What I believe – work and career in C&B


  • “Keep yourself exposed to different points of view, different ideas, new topics, to things that are sometimes just peripheral to your area of expertise, but that are going to make your own thinking so much richer.”
  • What are your core philosophies about work ? In this episode, discover 6  behaviours that will enable you to have a great career in C&B or HR.
  • “It takes a lot of courage to ask questions at work, but the quality of your output will increase exponentially.”
  • If you’re ready to get promoted, it’s time to prepare someone to replace you. it will help your manager be ready to move you up and across.
  • Watch the video to get my advice. 28 years on the job can’t all be wrong !

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Welcome to this episode of the Compensation Insider show, and thanks for being back with me today.

Today, I’m going to be talking about some of my beliefs on work and how to behave in your career, or your business if you’re a Compensation and Benefits consultant.

Those beliefs are based on my 27 years of experience in the field and things that I learned, some easily and some in a more, let’s say, hard way :-).

I hope you will benefit from those tips.

Belief #1 – If you’re not replaceable, you’re not promotable

“If you’re not replaceable, you’re not promotable”. This is a sentence that a colleague of mine called Emmanuelle told me many, many years ago when I was at the beginning of my career, some 20 years ago.

She explained that to me and it made immediate sense to me. Why would a manager give me a promotion and risk losing me as an employee when I transfer to another team, if I’m not going to be easily replaced ?

If I have not prepared someone to take over my job, why would my manager let me go, even for the greater good of the organization ? Not preparing your replacement makes it much more difficult. So it’s very important that we all remember that we need to develop somebody to take over from us.

Transferring our knowledge does not mean we risk getting kicked out of our role. Actually, it’s when we don’t prepare somebody to take over that we risk becoming redundant, because we become a roadblock for others.

So how do you prepare for that ? A very simple technical tip is to save your work in a shared drive so that you can easily do a handover. Don’t keep everything just on your own personal hard drive at work.

More important than this small tip : you have to empower your team members to do some of the things that you know. Yes, sometimes teaching somebody else something that we are good at doing, and that we do quickly and reliably because we have so much practice in doing it, is going to take us time.

It might be faster for us to do it ourselves initially, but if we don’t take the time to teach them, we cannot delegate that work and free our time to continue to grow our own skills.

Belief #2 : keep on learning

This leads me to my second belief or recommendation : keep on learning. Take charge of your learning. You should always be learning at work. If you don’t learn, you stay put, and if you stay put while everybody else is moving forward, you’re actually going backwards.

For my whole career, one of the things that I’ve always done on company time is that I’ve always managed to have at least one hour per week where I will do some learning.

The learning is not necessarily achieved by taking a class. For me, I would identify some articles that I wanted to read but didn’t have time to read. It might be a podcast. It might be a video. What’s important is that you keep yourself exposed to different points of view, different ideas, new topics, to things that are sometimes just peripheral to your area of expertise, but that are going to make your own thinking so much richer.

The other thing that I’ve always done is to try and save at least one day a quarter, but more often than not it was two days per quarter, which I would dedicate to learning as well. I would just book a meeting room and just isolate myself for a day to really do some deep dive on a specific topic.

When I first started working C&B, the topic wasn’t taught. The name “Compensation & Benefits” did not even exist as a job title in France. The concept wasn’t even there. However, I did things that now I know are part of C&B,  like negotiating salaries with trade unions, establishing salary grids for new engineers and young graduates, doing job evaluations and so on. I always made sure that I had some time to keep on growing that knowledge.

Knowledge-seeking in the beginning of a career should be more focused on the technical side, because this is what expected of you. You have to know about the job and the techniques. As you grow more senior in your position, and you start to evolve into supervisory roles, knowledge in softer skills, in other aspects of HR, and then other aspects of business like Finance and Marketing etc on is going to be more and more important because your job becomes much more dependent on interactions with other parts of the business.

Belief #3 : Learn to say no… with diplomacy

The other thing that you need to do is to learn to say no, and to place yourself and the quality of your work first. When you are identified as promising in your career, people tend to give you more work. At some point you need to be able to go to your boss and say, “Hey, boss, I have to do this, this, this, this, and that. I can’t do everything by the deadline. What should I postpone?”

You’re not saying you want to cancel anything, but you’re making sure that you are not keeping to yourself the responsibility of really understanding the expectation of what to prioritize.  You’re also making your boss fully aware of everything that is on your plate, so that they have the right expectations

Belief #4 : Ask questions until you fully understand

Another thing that you need to do in your career is to ask questions until you make sure you fully understand. It is better to look “stupid” for one second than to make a mistake that stays with you for a long time.

I personally don’t believe that asking questions makes you look clueless. I actually think it takes a lot of courage. We are not necessarily encouraged during our upbringing to ask so many questions, especially at school.

Once you understand that it is your responsibility to understand your work, you start to make sure that you fully “get” what’s expected of you, and you really understand the situation before you start designing an incentive scheme for example, it will make your work so much better !

It’s better to spend the time investigating your questions in the beginning because you reduce the risk of doing something which is not what was expected of you.

Belief #5 – Pay attention to detail…. But also the big picture

If you are looking at data,  make sure that you understand the meaning of that data.

When I deliver my trainings, I keep saying that you need to always take a step back to look into understanding the big picture and what the real meaning of what you’re trying to do is, so that you don’t get enclosed into a policy.  What ia the real purpose of that policy ? Sometimes, managing or creating an exception is actually going in the sense and the purpose of the policy better than applying the policy to the letter.

Once you understand your data, understanding its meaning will help you to also better visualise things. Data visualization is a field that is going to explode in Compensation and Benefits in the coming years. We see that happening in other aspects of HR already, especially in talent management and in recruitment. Understanding data properly enables us to represent it in a way which is effective, and to communicate about it in a way which is easy to understand, unambiguous and brings value to the business.

Belief #6 – Write or update your resume every year

The final tip that I would have in terms of work and career is to write or update your resume every year, even if you’re not looking for a job.

What happens if, at the end of the year, you look back and you realize that you never worked a new project, or you didn’t really learn anything new, so there’s not really something that you could update on your resume ?

This situation should raise an alarm bell for you. My advice to you would be give it one more year, and see if you have learned something in that coming year. But if you haven’t evolved in two years, you’ve been doing the same job without change, without without being able to put anything new on your resume, you have to be very careful. If you’re feeling stuck, it’s time to leave.

As I was saying earlier, if you stay put, it means you are moving backwards. So you need to find ways either to unstuck yourself in your job, by asking to work on a project, by embarking on a training or a certification, or even by simply changing the population that you’re supporting. Maybe you’re a Rewards manager for a certain product line in your organization. You can ask to be transferred to another product line or to be in charge of a new country or something like that.

Having something new that you can write down on your resume is important. It gives you a sense of progress. It shows to others in the outside world, even if you’re not looking for a job, that there’s a progression in your our career, in your learning and in the complexity or the subtlety of things that you’re able to handle. And no matter what, that progress will eventually bring you better opportunities, whether they are internal or external to your organization.

Once you have updated that resume, please think of your LinkedIn profile !

Update it as well, and never forget to network before you need to have a network. If you start reaching out to people only once you have lost a job or you’re about to lose your job, and you want to look for a new position, it is too late. People need to think of you on a more regular basis, need to be reminded of you, need to establish a personal connection with you before they can give you some help. And so it’s crucial to never forget that good times are the best times to start networking.

This is my advice. Thank you very much, and I look forward to seeing you next week.

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