Compensation and Benefits, the CSI of HR

Compensation and Benefits, the CSI of HR

One day one of my team members huffed and puffed : “But Sandrine, this is boring !”.

One employee had complained and said she was being discriminated against. She claimed she had been left behind during a job grading change (promotion) that had been implemented 4 or 5 years before for a specific category of employees. I know, it’s a long time to realise a potential unfairness ! Of course she had nothing to sustain her claim, no letter, no email, no documentation. The HR Director of that time was not present any longer, and even in payroll there was no clear indication of whether she was eligible to the change in the first place, and if so, whether she had benefited from it or not.

And so the HR Director had asked the Compensation team to figure out what was really the situation. I figured this would be a good learning experience for my Emirati team member, and had asked her to investigate. Hence her initial reaction 🙂

I explained to her that yes, there may be a not-so-interesting part of going through multiple copies of the same passport page and other documents scattered, not always so logically, throughout the employee file. But her findings would drive the company to understand what had happened, and no matter what she found, it would be instrumental in bringing an uncomfortable situation to an end.

She was not super excited, but she now understood the importance of the assignment. So she went off, and came back to me a little while later. She had dug out the contract, the employee’s payslips before and after the date of the grade change, an old email from the former HR Director, and discussed with the payroll and admin team. From that, she had deducted what had happened (quite a complicated series of events).

Her conclusion was that the employee had an incorrect perception : yes there had a been a grade change for some employees at that time. This change was based on a certain number of criteria, which the employee did not fit. So she had not been eligible to the grade change upwards, but simply to a change in the job family with no package change.

Due to a certain set of circumstances, the employee had not received any letter about the change at the time, and she later forgot (or so she said) about the conversations and email exchanges she’d had with the then HR Director on her situation. That was the email that sat in her employee file.

But then, my team member identified that there was a group of employees with very similar characteristics to our employee. So she put together a list of these employees, checked them all (no mistakes were made at the time) and reported to me that the whole situation was now clear of ambiguities.

I was so proud of her ! After she explained all of that to me, I congratulated her for a job well done. And then I asked her to explain to me what she had done right.

You see, I believe in feedback. It is just as important to think about and exchange with your employee when he or she has done something good than it is to give constructive feedback. If you don’t clearly identify success, what it is exactly made of, how can you expect your team member to be able to identify a pattern and repeat it ?

And I was right to ask, because my team member could not describe what in the process she had followed was good, and could be applied again in the future.

  1. She dug into the individual employee file and read every single page of it, not just the section which was supposed to. And that’s how she found the email that led to the resolution of the situation. So, a thorough inspection of the file that went beyond the mere “call of duty” or minimum requirement of the assignment.
  2. Based on the facts she found out,  she made an assumption about what had happened and tried to validate it through exchanges with other parts of HR and the organisation. So, an hypothesis followed by a validity test, using her own network in the company to keep things in check.
  3. She drew a conclusion and made a recommendation on the case that was assigned to her. So, a recap with a recommendation to management. She used her intelligence and did not passively wait for me or someone more senior or experienced to tell her the next step.
  4. She did not stop there and figured some other employees may be in the same or a similar situation. So, an identification of a potentially larger issue : proactive and engaged.
  5. She went on to check them out and report that everything was under control. So, value-adding, taking an initiative, and ensuring fairness for employees while protecting the company from a potential risk.

All this based on a seemingly administrative, “boring” activity !

We repeated these steps together, and to anchor it, we went through it again with the rest of the team at oour next weekly meeting. I told them that we get to do the lab work, investigating thoroughly, with precision and attention to detail. We put seemingly unrelated pieces together, make an assumption, test it out, and solve the mystery. Compensation & Benefits is the CSI of HR !

They absolutely loved it, and I have used this analogy ever since, even mentioning it at HR conferences and in networking groups. And in my current company, investigative activities are perceived as more exciting as we go on the hunt to elucidate an enigma instead of simply opening a file and checking out if a letter or a document is in there or not.


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  1. Bashar J says

    Well I never thought CSI existed in HR 🙂

    Great insight Sandrine, i loved the approach, I always learn something new from your posts…. keep the information flooding into my own swamp (brain)

    • Glad you enjoyed the analogy Bashar ! I think it works because the image anchors the concept in people’s minds…

  2. Michele Johnson says

    What a fantastic analogy and great story of development…which is indeed all about embedding learning and giving feedback “in the moment”. I will definitely use the the CSI analogy with my team.


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