Explore the 3 main types of jobs in Compensation & Benefits


  • “In order to be a well-rounded HR Director, take at least one C&B assignment in your career”.
  • Are you considering working in C&B ? In this episode, learn about the 3 main types of jobs that exist in C&B.
  • “Even within this one specialisation of HR, there is a breadth of opportunities and roles available”.
  • Watch the video to get the full training or read the transcript below.

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Compensation generalist or Compensation specialist ? (I discuss another kind of specialisation in this post)


In order to be a well-rounded HR director, take at least one assignment in C&B in your career
C&B generalists touch on ll aspects of Compensation & Benefits across countries and/or BUs.

Hello, and welcome to this episode of Compensation Insider. Today, I’d like to talk about the different types of jobs or careers that one person can have in Compensation & Benefits.

C&B job on the way to becoming an HR Manager or HR Director

If you are thinking to eventually become an HR Director at some point in your career, I would recommend that you do take at least one assignment in Compensation & Benefits (or Total Rewards, or Performance and Reward, it doesn’t really matter how it’s called in your organization).

That’s going to be one way for you to establish the skills that you need in order to be credible with respect to conversations with the CFO and the CEO, because the Comp & Ben team tends to be one which is deeply ingrained into understanding the business, if only because we have to understand KPIs and measures for success, when we are looking into either performance management, if it’s part of our remit, or if we’re looking at designing incentives for specific parts of the population or even for executives.

To be a fully well-rounded HR Director, a stop in Comp & Ben would be one of the value-adding elements in a career progression, just like you probably wouldn’t imagine to do your whole career for 10 or 15 years in recruitment only, and then become an HR Director. You would want to do a little bit of training, a little bit of career management, maybe a little bit of employee relations, and you would want to stop into Compensation & Benefits as well.

C&B as a career : 2 paths

There is another way to consider Compensation & Benefits, and that’s to become fully immersed in the culture of Compensation & Benefits, and make that a specialization for a good portion of your career.

That’s what I did. I spent 28 years of my life as a Compensation & Benefits professional, and obviously never looked back, otherwise, I would have changed a long time ago !

Within careers of Compensation & Benefits, there are two main aspects to it. There are Comp & Ben generalists and Comp & Ben specialists.

C&B generalists are people who look after our Compensation & Benefits typically either for a business unit globally, or across a set of countries even if it’s for multiple BUs.

They touch on everything. They do some benefits management, they do some incentive design, they do some strategy for Comp & Ben, they have to set up new countries, and so on.

Compensation specialists, on the other end, are people who specialize even more within that. Those are the kind of positions that you would see in very, very large organizations, that are quite complex and truly multinationals. For example, in my own career in Microsoft, we had C&B generalists that were at the country level or at the regional level, and we were supported by a set of hyper-specialized experts at the corporate level.

We had a team in corporate that was specialized in international benefits. Within that, one of the ladies was specializing in, let’s say, Latin America, another one was specialized in EMEA benefits and yet. another one who was specialized in Asia.

We had specialists that were working solely on merger and acquisitions : due diligence, pre and post-merger, acquisition, and integration. We had some people who were global mobility experts. We had people who were looking at specific projects to design new systems and processes, for instance redesigning salary reviews or how to approach governance between the different levels of autonomy that were allowed inside the organization for implementing things such as new benefits or specific retention schemes.

In very large orgs, C&B experts can specialise in M&A, benefits management, global mobility and more.

Personally, I “fell” into Comp & Ben without knowing at the time that I had started working in it. It was not taught 28 years ago in business school, when you were specializing in Human Resources. I started working in it, and then of course it became super-interesting to me, and I never left the field. Only a few years later did I get my first Compensation & Benefits Manager title. I thought :  “Oh, that actually describes very well what I’ve been doing this past few years !” and I never left that field, but I always remained a compensation generalist.

I had an opportunity at one point in my career to become a compensation specialist. At the time I was a C&B Director for what we called “International” at my organization, which meant the whole world except North America. I had an opportunity to become the Head of Global Sales Incentive Plan Design for a famous organization in Finland. At the same time, I also had an opportunity to move to Dubai, to become a Vice President of Compensation & Benefits.

That’s when I had to personally make a choice : “Do I want to specialize more within Compensation & Benefits or do I want to continue to be a generalist?”.

I chose to remain a generalist just because, for me, the hyper-specialization in sales incentives was not my wish, but I think that if I’d had an opportunity to specialize into international benefits management, I would have probably done a stop in that specialization for at least a few years. I find benefits management fascinating, how it’s different across different countries and evolving over time with the law, and culture, and practice across different industries.

I hope that this is helping you to think about what you could do if you want to explore the world of Compensation & Benefits as a career, and see that even within one specialization of HR, there is a breadth of opportunities which is available. What do you think ?

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