In a world that grows ever more demanding of transparency and information, the stakes for compensation communication are going up. Big time. Accordingly, the importance of pay communication and branding was noted by a number of speakers and in many of the sessions at WorldatWork's recent total rewards conference.
Marketing and branding are not typically part of our professional curriculum (maybe they should be) and organizational leaders are often reluctant to make the investment necessary to get the communication job done right. Consequently, our compensation communication efforts often suffer from lack of expertise as well as lack of resources. In our better attempts, we follow a program of setting communications objectives, defining key messages, identifying our audiences and their information needs, and then formulating a plan around the activities necessary to meet those needs. Branding? For many, at best, it involves crafting an identity, perhaps even a logo, for our key message and then blasting it out repeatedly.
This - often as not - is Compensation Communication and Branding 1.0, for those even taking a run at something resembling a dedicated communication effort.
Compensation Communication and Branding 2.0? I think I caught a glimpse of it in a fascinating piece at Fast Company's Co.Design site written by Marc Shillum, principal at design and innovation consultancy Method.
Branding in today's dynamic and multiple media workplace, according to Shillum, is about creating patterns - not repeating messages. As someone who is guilty of propagating the "repeat, repeat, repeat" philosophy of pay communication, I was struck by the logic of his advice and I thought his message was worth sharing here. A few of Shillum's points about pattern-based branding that have particular application to pay communication and messages are highlighted below.
Branding is not static, but dynamic. Not one-way, but co-created. Shillum describes a brand in today's world as an ongoing negotiation between the company and its constituents (in our case, the workforce). For us, it means we can have no illusion that our pay program brand is something we create, completely control and disseminate at (our) will. Rather, it is defined through successive interactions that employees have with the company around their pay - regardless of the lovely three color brochure we send out in January.
Consistency is at the heart of a brand's value - but consistency is derived from coherence, not just repetition. Instead of a single, centralized big idea, a brand creates coherence by embracing multiple, smaller ideas. As an example of a coherent brand experience formed by a pattern of smaller ideas - one that creates belief and trust - Shillum gives us Amazon:
Consider Amazon: The brand is built on the trust that a virtual interaction creates a physical outcome. This pattern of fulfillment builds successively across selection, aggressive pricing, delivery flexibility, embedded payment options, flawless data security, real-time tracking, responsive customer service, and final receipt of purchase. No matter the product, brand, or retailer, the application of each successful outcome builds belief that becomes transferred to the next purchase. The Amazon brand lives in the supply-chain pattern, and its identity literally becomes the interface to fulfillment.
And so if we buy Shillum's premise and we wish to establish a coherent compensation brand, one that truly inspires trust from our workforce, our efforts must go much deeper than brand statements and consistent messaging. We must create a pattern of experiences across compensation interactions that build belief with every pay outcome.
How's THAT for a tall order?
Your reaction, please. Is this a valid take on where compensation communication and branding efforts must go to create trust and belief across today's demanding workforce? Can we get there? What will it take?
Image courtesy of diymarketers.com