When talking with leaders about their compensation programs, I will often ask them what they see as the program's biggest strengths and weaknesses. Often enough, particularly in reference to base salary programs, they will mention the program's flexibility as one of its strengths.
More than a few of them will note, however, that this flexibility serves as a two-edged sword.
By flexibility, they typically mean some level of managerial discretion. They will say that while they appreciate the program's structure and rigor, they also appreciate that there is some room for maneuvering, for "tweaking", in order to respond to specific circumstances and needs. Effective managers, who have the overall organization's best interests at heart (versus merely their own), use this flexibility to ensure that the program truly works as intended. Less-than-effective managers ... not so much.
Does the newly honed focus on potention pay discrimination that the Lily Ledbetter Act and other prospective pay legislation are bringing to our lives change this? Should it?
At a minimum, I think it may be time to take a close look at the role that "flexibility" plays, particularly in the administration of our wage and salary programs. Are we giving managers the rope they need to do the right thing ... or just enough to hang themselves?