How do I learn Compensation & Benefits for free ?

how to learn compensation benefits for free

New readers or people who connect with me on LinkedIn frequently ask me what to do in order to learn Compensation & Benefits for free and get a job in the function.

If you want to work in C&B your best shot is to change job within your own company. As an HR professional you know that your current employer will be more open to take a risk in you changing specialisation than a new employer.

After all, your current company knows you and appreciates your performance, dedication and willingness to take on new challenges. Mention that C&B is an area where you are looking to grow internally, so that they know to consider you for internal mobility if there is an opening.

You could of course look for a position in another company – but we all know that usually, when companies recruit external candidates, they like to choose someone who has already demonstrated that they can work in that precise area, so it may be a bit more difficult to start a new specialisation this way.

So how do you get from your current HR role to one in C&B ?

First of all, get involved internally.

Volunteer to participate in projects related to Compensation & Benefits, starting by the basics : writing job descriptions, doing job evaluations, submitting data to compensation surveys. Your C&B department, if there is one, will for sure be happy to see an HR generalist who is willing to get engaged in their projects !

And starting with the basics will give you the background needed to understand the building blocks of the Rewards function. It will also demonstrate that you have a true willingness to learn the job, and that you are not interested only in learning the concepts and stay at a theoretical level of understanding.

Finally, the best point is that learning by doing is one of the best ways of getting credibility internally as you exhibit value-add, and externally as you can include this experience into your resume and will be believable during an interview.

Second, get online for free education

Start by subscribing to my blog of course 😉

Also check out the blogs mentioned in the blogroll on my home page – I found these to be the best Compensation blogs and they will give you a host of ideas and knowledge.

Here are 6 sites that you can join for free and which have good compensation and benefits resources. Of course, you’ll get access to more resources if you become a paid member. Just be careful to not listen too much to the stuff which is very US- or UK-focused as this is not relevant to the rest of the world.

  • is the US-based Compensation & Benefits association – definitely worth registering.
  • is also good. This one is definitely British ! It has some interesting sections.
  • is the largest HR professional association in Europe, with 135,000+ members. Resources, podcasts and blogs.
  • (Society for Human Resources Management) is the largest HR association globally (mostly US), with some sections on Rewards. If you are based in the Arab world you may want  connect with Brad Boyson who leads the MEA chapter for SHRM, or if you’re based in KSA, to check their sister organisation, ASHRM (Arabian Society for Human Resource Management which is heavily linked to Saudi Aramco as its main sponsor.
  • has free webinars where you can learn more about C&B
  • covers multiple HR topics including section on compensation and benefits.

Finally, still online, there are the forums and other groups.

The first one is to go to LinkedIn, join compensation groups and peruse the Compensation part of the Answers section. Read the discussions, participate in conversations. This will raise both your knowledge and your visibility.

For me, LinkedIn is the best source of online forums in a professional environment, there are many Compensation-related groups here and I don’t use other groups or forums but you may want to check Yahoo Groups –here is the overview of their HR directory.

To be honest though, Yahoo Groups seem to be going a bit stale with less and less activity, except maybe for the emerging countries groups such as Turkey and India on Yahoo – some of them have impressive member counts. Worth exploring to see if you find a group of interest to you with a focus on C&B ?

Third, invest a little in some books

Here are a few I recommend :

  • The manager’s guide to rewards – the one I always list as the first to be read in C&B. Why do I recommend it ? Because when they wrote it, the authors targeted line managers, not HR professionals. So, concepts are explained clearly, and they’re written from the manager and employee point of view. It is a great opportunity for us to not only be reminded of good basics in C&B, but also of how to communicate these to our internal clients.
  • A bit more theoretical but a great basic to have : Employee Reward from Michael Armstrong. It covers all basic aspects of C&B and was used to teach CIPD students for a long time. There may be a more recent version or a new book from him to replace this one, but I regularly refer to this classic
  • Strategic reward (by Michael Armstrong too) is the next step, easier to read than the previous one, not as practical for implementation – after all, it is about strategy – but great for some concepts about linking company strategy to compensation design.

The manga guide to statistics and The cartoon guide to statistics are 2 easy books to get you started on statistical concepts, while How to lie with statistics by Darrell Huff is a classic not to be missed, easy to understand and will make you avoid many mistakes.

Three famous books on rewards, though less technical but absolutely recommended :

Finally, to give you some immediate ideas about the skills you may need, I’d also like to refer to some of my posts :

Webinars, presentations, podcasts, books and articles are an excellent source of knowledge, and what’s best – they’re here whenever you need them. After more than 18 years of work experience in the field, I still use these techniques, alongside asking my now extensive network of C&B professionals for feedback and participating to conferences, in order to maintain and grow my knowledge of Compensation & Benefits.

Fourth – if you’re still interested, invest in some serious education

Now that I am done with the free/cheap way, the best for you is to try and get your company to pay for your education.

Of course you should consider attending one of my trainings :-). I offer a 2-day overview of Compensation & Benefits, as well as other workshops on specialised topics like designing retention schemes, participating and analysing compensation surveys, and more. All very practical and based on my extensive experience with companies such as Microsoft, Apple, Fiat, Majid Al Futtaim or Mubadala.

If you want to go down a longer route to your education, get your employer to sponsor the Global Remuneration Professional (GRP) certification from World at Work for you. This is the ONLY internationally recognised certification in C&B. It is quite long and expensive, and not all students pass – this is a *true* certification not  a so-called one where you become “certified” by attending 2 or even 4 days of training… but its value is great if you are really interested in a career in the field.

If you’re into Benefits you may want attend the annual IEBA conference (International Employee Benefits Association), and there’s also a one-week training/event, the IBIS Academy, usually in April/May which is widely commended in Europe.

Finally, something not related to C&B but the best career book I have ever come across. It’s an absolute must to navigate your development and evolution in any company : Rise by Patty Azzarello. Don’t forget networking, practicing in your company at any opportunity you can get, and continuing to read and learn by yourself. Good luck !


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  1. Thank you Sandrine for sharing. I have this webpage on my favourites and have been working on the recommendations for some time. I did owe you a note of thanks. 🙂

    • Always happy to see my suggestions are helpful 🙂
      Thanks for taking the time to let me know Sam – it keeps me encouraged to continue to share my views with my community !

  2. Tasneem. S says

    Thank you Sandrine for sharing the insight, I always appreciate and wait for your post.
    Your choice of topics & words are simple and easy to understand to implement. Am sure most of the HR /Com & Ben community follows it. Keep up the work.
    God bless you.
    Regards, Tasneem.

  3. You have been a great voice on the subject. I can say with confidence that by reading through your blog, people can learn a lot.

  4. Vincenza Dolven says

    Have you ever thought about adding a little bit more than just your articles? I mean, what you say is important and all. However think about if you added some great images or videos to give your posts more, “pop”! Your content is excellent but with pics and clips, this blog could undeniably be one of the very best in its niche. Fantastic blog!


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