Editor's Note: This week's Thought Leader is Paul Weatherhead, Pay Program Manager for the US Postal Service. Paul’s primary pay policy responsibility is the Postal Service’s Pay-For-Performance Program which received the Excellence in Human Capital Management Award at a Government HR Innovations conference, and helped the US Postal Service garner a spot in the Balanced Scorecard Hall of Fame. He is a frequent guest speaker and for the past 20 years has taught courses in HR management, compensation and benefits, and labor relations at the University of Virginia, WorldatWork, and the University of South Carolina-Beaufort. Paul has also authored or co-authored articles on pay-for-performance, balanced scorecard, CPI-based pay policies, comparable worth, and the impact of unions on the compensation practitioner. He is a frequent guest blogger at the Compensation Café and a noted leader in the WorldatWork community of professionals.
Compensation Force: What led you to choose (or land in) a career featuring the field of rewards?
Paul Weatherhead: I almost didn’t get into compensation at all! At grad school our compensation class was right after lunch, so we were in a food stupor to begin with. Then the professor turned down the lights and went through a 4 inch stack of vu-graphs on the overhead projector. Many times I feared I would get whiplash from trying to keep my head up off the desk!
Fortunately I had some great mentors at Mobil Oil that had a passion for total rewards. They opened up my eyes to how an appreciation for total rewards makes you more effective in every area of human resource management. I found great satisfaction in helping employees understand the intricacies of our benefit plans. Wrong decisions could cost an employee or their survivors tens of thousands of dollars in penalties or unnecessary taxes. It was satisfying to help employees make the right choices.
When I went to work with the US Postal Service, I think they were looking for someone who had a fresh perspective on how compensation was designed in a successful private sector business. Fortunately, I was able to help them make design changes that were market-based and performance-driven.
Compensation Force: What person and their ideas/teaching/writing has had a significant influence on your thinking and your work?
Paul Weatherhead: Early on with the US Postal Service I found articles and books by Jay Schuster and Pat Zingheim (now WorldatWork Keystone Award winners) to be quite helpful. Their writings were so inherently logical and plainly written, they served as a great source for me and others who were trying to make changes in the compensation practices at the USPS. Specifically, their book The New Pay (Jossey-Bass, 1992), and their HRMagazine article Linking Quality and Pay (December 1992) laid out a vision of what we could do at the USPS.
Needless to say I was thrilled to later collaborate with Jay and Pat on Pay for Performance Works: The United States Postal Service Presents a Powerful Business Case in the WorldatWork Journal, which has been re-published in High Performance Pay (Zingheim & Schuster) and Performance Management (WorldatWork). The article is still one of the top 10 articles viewed by WorldatWork members on-line, even after 5 years.
Compensation Force: Is there a book you’d recommend to others in the reward field that has impacted your thinking and your work?
Paul Weatherhead: You can’t go wrong with these three books on your book shelf:
• Ed Lawler, Strategic Pay: Aligning Organizational Strategies and Pay Systems (Jossey-Bass, 1990)
• Jay Schuster & Pat Zingheim, The New Pay: Linking Employee and Organizational Performance(Jossey-Bass, 1996, 1992)
• George Milkovich, Jerry Newman & Barry Gerhart, Compensation (McGraw-Hill Irwin, 2011)
These authors have more recent materials in publication, but these particular books still serve as a foundation for building a library of compensation knowledge.
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?
Paul Weatherhead: The information explosion made possible by desk-top computers and the Internet have opened up a great opportunity for the use and abuse of compensation information. Interactive social media is allowing for a broad range of people to find an audience - - from truly experienced experts to charlatans with products and services to sell.
This information clutter makes it a challenge to transfer knowledge in our profession. How will lessons learned by the “greatest generation” and the “baby boomers” be passed along to Generation X or Generation Y?
There are signs of skepticism as people try to filter through this information overload. People don’t take old pay paradigms for granted. Why does a 40% to 50% range spread make sense? Why does a 10% to 15% midpoint progression make sense? What’s wrong with a wage escalator based on the Consumer Price Index or the Employment Cost Index? Compensation folks need to continually justify and re-justify why they do the things they do.
No one can ever know everything there is to know about total rewards. The profession will always have a need for networking and collaboration to help organizations make that strategic link between compensation and results.
Compensation Force: What are you currently working on?
I currently work with a great group of committed professionals on the US Postal Service’s pioneering and award-winning Pay-For-Performance program. It’s a highly successful program that contributed to significant and sustained performance improvements on a balanced scorecard of operational metrics.
In recent years I have been impressed with how certain people in the compensation profession have freely given of their time and efforts to help educate others. Jim Brennan and Frank Giancola have provided millions of dollars worth of free information to fellow WorldatWork members on the Online Community discussion board. Ann Bares does much the same through her Compensation Force and Compensation Café blogs. They have served as an inspiration for me to share more of my lessons learned in compensation from over the years. I hope I can serve the profession half as well as these people have.
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Truth be told, many of us who try to serve the profession take our inspiration from Paul and his tireless efforts on all of our behalves. Our special thanks to him 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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