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Everyone is talking about the “new normal,” but is there such a thing? Have we really settled on a consensus around how work and the workplace should look? Or is that still a moving target? Rather than define the new normal, some of HR’s leading thinkers are now using another term to describe the world of work: the never normal.

If we can’t count on a “normal,” how can HR professionals responsible for compensation and performance ensure they can adapt to whatever is needed? We’ve come up with five questions to ask to evaluate the future-readiness of your compensation management systems.

As HR thought leader Ira Wolfe says, many companies are waiting for things to get back to some kind of normal that will be static, where even if it’s a little different, it will be some semblance of the way things used to be. But really, it’s going to be “never normal.”

The pandemic may (or may not!) be behind us, but it caused unexpected shifts and accelerated trends that were already in motion. The turnover in the workforce is showing little sign of slowing, with the number of workers quitting per month in the US still running around 4 million, and job openings still over 10 million. In the 1960s and 70s, says Wolfe, about 1.5 million people entered the US workforce each year. Now that number is under 500,000. And, for the last decade, on average around 2 million Americans have retired from the workforce each year. You do the math.

Judging from the volatile job market, high inflation, changing workforce numbers and demographics, shifting cultural norms, lingering concerns around global health, and technological advances, it appears that for the foreseeable future, we will be in a VUCA environment: volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity.

Can technology help navigate the never normal?

There’s a lot of talk about keeping the “human” in HR and not depending on technology alone for solutions. But then again, technology helped us adapt quickly to the pandemic. The gigantic task of moving the workforce offsite in a short period of time simply would not have been possible without digital technology, courtesy of Zoom meetings and other collaboration tools, and cloud-based systems which could be accessed and administered remotely.

As noted in a 2020 Accenture research report, “Digital transformation has been a priority for companies in recent years, but now it is an imperative for survival.”

It’s certainly imperative for survival in Human Resources departments. HR was at the epicenter of pandemic response in most companies, but often without adequate tools. Business strategist Peter Hinssen, writing about Reinventing HR to thrive in the ‘Never Normal’, says “Today I see time and time again that HR departments often use the most outdated and ancient technological instruments in the entire firm.”

Indeed, technology is key and can be a big part of putting the human back in the center of corporate culture and rewards. What does it take for compensation and performance management systems to support the organization in never normal times?

1. Is your rewards system adaptable?

When the next crisis strikes, or when disruptions in your industry require a new strategy, can you quickly shift your rewards programs to support the new direction? Can you take the lessons learned from the last emergency and apply them to the next one? If you are still managing compensation with spreadsheets, then you probably know the answer is “no.” If you have a homegrown, bespoke system, how long does it take to get small or large changes implemented? At what cost? Same question if you are using a comp module from an HCM suite—how easy is it to make changes on short notice?

Can you quickly change KPIs? What if using new KPIs means you have to connect to a completely new data source? Can you add entirely new programs easily? Rewards drive behavior, so if you want to be able to change behaviors on demand, you need a compensation platform that allows you to pivot quickly and easily. And it also should let you model and simulate so you can understand the impact of changes before rolling them out.

2. Can you handle reorganization easily?

If the organization structure needs to change quickly, to better align resources to strategy, or because of a merger or acquisition, can your compensation system keep up? What if you need multiple roll-ups or different hierarchies for different reward programs? And if you have a lot of internal mobility, whether due to disruption or just normal career progressions, can your system track transfers and manage the compensation correctly for those individuals as they move from one plan to another?

Your compensation platform should make it easy to have the organizational structures you need to reflect the way your business actually looks and works.

3. Can you operate remotely?

If no one is physically in the office, could you still manage and run your compensation processes and roll out new comp plans? Can employees securely access all their total rewards information anytime, from anywhere? Can managers perform—or delegate-–their tasks for compensation review, approval, and allocation? 

Your total rewards system should be able to leverage the cloud to allow it to operate fully and securely from anywhere, including support for mobile devices.

4. Do you have total flexibility in rewards design?

Change begets change. Even without any special disruptive events, total rewards strategies are evolving to meet the needs of remote work and changing employee demographics. Millennials don’t have the same needs as boomers, single men don’t have the same needs as working mothers, and workers in India don’t have the same needs as those in France. And on and on. To be most effective, the never-normal rewards programs must cater to different needs and motivations in the workforce, as well as tailor programs appropriate for different roles and geographies. This can be hard or even impossible with spreadsheets or the comp module of an HCM suite.

The key to maximizing the value of your rewards programs and driving optimum performance is flexibility. Can your compensation platform handle a plethora of reward programs that are tailored to different employee populations?

5. Do you have a mechanism for continuous feedback and engagement?

Another key to surviving the never normal is to have engaged employees who feel a sense of connection and purpose. As important as compensation is, it’s also important to have a platform that helps employees give and receive continuous feedback and get coaching from managers. This not only guides performance, but helps employees stay aligned with the corporate purpose, take ownership of their development, and connect with each other. 

A continuous performance management platform can provide a human-centric employee experience to keep employees grounded, inspired, and loyal, as the never-normal world continues to evolve.

Getting the right technology

There are endless approaches and product offerings for managing compensation and performance, but what’s important is finding the solution that will work for you, without forcing you to compromise or fit into a one-size-fits-all model.

To discover how you can be prepared for any version of “normal” with a best-of-breed total compensation management platform and continuous performance management, reach out to us at beqom and one of our compensation and performance advisors will reach out to show you what’s possible and make sure all your questions are answered. Onward with your digital transformation!


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