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A Data Person’s Take on Compference16

When walking the halls of the Seattle Sheraton, surrounded by HR professionals, compensation experts, and many notable executives, one could truly feel the buzz generated by Compference 2016. The excitement was palpable. Here we had a diverse group of people ready to speak and learn all about compensation at PayScale’s premier user conference. While it feels near impossible to boil down this packed two day event to some notable highlights, here are some of my top takeaways:

  1. Forget the wage gap, let’s talk about the sponsorship gap. Ruchika Tulshyan, Author of “The Diversity Advantage: Fixing Gender Inequality in the Workplace,” participated in the gender equity panel at Compference and spoke about the difference between mentorship and sponsorship. According to her research, women are 4x more likely to have a mentor, while men are much more likely to have a sponsor. Research further proves a sponsor is often a necessary component of upward advancement. Therefore her advice to the audience on addressing this gap was to find high-performing female employees early on in their career and partner them up with a strong executive or higher-up to be their sponsor.
  2. There is such a thing as doing too much. Rusty Lindquist, Vice President of HCM Strategy and Intellectual Property at BambooHR, spoke about the importance of strategic HR in today’s world and one topic he covered was the “Suck Threshold.” Generally speaking, some hold the belief that doing more results in higher quality. However, according to the suck threshold, you hit a point where you are doing too much and quality/perceived value markedly drops:


This isn’t a completely new concept. As another example, entrepreneur Francesco Cirillo developed the Pomodoro Technique in the late 80’s, which suggests one should break down a large task into short, timed intervals spaced out by small breaks. This is meant to increase productivity and reduce burnout. The takeaway from this message was the promise of work-life balance doesn’t just make you seem attractive to job applicants, but can in fact provide better business results.

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  1. Businesses are spending way too much time on reviews and they are not even effective. During a session on the state of reviews, PayScale’s SVP of Marketing, Tim Low, and VP of People, Stacey Klimek, shared a study done by Deloitte that found their performance review cycle consumed ~2 million hours a year. Further, in a survey of hundreds of HR executives, Deloitte found more than half felt reviews were not a driver when it came to either engagement or high performance. It was obvious these results resonated with the attendees of the session. When we later broke into discussion groups about review processes at our own companies, the widely shared message was the review system was broken and needed a serious overhaul. Some suggestions for fixes included: shorter more frequent reviews, instant feedback cycles instead of a regimented process, and mini 360 reviews held quarterly.
  2. Millennials are on everyone’s mind. There wasn’t a single session or talk I attended that didn’t bring up millennials. A generation that makes up the largest percentage of the workforce and is believed to be quite different from their predecessors in how they communicate, interact with technology, and in their career advancement expectations. It was obvious that the attendees had a tug-of-war happening between millennial fatigue and fear on losing out on winning the top candidates from this talented generation.
  3. When it comes to compensation, effective communication and transparency are key to engagement and retention. Since compensation is often a black box to employees, many don’t know how their pay relates to the market. In a survey of more than 70,000 employees, PayScale found 80 percent of people who are paid above market believe they are paid at or below market. According to additional PayScale research, we have found employees who perceive a “fair and transparent pay practice” are less likely to leave their organization and have higher job satisfaction. Many Compference attendees shuddered at the word “transparency” and seemed to believe that meant sharing all things with all people. However, transparency isn’t a dichotomy, but rather a spectrum. There are numerous levels of transparency and an organization has to find what is best for them. As PayScale’s VP of Customer Success, Emily Jensen, said during her session: “The Perception Gap is real and if you don’t fill it with information, people will fill it with their own narrative.”
Katie Bardaro
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