Be a First Base Coach to Your Managers for Compensation Conversations


As an HR professional, you wear many hats. Perhaps one of the most important is that of a coach to your managers. This includes providing them with the training and guidance they need to be successful when communicating pay decisions to their employees. So how can you best help guide these managers around the bases of compensation communication like a good first base coach? Well, put on your ball cap and let’s play ball!

Share the Game Plan

Start with the basics to help your managers hit the ground running when it comes to sharing compensation decisions with their team members. Before your managers even step up to the plate, you should make sure they’re aware of what it is you want them to convey to their employees. For this reason, not only should you be partnering with executives when formulating the organization’s compensation philosophy and strategy, but it is also important to relay this information to your managers as well. After all, they will be your voices in the locker room passing this message along to the rest of the organization.

Before your managers step up to the plate, you should make sure they’re aware of the game plan.Click To Tweet

Just as a coach would huddle with their team before the game, HR should confirm what details about the compensation plan to share with managers. Determining your communication game plan involves thinking about what your organization’s level of transparency will be and ensuring everyone’s planning to run the same play. In other words, managers need to be consistent in what they’re communicating so employees are all hearing the same message.

Guide Your Managers Around the Bases

Once you’ve briefed your managers on the game plan, the next step is to provide the tools necessary to help them communicate effectively. Just as a player running the bases seeks guidance from the first base coach on whether to run or stay, your managers should be trained on how to navigate these pay conversations and make it to home plate. Start by providing them with training on compensation basics followed by the specifics of your organization’s comp plan.

Next provide some insights into communication best practices and link that to talking with their teams about pay. This could include role-playing those tough conversations that might come up, such as:

  • An employee’s pay is low or high relative to their range
  • The employee is not receiving an increase this time around
  • One of your employees has an unfavorable view of their pay increase
  • They found a salary report online and feel underpaid

And don’t feel like you have to go it alone here! Perhaps you have some seasoned managers who’ve had plenty of pay conversations who could partner with you to make your manager training more relevant and dynamic.

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Prevent the Pick-offs

Even with training and guidance, your managers can’t predict every play. So how can you do your best to ensure that your managers aren’t caught off-base by an employee pay question?

  • Be Proactive – Anticipate the play and help your managers be ready for questions that might come up. They know their employees and are likely to know what’s top of mind for each of them; help them be ready ahead of time by drafting talking points to address common employee concerns.
  • Be Supportive – You want your managers to know that HR has their back. Ask them what they need to feel confident in having employee pay conversations and find ways to help them get there.
  • Be Engaging – Your managers may not always feel comfortable sharing their fears about talking pay, so don’t wait for them to come you; set aside time to interact with them so you can keep a pulse on how they’re feeling.

One Game Does Not a Season Make

No matter how much training and practice you provide your managers, there is still the possibility that they get thrown out. This could be a manager who’s shared incorrect information with an employee or simply doesn’t know how to answer a tough question. Whatever the reason for the out, you should take this opportunity to provide additional coaching so next time the situation arises, the manager is ready to tag the base. Talking about pay is hard so when challenges present themselves, a good coach will find the learning opportunity and turn it into a future success.

Remember, your managers are important players on your team – vital to the success of your organization and its ability to communicate about your pay practices effectively. We want to make sure they have the tools to be successful every game, all season long. Keep guiding them around the bases by using some of these tips and we’ll see you in the World Series, Coach!

Tell Us What You Think

How have you coached your team through comp communication? We want to hear from you. Tell your story in the comments.

Image: Pixabay

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