Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The OD Quest: Part 4 – Totally Rewarding!

"I don’t have an opening in my OD team now. But, you can join our recruitment team and do recruitment in the OD way”, I heard the Senior HR Leader telling a candidate who was hell-bent on joining the OD team. This was my fifth ‘encounter’ with this gentleman (See 'Passion for work and anasakti ‘, 'Appropriate metaphors for organizational commitment ‘ ,‘To name or not to name, that is the question’ and ‘A Mathematical approach to HR’ for the outcomes of my previous interactions with him).

I was a bit taken aback by what I just heard. I knew that often these kind of ‘solutions’ will end in tears or worse. However, similar to what had happened during my previous encounters with him, this interaction forced me to think a bit more deeply about the underlying issue - the application of OD(Organization Development) to the various functional areas in HR (Human Resource Management). That, in turn, has prompted me to write this series of posts on 'The OD Quest' where we will look at the possibilities  that arise when OD ventures into other parts of the people management terrain.

In the first post in this series (see The OD Quest: Part 1- Mapping the terrain) we did a cartography of the Human Resources (HR) and Organization Development (OD) domains to map out the current world (the terrain) inhabited by HR and OD and also the evolving worldviews in HR and OD (ways of looking at the terrain). In the second post (see The OD Quest Part 2 : Doing Recruitment in the OD way) we made a visit to the land of Recruitment and explored the value OD can add to Recruitment. In the third post (see The OD Quest: Part 3 – Rendezvous with L&D) we covered the Rendezvous with L&D
. In this post, let’s take our OD Quest to the land of Rewards that is also known by names like ‘Compensation & Benefits’ (C& B) and by more interesting ones like ‘Monies & Goodies’.

If we look at Rewards essentially in terms of compensation surveys, compensation structures and benefits the possible value addition from OD is not apparent with exception of facilitating deeper discussions around the compensation philosophy (the ‘why’ of what we do in Compensation &a Benefits and its alignment with the company values). However, when we look at Rewards as a tool to drive appropriate employee behaviors to achieve a particular set of business results, the possible value addition from OD  becomes clearer.  

Employee behaviors (and also employee engagement and performance) are driven by the ‘total employee deal’ offered by the company that include (in addition to compensation and benefits) factors like the organization culture, work environment, development & growth, meaning & purpose etc. OD plays a key role in enhancing these aspects. Most importantly, the underlying messages conveyed by the Compensation & Benefits provided by the company must be in sync with the messages conveyed by the other parts of the total employee deal. For example if an organization wants to provide a highly collaborative environment the Reward system should also support that. 

One of the ways to enhance the alignment between Rewards and OD is to jointly create a coherent and internally consistent ‘Employee Value Proposition’ or a ‘Total Rewards Statement’ that include all these dimensions. This would ensure better integration between the transactional aspects (traditionally the domain of Compensation & Benefits) and the relational aspects (traditionally the domain of OD) of the total employee deal. Please see ‘Of Rewards, OD and Passing the buck’ for more details. For example, it creates cognitive dissonance when the organization looks at salary purely as a 'matter of supply & demand' and at the same time wants the employees to develop a deep emotional connect with the organization beyond the rational connect  (or even consider the organization as their extended family).

Reward systems must focus on what is valued in the organization (stated values of the organization). Clarifying these values is an area where OD can help. There must be a clear connection between the valued behaviors and the Rewards. Money speaks louder than words! So if there is a disconnect between the espoused values of the organization and what is actually rewarded, the employee behaviors would be influenced by what is rewarded. It is also a sure way to lose credibility and trust.

Another very important contribution that OD can make is to better manage the formation and evolution of the psychological contract. While salaries are more in the domain of the employment contract, the way salary negotiations are conducted during the various phases of the employee life cycle can have a huge impact on the formation and evolution of the psychological contract and hence outcomes like employee engagement, performance and retention. Please see ‘Of Salary negotiations and Psychological contract’ for more details. Also, how Reward decisions are handled (especially when the organization is not doing well or when the organization can afford to drive a hard bargain with the employees) with both shape and reveal the organization culture and values.

OD can help in facilitating better change management around the changes made to compensation and benefits (especially on tricky ones like discontinuing a benefit or redesigning incentive/variable salary schemes to derive more value). Of course, it works the other way around also. When OD is driving an organization-wide change management effort, Rewards can be of immense help by rewarding the desired (new) behaviors/ways of working and hence facilitating them to take root. For example, if the organization wants to build a more performance-driven culture, increasing the level of differentiation in Rewards for the various levels of performance can be a key enabler.

So where does this leave us? OD can add a lot of value to Rewards. OD can help Rewards to evolve from Compensation & Benefits to Total Rewards! We can say that the application of OD makes Rewards better just like ‘sugar sweetens milk’ in the famous story* about Parsis. Of course, it is important to keep working on the Rewards & OD partnership to take it to higher levels of excellence and to ensure that things doesn’t fall through the cracks (or fall in ‘no man’s land’). Considering that we are on an OD quest and not a conquest continuous exploration of the possibilities of the Rewards and OD partnership definitely fits into the spirit of the OD quest!

 The story goes something like this.: Parsis came to India fleeing from persecution in their Motherland Iran and landed in Gujarat. There they approached the local king Jadi Rana and requested asylum. Jadi Rana motioned to a vessel of milk filled to the very brim to signify that his kingdom was already full and could not accept refugees. In response, one of the Parsi priests added a pinch of sugar to the milk, thus indicating that they would not bring the vessel to overflowing and indeed make the lives of the citizens sweeter. Jadi Rana gave shelter to the emigrants and permitted them to practice their religion and traditions freely. Parsis are still adding “sugar” to our lives!

Any comments/thoughts before we take our OD quest to the next domain in the HR land?!

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