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What keeps me going

29 May, 2013

I have now been freelancing for nearly five months, and I sometimes stop and think about where I am in my career and why I am doing what I am doing. Of course, it all boils down to money, right? We all need to work to live (some of us might feel we live to work…) But we need to pay our bills, and hopefully set aside some savings along the way. So it’s a given that I must work.

But why am I focused on rewards and mobility? Is it just because I know the subject matter? Is it because I’m an “expert”? Yes, that’s of course part of it. But there’s another reason: I love what I do.

My father gave me one piece of advice that has stuck with me:

“Whatever you do, do something you enjoy.”

I love the field I’m in. Two reasons. First, I love rewards and mobilty, because it’s very important in this world. Great things happen through people, or what we in HR refer to as “talent” or “human capital”. Any industry can become commoditised to the point where the only chance you have to differentiate yourself from your competitors is your people. People-related costs (salaries, bonuses, benefits, etc.) are the single largest expense in most buinesses, and no ONE is managing people. I say no ONE because people are managed by numerous line managers, each having a different way of managing people, each with different views of how to pay people, motivate them, keep them engaged, etc. So it takes a special team within HR to help (sometimes constrain) managers to manage people–and people-related costs–wisely and fairly. And when it comes to moving people across borders, the costs multiply quickly, and expensive mistakes are very easy to make. Within the spectrum of people management, no area is more challenging than global talent mobility, in my humble opinion.

Secondly, I love doing rewards and mobility because after 20+ years of corporate experience, I have a lot to share with others. I recall countless cases, names, issues and solutions to those issues. As a freelancer, I have removed the barriers that limit who I can help and what I can help with. If I want to teach a class on rewards or mobility, be a coach for an aspiring rewards leader, help a client revise their mobility policy so they can build global talent through international assignments, help a client plan their HR priorities for the coming year…I can! If a client asks me to design an incentive plan/scheme, I will, but I will teach my client in the process–I will explain what happens when you put a cap on a sales incentive, or when you introduce a forced ratings distribution. And I will explain these things because I don’t want to see someone fail when they get pushback from the sales team, or from finance. I sincerely want my clients to succeed. I believe we can all learn from the experiences of others, so I wish to offer mine so others can avoid the many pitfalls.

Another saying that has made a big difference in my career is this:

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

I have been accused of being “all about me”. I disagree. Of course we all have egos, some of us more than others. I, like all of us, enjoy a bit of recognition from time to time. I get it. But that’s not what really motivates me. What motivates me most of all–what keeps me going–is my hope that I can share with others the lessons I have learned–learned from both successes and failures–and help them to be more successful as a result. Of course this field also happens to match my strengths and has been very rewarding to me over the years, in many ways. Hopefully, all of us can “do what you enjoy” and do it successfully, meaning your work not only pays the bills, but gives you great satisfaction as well, as I have found in mine.

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