Once Upon a Time

When you’re trying to grab the attention of Senior Management, remember this; they like a good story, especially one with pictures.
If your story is intended to address the company’s single largest expense – employee pay programs – the pictures will be charts & graphs that illustrate the points being made.
Pictures (charts and graphs) capture attention and build memories much better than text or even the spoken word. Show a picture and the image is locked in, while reliance on text only can be a risky proposition. The drone of dry prose can grow boring and is liable to lose the attention of all but your strongest supporters.
Attention grabbers that work: 1) speedometer style formats that graphically indicate the current situation against the target; 2) the green light, yellow light, red light approach, again to colorfully paint a picture that stays in the mind; and 3) pie charts, tables and even regressed lines that tell a story.
People remember images because they capture the imagination. Your audience might have a hard time recalling (and taking to heart) what you said or even what you wrote, so concentrate on your supportive imagery.
Make the story you’re telling is a short one. I once worked for a CEO who thought that any proposal could be reduced to a single piece of paper, with plenty of white space left over. “If you need more than that,” he would say, “it’s not such a grand idea.”
You need a plan
However, before you settle on the visual format best suited to sell your case, you should focus on the supportive data points necessary to make that case. Remember the old adage that a dream without a plan is only a fantasy? If you don’t take action steps to convert ideas to reality, what you’ll be left with is smoke & mirrors – all talk and few results to show for your efforts.
For those who have ever been on a diet, the experts recommend that you treat the effort like a project plan. They advise participants to write down everything they eat, to have goals to strive for and to set milestones to gauge progress. It also helps to keep score – to know where you stand and where you’re headed.
To accomplish this, you should create quantifiable metrics that collectively will illustrate the state of health of your compensation program(s) – and then establish baselines (current state) and targets for each performance indicator. This key step will help you understand whether your costs are being contained and whether the ROI on employee rewards is at the level your company requires.
Commonly used HR metrics:
§  Average salary/wage
§   Compa-ratios (comparison of pay to a range midpoint)
§   Count of employees per segment (hourly, non-exempt, professional, management)
§   Average performance ratings
§   Average annual pay rise for each performance rating
§   Count and average promotional and “equity” increases
§   Voluntary turnover (employees who decided to leave)
§   Average employee age and length of service
We could go on and on, but you get the point. Refine these and any other quantifiable factors by further segmentation – salary grade, employee group, male/female, etc.  Make sure each metric is measurable, because accuracy counts.  A compelling argument demands precision.
To make these metrics work for you and to avoid a series of make-work arithmetic exercises that do nothing more than capture minutiae, be certain to measure what is important to your business – not simply what data you can capture. Make sure the importance of the metric is clear to management or can be made so.  Management needs to grasp the importance of attaining a goal demonstrating success with a metric to understand why the metric is important and what its achievement means for the business.
Once you have the right metrics established (collectively called the “dashboard”) and a baseline in place, you will be able to readily see both what’s going well and where the problems lie. At this point you can set specific target figures going forward to improve these weak areas, creating periodic milestones to mark your progress.
What to look for
Every organization has different pressure points.  However, if your metrics data indicates any of the following situations, management should be informed that a problem needs to be addressed:
§   Average performance ratings that exceed how the business was rated
§   A workforce where key segments are approaching retirement age
§   Promotion and “equity” increase activity that overwhelms the budget
§   Low compa-ratios that indicate you are not paying your salary ranges
§   Any figure that is an unpleasant surprise.
When you’re telling a story to management, make it compelling – packed with facts and pictures that feed off the critical metrics analysis that is describing the pulse of your business. Then bring home the sale by showing how to solve the challenges being faced – with practical strategies designed to end your story on a happy and successful note.