How to Set up a Comp & Ben Function

A friend and former colleague from 25 years ago just sent me this message:

“I have been appointed to lead a newly created Compensation and Benefits function. I am reaching out to ask your perspective–what would you do if you were placed in a department start up role like this?”

So for the benefit of those like him who are faced with new responsibility for C&B, here is my general advice. Of course, you have to adapt it based on business strategy, culture, talent objectives and any urgent priorities.

  1. Your team comes first–“trust but verify” Reagan used to say of the Soviets. With C&B, you want people who are fair, objective and bear the standard of what is right for the organisation. You need people with the competence to solve problems, and the confidence to take action. Start by identifying a few burning issues that can be solved quickly, roll up your sleeves and together handle them. Show them you are willing to work hard, not for your own success only but theirs too. Do whatever you can to show your support for your team. At Hewitt we used to call this BOTD: benefit of the doubt. Give your people benefit of the doubt. But when stakes are higher, or to show your concern for quality, ask people to back up what they tell you. Train them this way to tell you what they know, not what they think.
  2. Engage your stakeholders. Don’t wait for business reason, just do it. Have lunch or coffee (or just a drive-by hello) with as many leaders, function heads, stars, long-service people, etc. Listen full blast to what they tell you. Take notes on any action items, especially quick ones, since they give you great opportunity to demonstrate action and build the relationship.
  3. Think like a total rewards professional. Be careful about isolating any issue to a single surface root cause. When a manager says a star worker needs a raise or else they will leave, the manager may not realize he or she is the problem. See Total Rewards Consulting Approach and Why a Total Rewards Approach is Crucial.

Of course, many other things are essential to running a C&B function such as governance, well-written policies, working relationship with finance, strong communications, 100% data accuracy and security, compliance with C&B laws and regulations, managerial courage and stature, and a good understanding of incentives. In terms of knowledge, C&B is a blend of business, numbers and psychology.

Finally, have a good consultant : )



One thought on “How to Set up a Comp & Ben Function

  1. Great advice! The approach to a global function start up includes getting to know the needs of each stakeholder and then reflecting a “global” approach rather than a domestic/host country approach. That approach includes gathering information about benefits and compensation market norms and then incorporating the cultural norms into the needs analysis. It would be interesting to understand know to keep the corporate perspective and the region/country perspective about compensation/benefits in balance–minimizing the “Hi, I’m from Corporate, and I’m here to help…”

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