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How To Align Reward and Careers

18 February 2019, by Lesley Vanleke
  • #Talent management

Aligning reward and careers can cause a real headache for Talent Managers. If you are an HR professional in charge of talent management, chances are that you dream of a talent culture in which:

  • People understand what it takes to be at the wheel of their own careers and act accordingly.
  • Managers are ready and able to have qualitative career discussions with their employees.
  • When matching people to roles, competencies of the candidate are not the only aspect taken into consideration. The talents of the candidate are also an important aspect of the decision-making process.
  • Job crafting and team crafting are considered good practice when it comes to energy management, as it is common knowledge, in your organization, that positive psychological capital is heavily influenced by job content and job design.
  • Mobility between departments is a given, ensuring that people continue to learn and remain employable.

In practice, many companies struggle to reach this ideal situation. It is true that all career stakeholders will need to do their bit in this change. Employees, managers, trade unions, and HR. One of the challenges for the latter is to build an HR instrumentarium that fosters the contemporary career model with its focus on self-management and subjective career success. You might recognize that some of the HR practices and instruments put in place actually are veritable obstacles in trying to establish a contemporary approach to careers. This is certainly the case for reward mechanisms. In this blog, I want to explore how reward and careers could be aligned.

The question is: How can function classification be applied, so contemporary career practices can be facilitated? We must take into consideration that function classification, because of its focus on formal job descriptions, hierarchical promotion, competencies, and one size fits all approach, in essence, belongs to a more traditional career outlook.

A number of straightforward advantages definitely come with function classification: mutual understanding of expectations for each job, explicit descriptions of how individual jobs (are meant to) contribute to the overall success of the organization, clarification of career paths, links with competencies, basis for reward policies, and so on. However, in order to really make it work, we should  ensure that:

  • Employees also consider lateral moves, rather than sticking to the tendency to only want to make a move towards a position that is ranked higher. Mobility is often considered a risk, so the general reasoning seems to be: “If you are going to make a jump, you’d better move up”.
  • Sidesteps are rewarded somehow. Consider this case: Sandra is a marketing manager, speaks three languages fluently, is willing to relocate, has experience in operations, finance, and customer care, has five years of experience in people management and could easily move into three different positions within the organization. Steve is vice president of Finance. He speaks English, is unable to relocate, has 18 years of experience in Finance, has twelve years of experience in people management and expresses the wish to remain in Finance. Who has taken more risks in their career? Who is more employable? Who is more likely to be a successor for a key position? Who is likely to have a broader view of the organization? Who is more valuable for the organization in the long run? And finally, who is likely to earn more? (This example is taken from a workshop with Ingrid De Backer in 2017).
  • Potential and employability are also taken into consideration in relation to reward, as the case of Sandra and Steve also illustrates.
  • Managers do not feel penalized in their budget for choosing to hire employees from other departments, even if they still have a learning curve ahead of them. Managers prefer external people who (they think) are ready and will perform with the shortest possible delay. The pressure on the budget of the workforce (which is linked to function classification) is one of the key reasons why. Conversely, managers are open to letting people go, rather than trying to keep their best performers at any cost. Don’t forget: engaged and talented employees always have options. So, preferably they make their next career step within the organization, rather than having to quit and move on to another employer.
  • Job descriptions are sufficiently generic and future proof,  leaving room for job and team crafting. How can we get employees to mold their own jobs if an alteration may have an impact on the ranking?

I think all the solutions to the tensions described above are not carved out yet. One thing is clear though, you cannot expect a focus on continuous learning, talents, employability, and mobility if your HR instrumentarium rewards the opposite (Ans De Vos, keynote on December 5th, 2018).

Some of the following thoughts may be relevant in your search for alinging reward and careers:

  • Within your company, is it possible to simultaneously rethink reward and career practices, where the starting points for both topics are not considered independent of each other, but rather integrated, resulting in a Total Reward approach?
  • Can we add a ‘person dimension’ to reward in addition to the ‘job dimension’, in which potential and employability can be taken into consideration?
  • Can part of the recruitment budget be used for easing the pressure off of the manager’s headcount so the development period can be financed? After all, accepting an internal employee means less costly recruiting of external candidates.
  • How can side moves be rewarded, financially and in other ways?
  • How can the risks of a move be lowered? What kind of safety nets can be provided for?
  • How can we raise the visibility of internal talents, so hiring managers are prompted to take these talents into consideration?
  • Broadbands and general job descriptions will give you some flexibility and allow for job and team crafting.

Sustainable careers have multiple dimensions. Reward is one of them. We cannot treat the topics of reward and careers independent of each other.

Contact us if you want to know more about our solutions for sustainable careers.


About the author

Lesley Vanleke

Lesley Vanleke holds over 20 years of experience in HR. In 2014 she co-founded TalentLogiQS, where she searches to understand all different aspects of customers’ challenges and needs. She strives to be a sounding board and bring about connections that deliver added value for all parties concerned.