Take the Stress out of your Compensation Planning Go-Live

Compensation planning season is approaching even faster than it was last month.  Take these actions to lower your stress levels and ensure a successful launch.

There’s not a lot of wiggle room with comp planning.  There’s a built-in sense of urgency:  you can’t be late paying out incentives and raises and no one wants a paycheck that’s “almost” right.  So dedicated Comp professionals are accustomed to working over the holidays to get ready for the January planning push.  Whether you’re implementing a new system for the first time, or re-implementing something that you’ve used previously, here are some action items to work on to lower your stress when the big day comes and planning begins.

1. Test the crap out of your system.

Can I really say that?  Well, it’s literally true.  Almost everyone loathes testing but quality testing is probably the best thing you can do with the time you have between now and go-live.  You can improve data integrity and calculation accuracy.  Get help.  Don’t expect to do this alone, but put together a plan and a team to help with this.  Different users (Comp specialists, HR generalists, HRIS specialists, and Comp planners) can bring a level of attention to testing and will focus on different aspects of your system.  Keep track of questions, issues, and defects in a log and knock them out one-by-one.  If you don’t test properly, you’ll be pulling out the scrapers to clean the walls when it all hits the fan the day after planning starts.  Conversely, if you go live with confidence in your system, you’ll actually be able to focus on bigger things and appreciate the compliments coming your way.

2. Plan your go-live date thoughtfully.

This is low-hanging fruit.  Don’t go live on a Monday.  Don’t go live right after a software update.  Don’t go live simultaneously with some other major event in your organization.  Don’t go live when support isn’t available.  Give yourself some time and open planning on a Wednesday or Thursday.  That will give you a buffer to fix the last minute issues that arise (even though you tested the crap out of everything) and you’ll be able to call for help.  Schedule your go-live date in advance with these in mind.

3. Make sure you can re-load data fixes.  Plan for recovery.

Systems are either friendly or hostile to the practice of re-loading data to fix errors.  It’s usually defined on a field by field basis, but all systems work differently.  So assume nothing.  Work with your consultant or HRIS/IT team to understand your system configuration and which fields can be re-loaded if you need to fix the data.  Learn how to do it or how it’s done so you can avoid hearing “Sorry, you’re stuck with it.”  If you know that some of your data will cause surprises, design a correction process.  This is very different, however, from expecting to do repeated overhauls by multiple imports, form deletion, etc. when planners are already in the system.  Outline your fix process with the minimum disruption to your users.  Included this fix process in your testing.

4. Communicate this year’s Compensation Messages.  Train.

No matter how well-tuned your system is, if your planners don’t understand the comp philosophy enabled by the system, you’ll have unhappy users.  If you’re reimplementing a system you’ve already used, remember that comp planners probably haven’t touched it for a year, whereas you’ve been testing it for the past several weeks.  (Right?)  So take the time to communicate appropriately to your audience.  Some organizations do fine with a quick reference card and a briefing by their HR generalist in a staff meeting or a webinar.  Other organizations need more formal means.  Whatever it is, don’t skip it.  Make the connection between your system and your compensation objectives for your users.  No one likes to feel incompetent and good training and communication are effective means to eradicate that.

5. Monitor and audit during your planning cycle.

It’s hard to know what’s going on in real time with spreadsheet systems and macros if the planning worksheets are still out there with the planners.  If you have a cloud-based or SAS system, however, chances are you can see what’s going on during your planning cycle.  You can monitor and audit the planning activity to-date, arrange for round-table sessions, and report on budgets during even the early days of your planning cycle.  You can monitor who has planned already and who is slacking.  If you keep tabs on what’s happening, you won’t be blindsided at the end of the process and can avoid having to answer difficult questions.  Information is powerful and you can use it to improve the quality of your plans, reward your employees more equitably, and feel great about your successful compensation planning season.