The Comp & Ben People

Within every large organization is someone responsible for comp & ben, short for compensation and benefits. These are the experts in who should earn what. If you don’t know who they are, that’s ok… they know who you are. They also know your title, pay grade, salary, allowances, bonus level, performance rating, market value and why your salary is what it is.


By now you are thinking ‘hmm, I’d better be friendly to my comp & ben person.’

Sure, be friendly, but keep in mind that your comp and ben person is the last person in the world who would be influenced by how you regard them. You see, comp and benefits people are the (mostly-)invisible guiding hand, assisting managers and their HR colleagues on all matters relating to who gets what, and devising analyses, structures and tools, handling highly sensitive information with the goal of making sure everyone is paid properly. They don’t control your salary budget, but they have enormous influence on your company’s (usually) biggest expense: people. As a manager, you control your budget, but the guidance you get from HR starts with comp and ben.

These are the comp and ben people, and I am one of them. In fact, I have been a comp and ben guy since March 1985, when I first participated in benchmark salary surveys for my company, handled all the benefits claims and maintained the HR records. We had no computer, and were were called “Personnel” in those days. But one thing hasn’t changed these 33 years: I still love figuring out who should make what in an organization.

We follow a set of principles, we call total reward principles:

  • It’s not just about salary, but the whole package, when determining what is competitive;
  • Different people value different rewards differently; needs and preferences vary by many variables including job level, location, demographics, individual performance, etc.;
  • Pay must be linked to performance to achieve organizational success;
  • Designing a rewards package starts with knowing your business and your talent/people requirements;
  • We aim for the best rewards “mix” that will attract and retain talent, avoiding over-reliance on salary level;
  • Pay doesn’t motivate (for most), but when pay is too low or unfair, it certainly demotivates;
  • Managing pay is both art and science, requiring an understanding of business, ability to work with numbers and applied psychology, with knowledge of contract law and regulations;

There are many areas of knowledge, skill and attitudes required to be an effective comp and benefits specialist.

If you are in HR, but have never been responsible for comp and benefits, look for a chance to give it a try. It’s not for everyone: some of us are, uh.. introverts, analytical, and a bit rigid on matters of fairness and consistency. Go have lunch with C&B and get to know their world.

If you are not an HR person, you should be glad your company has a qualified, competent C&B person. Because of them, pay is far more fair, market-aligned and consistently administered. Treating them well won’t affect your pay. But it doesn’t hurt either.

Here’s to all the comp and ben people. Have a great 2018. May there be world peace in your organization (on pay matters, anyway), and may all your compa-ratios be one.



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