How to get started in your new Compensation job

How to get started in your new Compensation job

One day, one of my acquaintances on LinkedIn wrote to me. His company never had job descriptions and he wanted me to share some of the JDs from my team. He also asked how to get started as he was getting into his new position as Performance and Compensation Manager.

Here is some of the feedback and ideas I shared with him. I hope you find it useful as you take on any new position, especially if you are getting started into a new role in Compensation & Benefits :

“Unfortunately I do not have job descriptions, neither for myself or my team members. The ones that were created in my current organisation a long time ago, reflect what the company thought C&B was about at the time, which is mostly advanced administrative HR… And of course, you and I both know that this is not what Compensation & Benefits is about.

Since I joined I did not write job descriptions for my team as we did not feel it was necessary. I lead them by example, by setting clear expectations (annual objectives, weekly meetings where we discuss what each of us did last week, I give advice and assign new tasks, and also inform everyone of the more strategic stuff that I am involved in), and also through a clear development path that I individualised for each team member – the development being a mix of formal training and on-the-job activities that I make a point of linking to each team member’s growth and skills development.

My advice to you is to NOT start by job descriptions. Job descriptions need to be adapted for each company and based on the strategic goals that you will determine for your unit, based on your analysis of what the deeper needs of the company are, your interactions with senior management and employees and your discussions with your fellow HR colleagues.

If you write job descriptions before understanding the specifics of your new employer, it will be theoretical job descriptions which will not really help you drive the business and department properly. Also, it means that you would be already giving “orders” to your team members even before they have a chance to tell you their point of view. And trust me team members know A LOT about what needs to be done… (even if it does not mean that you need to agree with everything that they suggest…)

Now as to how to start in your new job, my advice is very simple. Try to sit with as many people as you can in your company : all senior colleagues and peers in HR, of course your new team members, all directors of your company, and the important people that you will interact with on a regular basis such as the IT team leader in charge of developing or implementing HR tools and systems for example.

Ask them what their needs and problems are in your area (and generally in HR), and if they have any suggestions on what they would like you to achieve to help them drive their business better.

Then you can prepare an action plan, identifying trends in issues (what the business told you + what you see yourself) and how to tackle them through quick wins (things you can implement in 3 months or less) and longer-term, strategic plans. Find yourself one or two sponsors from the business so that you have a sounding board as well as buy-in from the management of the organisation.

From there, if you get approval for your plan, you can easily decline that in goals for yourself and your team members. You can assess if your team members have all the skills required to deliver the plan, and if you have enough internal resources as well. And given your good understanding of what the business is expecting from your department, plus the fact that by then you will know your team better and what you can and cannot expect from them individually, you will be able to draft job descriptions that are really adapted to your company and that everyone can relate to.

This is how I have approached running Compensation & Benefits in my current as well as past organisations, and so far the results have been good. Of course you will never be able to deliver on everything that you plan, as you plan it and within the timeframe you planned, but at least it gives you a sound, pragmatic and reality-driven sense of direction. And this is what matters most as this sense of direction will help you adapt through the time that you spend in the company.”

So in short :

  1. Keep your ears and eyes open to feedback from all people in the organisation
  2. Use that feedback to set up your plan
  3. Have quick wins as well as longer term, strategic objectives
  4. Identify your internal sponsors to get buy-in
  5. Deliver on your goals and adapt your plan as needed
  6. … and then you can write the job descriptions for your team if you feel like it.

I hope this advice is useful for all people starting a new job in Compensation & Benefits or in HR. I think you can also use it at any point while you are in a job, because this approach will always deliver results that meet your internal customers’ needs. And now, what do you say ? Did you devise a specific approach when you start in a new job ? Do you have any tactics that help you deliver in a new and unknown environment ? Please feel free to share your advice in the comments section !

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  1. Naim Al Sous says

    Very interesting, I like 🙂

  2. Samina Anwar says

    Thanks Sandrine- A very useful insight – i try and go with the same view most of the time but have observed a very strict adherence to Job descriptions in the region or a total lack of concern – both being extreme approaches. I feel it is imp for establishing relativity, evaluation, job family modelling and grading but not considering a JD to be a biblical guideline.

    • Yes Samina, I am totally aligned with your comment. Job descriptions have uses, like you’re saying, for evaluation and relative positioning within an organisation. Yet as a manager, in order to define what my team members need to do, I feel that daily interaction, regular feedback, positive reinforcement, trust and setting expectations clearly beat referring to a piece of paper….

  3. Philip Mathew says

    Nice, practical piece of advice….

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