The value of post-mortem analysis for Compensation projects

The value of post-mortem analysis for Compensation projects

A practice has helped me a lot in my career : to perform a post-mortem at the end of a project. You may call it a recap, wrap-up or a review.

Post-mortems are common in the software engineering industry. Well, after all I worked for both Microsoft and Apple – I had to learn something 😉 ! In project management, these wrap-ups are done to review, shortly after the project end, all the aspects from the project, and to list all the learnings from that assignment.

Benefits of post-mortem analysis for C&B

Every project needs closure. A post-mortem is a good opportunity to bring all parties involved in the Compensation project one last time before going their separate ways – or working together again on something else. In that respect, an assessment is a good opportunity to review the good and the bad, celebrate successes and help participants to move on to their next assignment.

A post-mortem helps the organisation focus on continuous improvement in a concrete, pragmatic manner. The team members feel more involved as they are asked for feedback on all aspects of how the project went.

Through this involvement, they feel they can help identify reasons for problems, propose solutions to some issues and they get a positive perception of the value they bring. It raises employee engagement.

And by collecting this feedback and implementing some or all of the suggestions and proposed solutions, the organisation benefits through improved future projects in C&B. It helps reduce stress linked to the unknown and improve workload, minimising errors and the time spent re-inventing the wheel during subsequent related or similar projects.

Content of the post-mortem in Compensation & Benefits

I find that the process is especially useful when you work on annual or semi-annual cycles such as managing incentives, salary reviews, performance management, promotions, participating to compensation surveys etc.

In project management and software development a lot of the questions for the post-mortem focus on budget management, timelines, technical and resource requirements.

For Compensation & Benefits though, some other aspects of projects are equally if not more important. Here are some of things I like to review :

  • Exceptions to eligibility criteria, calculation rules, timing of payment, relevant information that needs to be manually amended (eg reporting lines, start date vs tenure date etc), sources of information for data not  found in the HR systems (eg through Finance, company reports etc)
  • Communication templates, questions that were asked to us, suggestions received, areas where further education of employees and/or managers is needed for a better implementation in the next cycle.
  • Timelines: planned… and actual, extra steps that were necessary, things that went faster than anticipated.
  • People resources : who should have been involved but wasn’t ? Who should have come on board earlier, later or not at all ? Did the stakeholders act as planned / intended and if not, how can we get better involvement from them ? Did we identify a need for further technical skills or other training for team members to deliver better on the next project ?
  • General : what are proud of ? What did we deliver well ? What was the most frustrating part of the project, and what can we do to alleviate that in the future ? What did we learn ? What do we look forward to implementing or applying next time ?

Two quick tips for an efficient post-mortem in Compensation & Benefits

First, I create a special folder where I stash all kinds of documents and ideas as the project unfolds. At that stage, I don’t really care about organising those thoughts, repeating myself, collecting multiple Post It notes etc…. What matters is that everything is put under one file for review at the end of the project.

I take special care to write down the exceptions and special cases that we have made as soon as they take place, because I have learned from experience that at least 50% of these exceptions can be anticipated, and my workload and risk of error can be significantly reduced next time if I anticipate them.

Second, in order to perform a good post-mortem, I let the team members know in advance that we will perform such a review. It gives them an opportunity to create their own collecting mechanism if they wish to, anticipating the post-mortem right from the beginning of the project.

I also list the kind of topics we will cover in the post-mortem and ask everyone to prepare their ideas around one week before the actual meeting. We go through each member’s answers to each question. This has two advantages : it covers more points as there will be ideas identified only by one team member, and the ideas that have been mentioned are de facto highlighted as the most important or impactful ones.

Performing a post-mortem brings clarity and improvement opportunities after a project is closed. This is especially useful in Compensation & Benefits, where a lot of the assignments are to be done on a recurring basis (annual, semi-annual, quarterly…). The post-mortem makes the project team members feel more engaged and allows the organisation to capitalise in the previous cycles.


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  1. Gopi Krishna says

    Good article Sandrine. Thank you

    Quite often we treat many initiatives as “ongoing” and do not take the effort to scope it out as a project with specific timelines & deliverables – and that results in a lot of time/resources being spent without necessarily all the outcomes expected.
    Treating key initiatives as projects with clear scope , outcome , toll gates for review and then post project retrospective to review what did and did not go as planned are all very important elements to being effective


  1. […] The value of post-mortem analysis for Compensation projects Copyright protected by Digiprove © 2012 Sandrine BardotSome Rights ReservedOriginal content here is published under these license terms: X License Type:Non-commercial, AttributionLicense Summary:You may copy this content, create derivative work from it, and re-publish it for non-commercial purposes, provided you include an overt attribution to the author(s).License URL: Filed Under: Compensation Tagged With: Base Pay, compensation, Compensation Benchmarking, Compensation Design, Salary Ranges […]

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