Editor's Note: This week's Thought Leader is Duncan Brown, a Principal in the Rewards and Engagement practice at AonHewitt (UK). Duncan has more than 20 years' experience in HR and rewards consulting and research with firms including PricewaterhouseCoopers and Towers Perrin. He spent five years as Assistant Director General at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, and was most recently Director of HR and Reward Development at the Institute for Employment Studies. Human Resources magazine lists him among the top five most influential thinkers in UK HR over the past five years. A leading commentator on HR issues, Duncan has published numerous reports, articles and books, including his new book Evidence-based Reward Management.
Compensation Force: What led you to choose (or land in) a career featuring the field of rewards?
Duncan Brown: I started in general HR work in the car industry and then did an MBA before moving into HR consultancy. What fascinated me initially and still about pay and rewards work was that this was the area where it seemed to me so much of the organisational discourse of motivation and engagement, of leadership, of culture and values, of OD, really 'hit the road' of reality. 'Putting your money where your mouth is' is often, I think, how employees judge employer intentions in terms of how they manage their workforce to add value. And the second thing that has always interested and astounded me is how little effort is generally put into assessing the effectiveness of these very expensive reward arrangements that employers operate.
Compensation Force: What person and their ideas/teaching/writing has had a significant influence on your thinking and your work?
Duncan Brown: Too many people to mention during my years at Towers Perrin. If anyone asks me what to read on reward management I always recommend two seminal thinkers who have influenced me:
Ed Lawler, of course,probably most influentially for me in the little book Strategic Pay which became my reward bible in the 1990's.
Compensation Force: Is there a book you’d recommend to others in the reward field that has impacted your thinking and your work ?
Duncan Brown: See the books mentioned above. For semi-fictional entertainment, and for those of you who don't believe money motivates, try reading David Dorsey's the Force, about Xerox's NY sales team, and Tracy Kidder's The Soul of A New Machine about the foundation of DEC.
Compensation Force: Looking to the future, what trend or development do you think will significantly impact the reward profession and those of us working in it?
Duncan Brown: I think the aging and growing diversity of the workforce in the West will have a massive impact on how we reward people over the next 20 years, way beyond the immediate impact on pensions and healthcare. I don't think many employers have really thought through the long-term implications of this yet.
Compensation Force: What are you currently working on?
Duncan Brown: I am doing a lot of reward strategy projects for clients at present. I think many employers have emerged from the recession and are wondering whether their pre-crash approach to rewards is fit-for-future. I think this questioning of what will work best for us in the future, rather than just benchmarking and copying what everyone else is doing, is a really healthy sign. I am also advising the Fair Pay Review established by the UK government to consider means of addressing escalating levels of senior pay. I think fairness has been a much neglected area in rewards management in the last decade as we have focused on competitiveness and performance. The final report is due to be published in March.
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Our special thanks to Duncan for participating in the Compensation Force Thought Leader series and taking the time to share some of his history, thoughts and ideas with us today!
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