The Millennial Who Brought Her Cat to an Interview, and other #Compference16 Insights

We are fresh off our first-ever PayScale User Compference, and it was an absolute blast. As a Content Director, I love what I do, but I spend more time contemplating WordPress plugins and less interacting with customers. I always love when I get the chance to slink out from behind my computer and talk to our customers face to face, because it reminds me of one thing: PayScale has indisputably the best customers in the world. I absolutely love them! The energy at Compference was on fire, and the passion in the air was so contagious. I felt very lucky to be a part of such a well-executed event as well as a major milestone in my company’s history. Without further ado, here are a few of my insights from Compference 16.

  1. HR professionals are saints. Saints, I say! I’ve always known this, but hearing the stories flying around the breakfast table really brought it home. There were stories about a millennial who brought her cat to an interview in a cage because she “couldn’t find a sitter.” There were stories about dads coming in trying to negotiate their kid’s salary offer. There were stories about people falling asleep in interviews. Any one of these incidents would have sent me running to the hills, but for these HR pros, it’s just another day in the life. All of these stories were told with a serenity, poise and sense of humor that left me amazed again at just how impressive human resource professionals really are. I am proud and pleased to be part of a company that makes life a little easier for them.
  2. Humans are primarily good. On a related note, because of the stories above and the nature of HR in general, I was eagerly interviewing all the attendees to find out if, after everything they’ve seen in their years in the trenches, HR people thought humankind was inherently good, or inherently evil. I was definitely expecting them all to choose “evil!” To my surprise, every single person said “inherently good” without a pause. They said the good far outweighs the bad, and that for every person who throws a temper tantrum over not getting a raise, there are five people who donate their PTO to a colleague in need, etc. Some of the professionals I spoke to had been in HR for 30+ years, so I found this hugely reassuring. Despite everything we see in the news right now or how we feel every time someone complains a free t-shirt isn’t their color, the state of human nature is apparently intact. Phew!
  3. Millennial fever is alive and well. Although news headlines are touting the rise of Gen Z, the focus on millennials is alive and well for human resource professionals. From meal time conversations to Compference sessions, everyone still wants to know how to deal with the largest workforce generation. I even found out the dress I wore to dinner was a shade called Millennial Pink. Millennials – they’re everywhere! For some tips on working with millennials, check out this recent webinar Compensating the Workforce of Tomorrow.
  4. HR is strategically important to the success of an organization. In his keynote, PayScale CEO Mike Metzger talked about compensation as a strategic lever within organizations. What this means is that compensation doesn’t exist in a silo; it’s the driver that determines the success of every major business initiative. If you don’t pay your engineers well, who’s going to keep your business’s website from crashing? If you don’t pay your customer service team well, how is that going to impact your customer satisfaction? Ignoring compensation puts every major business initiative in peril. Get comp right; and your organization will have the foundation of a well-oiled machine. Rusty Lindquist, VP of HCM Strategy, Intellectual Property & Product Marketing at BambooHR cited data from The Conference Board showing that the most critical issue cited by CEOs three years in a row has been “human capital.” He pointed out that the human resource professionals within an organization aren’t always consulted at a strategic level by the C-suite about what it claims is a top concern, saying “There is a department within your organization to address this. You just pay no attention to it.”
  5. Transparency isn’t one size fits all. Pay transparency was another hot topic at Compference. I was really impressed with how heartfelt the conversations around transparency were, and how dedicated HR pros are to getting it right. While almost all of our Compference presentations included some mention of transparency, it would be impossible to talk about transparency without mentioning Tracy Lawrence’s presentation “How Being a Love Company Helped Me Raise Millions in Venture Capital and Bring Thousands of Employees Together Over Food.” Tracy’s company practices radical transparency. In other words, everyone knows everyone else’s salary. I think a common misconception people have is that “radical” means “reckless.” In reality, Tracy’s formula for transparency is one of the most thoughtful I have seen. It is formula-based, a mix of art and science, and most importantly, perfectly reflective of the culture Tracy has created, and in fact reflective of Tracy herself, who immediately strikes you with her genuineness and her open personality. I’m not saying radical transparency is for everyone (and neither is Tracy), but I do think that it’s important to put thought into your transparency policy and not just go with the default when it may not be a match for your company.
  6. The person who solves performance reviews is going to be a cash money millionaire. The only topic I saw to rival Millennial Fever was Performance Review Anxiety. The PayScale session “What to Do About Reviews?” was jam packed. We went around the room and shared stories, and almost no one seemed to feel they were doing performance reviews well. Many were in the midst of transitioning to something else, but no one seemed to feel like they had found the perfect solution. Issues ranged from how to give feedback to a remote team to how to be fair when you switch to more subjective feedback styles. The most popular suggestions were around increasing frequency of feedback, which didn’t surprise me. PayScale’s Compensation Best Practices Report 2016 found that 44 percent of human resource professionals thought that switching to real-time feedback and away from annual performance reviews would be the biggest change of the year. From tools like TinyPulse to training managers on quarterly reviews, more and more businesses are jumping on the real-time bandwagon. For more information, check out my boss Tim Low’s article “Annual Compensation Cycles Need to Take an Uber.”
  7. Fair isn’t necessarily equal, and equity isn’t just about pay. From the panel on “Why Getting Gender Equity Right Matters for Your Business” to Julie Mathis’s presentation “Incorporating Core Value into Daily Work”, there was a lot of discussion around fairness and what it actually means in a business. Verdict: it means you should not pay differently because of gender or race, and you definitely should pay differently based on performance, experience, and how in-demand an employee’s skills are. Our panelists on the topic of gender equity – SVP of People & Culture at Apptio Britt Provost, Director of HR at Moss Adams Jen Wyne and author/journalist/speaker Ruchika Tulshyan – also made it clear that companies need to ensure there are equitable opportunities, not just equitable pay, for women and people of color. We know, we know; it’s COMPlicated. But that’s what PayScale is here for:)
  8. The embracing of technology. While we traditionally think about getting buy-in when it comes to instituting a new HR practice, many HR pros are realizing its just as important to operationalize a new idea as it is to socialize it. In fact, the two are inherently linked. In order to get buy-in for new ideas, you have got to be able to answer the “but how though?” question. From tools like TinyPulse and SevenGeese, which help administrate performance reviews, to tools like Slack which improve cross-company communication, to our own PayScale Crew which makes bringing managers into the raise process actually easily doable, it is definitely not just about the “why” but the “how,” and HR professionals are embracing technology more than ever in order to comp smarter, not harder.
  9. Readers are leaders. I always forget what bookworms HR people are, and it warms my little bookworm heart. Not only that, they are bypassing the latest beach read and boning up on professional development books. Why? Because they are so, so dedicated to what they do (see point number one.) In almost every session I attended, book recommendations were flying. Just a few of the titles I heard mentioned were First, Break All the Rules by James K. Harter, The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss, Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson, and Servant Leadership by Robert K. Greenleaf, not to mention a book by one of our very own gender equity panelists, The Diversity Advantage by Tulshyan. Now that the leaves are a changin’, I am looking forward to curling up with a mug of coffee in my giant chair and checking out some of these customer favorites.

These are my takeaways from PayScale’s first Compference. What struck you? I’d love to hear about your highlights in the comments.

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