Three Compensation Questions for HR

It’s not that the HR Department is trying to keep secrets from you. They are busy hiring people, solving employee-management problems and managing all the systems to keep people employed – just to name a few things.

Buried underneath all that work, there is information that may be valuable to you – if you know where to look. Depending on the size of your organization, you may find one person managing the area or in larger organizations you will find specific sub-departments within HR to contact.

Assortment of American CoinsIs Your Paycheck Right?

Are you getting your paychecks on time and are they correct? A separate payroll group or your HR representative in smaller organizations manages the payroll function.

If you have moved or have a change in family status – it is your responsibility to contact them and update your records so that the proper deductions come out and you don’t have a surprise at the end of the year when you file your tax return. Ditto for any changes in other benefits or deductions.

Direct deposit is great, however, fewer people look at their paychecks and endure they are correct.

Don’t assume that if your company has moved you everything is done, no changes can be made without filling out the proper documentation showing your consent.

Is Your Compensation Competitive?

In some situations compensation is the same for all positions. However, if you are being paid salary, your compensation is subjective. Perhaps you believe your compensation level should be higher (hint – most of us think that way!).

If you feel this way, the first step is to learn about how your organization establishes pay rates or salaries for their employees. In larger companies there will be a Compensation Department, in smaller companies, find out who is in charge of the yearly wage increases.

I have written a three-part series on how to go about evaluating how your salary was derived in your organization.

How Much Pay Increase Can You Expect Each Year?

Many organizations tie their pay increases to the general economy or rate of inflation. If inflation is low, then increases are low. There are many other factors that organizations consider – financial health of the company, growth strategy and competitiveness of skilled employees.

Once an organization establishes an increase budget, management may give out increases on a discretionary basis rather than an across the board percentage increase. Knowing what the process is for your company is important. Ask the Compensation Specialist or Human Resources Manager in your organization. Your manager is less likely to know the technical specifics of this question.

Remember, increases are evaluated yearly and where you are in your salary range will influence how much of an increase you might expect.

As you have these conversations with your HR Department, tread lightly. They may be surprised at some of the questions. It is important to be professional in your approach and treat it as an information gather meeting. Once you understand how things work, you can make a plan on how to execute what you want to do.

Not Getting Interviews from Your Resume or Job Applications?

Does this sound like you? You’ve been putting in job applications for many jobs. You have lots of skills, the right education and a great track record of employment.

It’s been awhile since you had to look for a job and you can’t quite figure out why companies are not calling you in for interviews. Can’t they see how good you are?

Well, perhaps they can’t see how great you are and where’s why.

istock_000006916716xsmallYour Resume or Job Application is Buried

They are receiving hundreds of resumes from potential candidates for the position. Unless you were lucky to hit the top 25% of the deck, your resume or application is in the dead zone.

Once a company or recruiter has gotten their top 3-4 candidates they stop looking – even though you may be better qualified. Only those people will go on to the interview stage. The company doesn’t always select the best qualified of all resumes and job applications they receive, they select the best qualified on their short list of candidates. That is a big difference.

You Are Not Playing the Technology Game Well

Because of the mounds of resumes being received on a daily basis, recruiters and companies use technology to manage the process. That means you fill out your application online and sometime can attach a cover letter or resume (if you can – always do this!).

When someone goes into the database to search candidates for a position, they use key words to sort through all the applications. If your application does not contain the key words that are important for the job you are applying to, then your resume will not be found.

Your Networking Stinks

It doesn’t matter if you are an extrovert or introvert – find a way to get over your fear or dislike of meeting people. The more people you meet and share your story of what you are looking for in a job, the more people you have working on your behalf to send possible open positions your way.

Networking is something you have to work at every day. Focus on developing relationships where you can help one another. People respond much better to a two-way street relationship. If you want tips on how to develop your networking, go here.

Another reason to network – you may meet a hiring manager or someone who knows the hiring manager on the spot. Having a direct connection to the hiring manager will dramatically increase your chances for an interview.

You Don’t Follow Up

No one likes to be a pest. However, let’s define what a pest is and what it is not.

A pest is someone who calls incessantly – three or four times a day or every day for three weeks straight.

If you are following up in this way – you are not pest:

  • Checking in by email or phone the following day to make sure your resume or application is on file.
  • Following up once a week after submitting your resume or job application to check status and to express your continued interest.

People get called into interviews because they were in the right place at the right time. Sometimes a phone call reminds someone who you are and what job you want to be considered for and they have that job right in front of them to be filled. It’s all about timing.

Create a schedule for each position that you apply to and keep to it even though it may not seem to be working. When you are top of mind. it shows them you  are serious about working for them.

Perhaps it’s time to reassess how well you are doing on these four stumbles to getting that coveted interview. You will increase your odds significantly by making changes on how you go about connecting and communicating with potential employers.

How to Actively Generate Networking Leads      

One of the hardest parts of a job search or working in your own business is how to actively generate networking leads that turn into real work opportunities. It is a task that people do not like to do and yet, your success is tied to doing it successfully.

I wish I could tell you there was a magic formula, but there is not. There are some techniques that will help you increase your leads and depending on what you are trying to accomplish, some will work better than others. Here’s the list:

Talking to People

There is something magical about connecting with one person and having them suggest that you should talk to someone they know. But here’s the thing, sometimes you have to ask them for a referral. How you ask the question will affect the other person’s receptivity to help you. Here are a couple of examples – which one do you think will work better?

  • Is there any one you know that I should talk to about my job search?
  • I have shared with you a little about what I do and how I have helped others be successful. Is there anyone you can think of that is facing a similar situation?
  • Who else in your network should I talk to? I have to meet my 12-person quota.

If you don’t ask the question, people will not offer up someone else for you to connect with.

Website Networking Leads

This one may be more geared towards people looking for clients vs. a job. However, there is a rise in job seekers creating their own one page portfolio to showcase their accomplishments. In either case, make sure that people know how to get in touch with you and follow-up to everyone that responds sans spammers.


Participating in LinkedIn groups and their discussions will increase the amount of people who want to connect with you. The more connected you are, the better information you will have when conducting research and searches.

When evaluating what groups to join, include professional, functional and task related (job seeker, small business etc.) groups in your mix. Don’t be a lurker, participate so that people know you opinions and can evaluate if they want to do business with or employ you.


One of my clients originated from Twitter. There are many recruiters and human resources professionals that use Twitter on a daily basis.

People freely share more of their interests on Twitter than LinkedIn. For example if you are into wilderness or sports and want to get into that field, you can find people who may have connections into those industries.

Figure out the hash tags that these people use and start to send messages using the tags. Follow them and there is a good chance they will return the favor and follow them. If you send a message, make it count.

Finally, be creative about where you find your leads. When you do get a lead, follow-up with them. They many not respond the first time – remember persistence is virtue.

How to Infuse Success into Succession Planning

Succession planning is a strategic people objective in many organizations. It is the cornerstone of having the right people in the right jobs for the organization to meet its short and long-term goals.

Many organizations struggle with acquiring the right business, technical and leadership skills to drive performance and cultural results. The right complement of people is more difficult than buying a piece of equipment or software, yet senior leadership spends less time and investment dollars on this aspect of the business than making a capital decision.

Here’s the thing about succession planning. It does not have to be difficult or complicated. The power of the succession plan is in the discussion and execution of decisions made to develop or retain specific people in the organization. It does not require you to take action on every person in the organization. Scope is completely optional and is dependent on the risks associated with having the right people to meet business objectives.

Successful succession planning tasks senior leadership to be honest about employee potential – to have candid conversations, assess people accurately, work with each other across functional lines and commit to a solid platform or process for development.

Bottom line – it takes planning, focus, investment and execution – after all, it is a “human” capital project.

Organizations can establish metrics for succession planning. Once employees have been identified, the organization can determine:

  • Percentage or number of employees who are high potentials
  • Percentage or number employees who are key employees to retain
  • Goals for movement – promotion or development
  • Investment monies for development

The organization can measure the success of their planning and development process. Consider these areas:

  • Specific development plans were written down and communicated
  • Development plans were executed for each person
  • Specific development activities and the ROI in a particular development area
  • Planned moves or promotions made within the organization
  • Unplanned moves or promotions made within the organization
  • Turnover – how many left for a better opportunity
  • Employee removed from the succession planning candidate pool

Ideally, succession-planning metrics are established at the beginning of the year and evaluated at year-end. This approach provides opportunities to assess what metrics and outcomes require refinement and key topics for senior leadership team discussions.

Returning Company Property After Being Fired

Hello Lynn,

Myself and other former employees are hoping to commence a class action wrongful dismissal suit against our former employer. One of the former employees still has the company laptop, but he never signed anything, nothing in the contract making any reference to company property.

4121207_sI am not suggesting that he should keep it, but the company failed to pay him all his pay due to him and issue him an ROE (Record of Employment).

In Canada the ESA (Employment Standards Act) stipulates that an employee must receive any money (pay) due as well as an ROE within 48 hours of the last day worked.

My question is can he hang on to the laptop until they comply with the ESA and give him his correct pay and Record of Employment.

Reader from Canada

While I am not familiar with the ins and outs of Canada employment law, I do believe I can address the question raised from this reader – bear in mind I am working from an U.S.A. perspective though conceptually my opinions are probably sound.

When an employee is terminated from any company, there is an expectation that all company property will be returned. If it is not, the company has the right to withhold monies for the company property from the employee’s last paycheck or to seek legal action for retrieval.

I am not sure how your friend was let go – sometimes we are brutal in how we do things here in the U.S. One colleague was met at the airport before boarding a flight by his boss and was fired on the spot. They took his phone, laptop and keys to his company car and told him to figure out how to get back home.

He was in sales and the company’s intent was to confiscate all customer information and ensure that it did not go with him.

In our court system sometimes the burden of proof can be argued on what would a reasonable person do or think. In the event there was no paper trail or documentation about the company laptop, would the average person believe it belonged to the company or to themselves? I think you know the answer to that question.

So, if the ex-employee continues to hang onto the computer, can the company now imply that the ex-employee is trying to steal company property or worse yet – customer or confidential information? How could that affect the company’s strategic position in the marketplace? The web now becomes much more complex.

The fact is your friend will not win by holding the computer hostage; perhaps the company has grounds for not making final payment and filing the ROE because his firing is more complicated with company property outstanding. No one else has this problem in your group and my hunch is that no one else has company property.

When pursuing a wrongful termination class action case, it is imperative that you and your colleagues do everything squeaky clean. Don’t give the company any ammunition. If he is calling his character into question, it will affect the rest of the group’s credibility.

Finally, I did find a website that indicated a ROE does not have to be given to the employee, it can be sent directly to Service Canada. That may solve the ROE issue, but it does not address the last pay being held back.

Think Beyond Networking

You’ve heard it before; you need to be out networking. Perhaps you are scared or dislike doing it. Everyone is telling you to do it but for some reason you just can’t seem to get yourself out of the house to meet with people.

istock_000006168535xsmallConsider this – what does networking mean to you? Does it represent a crowded room with people you really don’t care about? Do you feel uncomfortable with initiating conversation or feel like you are constantly selling yourself and no one is buying? Think about what networking really represents to you. Write it down.

Now – let’s fast forward and assume that you are the best networker on this planet. You have reached the place you want to be – where is that? Are you in the job you want, have the life you dream of? What does that place look like? What does it represent to you? Safety? Security? Is it a place where you feel like you have arrived? Take a moment to visualize this place or ground yourself in the feeling – really connect with what it is like to be there.

Guess what? You have found what is beyond networking. That’s right; networking can be a means to an end – to be in the place you want.

Your challenge will be to push through that place where you feel stuck so you can reap the rewards of networking. To do that, you may have to acquire some skills or take some risks. It might be time to commit yourself to a new path – to do something different because what you have done is clearly not working.

You may have to get out of your comfort zone and head out into the unknown…and open yourself to being curious about how new experiences may open doors to getting to that place – the place where you have arrived.

Are You the First Interview? Close the Gap

Let’s say you are the first interview for a position with a company. When you arrive, the interviewer is not fully prepared. It is obvious that he doesn’t interview often. These two factors often point to an ill-fated interview experience.

istock_000006916716xsmallDespite the odds being stacked against you, the two of you have instant rapport. The conversation is easy and you can see yourself working there. During the discussion, he says all the right things such as “when you come back for the second interview, you will be talking to some other people” and he proceeds to tell you about them.

At the end of the interview, it’s time to ask about what to expect for next steps. He tells you that he will be interviewing three more people and hopes to invite the second round interview candidates the following week. You leave feeling that you have nailed the first interview, send your thank you note and await a call back.

Here’s the tip I want to share with you. I recommend contacting the interviewer at the beginning of next week before the second interview call back. Here is why.

You were the first interview for the position. Your inexperienced interviewer was getting his feet wet with you. While you had great rapport, he will get better at interviewing and will ask other questions that you may not have the opportunity to answer. Some of those answers may tilt the odds out of your favor.

Send your interviewer a note or call them and leave a message to let them know the following:

You realize that you were the first person to be interviewed by him and there may be some questions that arise with subsequent interviews that are important. You are available for a quick phone call to answer any of those questions so that they have all the information available before your decision on second round interviews.

It is a good practice to close any gaps in information prior to a company or interviewer moving to the next step. If you don’t you may just find you have been edged out.

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