used in the organization. I’m a social scientist surrounded by tech people and it’s not surprising that my sense of belonging is tested from time to time. Ultimately, I’m privileged to feel I’m part of something bigger than myself.
HB: What makes a culture of belonging? It seems like belonging is relational. It’s partly how I perceive the circumstances and culture, how people already in that culture see it, and what’s actually going on regardless of our individual perceptions and opinions.
MB: There are so many ways to feel like you don’t belong — socially, economically, intellectually, emotionally. It’s that sense of other. To make sense of it, we can look at othering, break it down, and pick it apart to see what’s happening. We identify the discreet instances where someone feels alienated and read the cultural cues about what is happening. This gives us information about the culture.
There is no universal recipe for what makes a healthy culture. There are many good and right ways to do things.
It partly has to do with a culture’s view of the individual and how the individual should relate to others. In the United States, belonging often evokes family, but we also have strong cultural values in individuality and being recognized and valued as an individual. In other cultures, a sense of harmony is highly valued and working toward common goals is more important than individual achievement.
A culture of belonging fundamentally has to do with common goals and values, respect for each other, and a sense of our shared humanity.
HB: How can we help people feel like they belong at work?
MB: We want workplaces where people feel like they can be themselves, but are also working with others to do the work. It’s less about fitting in and more about complementing. There has to be room for difference. It’s like an orchestra where the manager is the conductor and we have all these different instruments playing different parts in the same piece of music. We don’t want just the violins or the tubas. We need all the different sounds, rhythms and harmonies.
Belonging at work starts with leaders modeling the values and behavior for their teams. Is it comfortable to embody those values? Sometimes that means being vulnerable and asking for help.
I recently gave a big speech to a large group of people in a setting where I felt anxious. Walking up to the stage, I decided to tell the audience that and ask for help. So I explained how I was feeling and asked them to tell me, “It’s okay, Martha!” It was great, so I asked them to do it again. And they did! I felt so much better and they were all on my team at that point, because I was vulnerable and asked them to help me in a way they could.
In cultures of belonging, it’s okay to be honest about what’s going on, even if it’s that you don’t feel included.
HB: What are some specific things that managers or leaders can do to foster belonging at work?
MB: At the organizational level, it’s essential to ensure that the values of the organization exist at every level and in every manager without exception. It’s also important to consider how to structure teams and make sure they can communicate effectively, based on where and how people work.
At the team level, good manager training is key. Managers need skills in working with teams, allowing for different views, and figuring out how to handle disagreements and how decisions get made. When people can weigh in on something, there is a sense of being in it together.
It’s important to see each other as people, not work roles. Connecting in person and outside of work makes a difference. We need to tell and know each other’s stories and create opportunities for sharing. Have lunch, have informal video meetings where everyone gets to tell something about themselves. I was in a meeting recently where we all told the story of our names. I learned a lot and felt like the people who heard my story knew me a little better, too.
We need more awareness and cultural consciousness by design. People are fundamentally creative and want to learn. We all have different experiences and different lives.
Finding commonalities and accepting those differences is the key to belonging.
Mark Feffer: Welcome to PeopleTech, the podcast of the HCM Technology report. I’m Mark Feffer.
Today, I talk with Martha Bird, business anthropologist at ADP Innovation Lab. Her job is to make sure that the human element is accounted for when new digital products are designed, so that, for example, software intended to tackle a specific HR problem can be put to use by HR staff in the real world as they go about their actual work. I began by asking Martha how she thought the COVID-19 pandemic would impact the way people work.
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Martha Bird: Well, I think this is such a huge topic. One of the things I think about is imagine that we’ve been working largely in the U.S. with a very, very low unemployment rate. Now all of a sudden there’s this massive degree of unemployment. Now, in the past when there’s been a tight labor market, certain policies are put into place in order to attract the talent that you want. Now, when you have a flood of unemployed people, what is that going to look like in terms of those mechanisms? I don’t know. But to me that’s a consideration, right? It’s that we’ve gone from very robust, healthy unemployment to a very, very high degree of unemployment from healthy employment. So I think that’s going to be an interesting thing to monitor that’s around talent and talent acquisition.
I think also it’s going to be about the discussion around urban and rural, right? So if people are working more remotely, what does that look like for the person who lives in a rural space who has not had access to perhaps the same economics of job that one would have in a larger metropolitan area. And so if it’s indeed the case that people will begin to work more remotely, that can open up a whole, I think potentially positive economics for rural areas and rural workers. So that’s going to be, I think, very interesting.
And then I think there’s also going to be, for employers, much greater awareness now of really what health actually means in terms of the economy. So, a healthy society, and I mean healthy as in well-being, I think is directly corollary to the economy being robust.
So I think there’s a lot of things going to be continued from where we are now. I certainly hope that’s the case. I hear such wonderful stories about people reaching out with altruistic intent and I think that’s just the way we need to go. But you also hear the stories of individuals vying for advantage. And so my hope is that those will not be the ones who will continue to influence our consciousness as humanity.
Mark Feffer: You work for ADP, obviously, your customers are employers and they make certain demands on you. What new demands do you think you’re going to start to hear? Are the priorities going to shift among what employers expect out of their technology solutions?
Martha Bird: Well, I think this whole… To carry on, on the mobile trajectory is going to be key, right? Because that’s all part of the story, about remote. I think too that there’s going to be… I think there’s going to be, at least for ADP and for those in our industry, there is an expectation that we stay completely agile when it comes to major legislative activities related to the COVID-19. And one of the things that I’m aware of is that indeed we are actually keeping up with these things. And that’s no small matter when you think of all the municipalities, jurisdictions, state and federal level legislation to be able to do that and to be able to provide our clients with security of knowing that we are the most up to date on those matters.
So, that’s about speed, right? And it’s about being able to do things pretty quickly. Things that would normally take months or maybe even years to implement, you’re talking weeks now to turn that around. So I think probably this expectation around speed will continue across a lot of industries.
The other thing too, Mark, that I think is really interesting is this collaboration that’s going on between corporations in order to get things done. So, I think about the ventilator situation where there’s just a dire need for those and the largest producer of ventilators is partnering with GM or with Ford in order to switch the production lines in order to make ventilator and doing open source sharing of designs. I’m hoping, personally, that that will become not simply a response to an extremis, but something that maybe could be continued once this settles down a little bit.
Mark Feffer: My last question is, what is the biggest single dramatic change you expect to see in the workplace after the dust has settled?
Martha Bird: There’s so many things. I guess for me, because I’m an anthropologist, I’m thinking really about the way that we interact with our fellows. I hope that if nothing else this allows us to reset ourselves and to understand that it’s incredibly important to exercise respect, honesty, a decency and kindness, that we are all actually part of the family of humans here, and that everything is connected. And I think that wouldn’t be a bad takeaway, in my view, if people could come to terms with embracing that. And unfortunately it takes something as dire as this situation, but to me that would be a positive outcome.
Mark Feffer: Martha, thank you.
Martha Bird: Thanks, Mark.
Mark Feffer: Martha Bird is a business anthropologist at ADP’s innovation lab. And this has been PeopleTech from the HCM echnology report. To keep up with HR technology, visit the HCM Technology report every day. We’re the most trusted source of news in the HR tech industry. Find us at www.hcmtechnologyreport.com. I’m Mark Feffer.