The Compensation “Off-Season”

5 ways to win at recruiting and retaining top talent.


Having recently watched the NFL draft and listening to sports broadcasters discussing the upcoming NBA draft, it reminded me that it’s not only the sports industry that has “off-season” activities, but compensation professionals as well.


What professional sports teams focus on during the off-season are strategies for recruiting and retaining talent through the draft and other methods in order to have successful outcomes–winning. Compensation professionals need to do the same. That is, during the “off-season,” when high speed focused tasks are completed, plan for being winners in recruiting and retaining high quality talent through effective compensation programs.


What does this mean? You are taking a step back to assess what new or revised compensation programs should be reviewed for implementation or updating. This review should be completed in partnership with HR Business Partners and Talent Acquisition. They can provide valuable input and information regarding compensation programs effectiveness and as we all know, not all talent acquisition and retention issues are about pay.


Consider the following five points that make for a winning review:


1. Analyze your compensation programs. Are they effective? Analyze your salary ranges, bonus/incentive plans and Long Term Incentives. Is the organization realizing the desired outcomes? Get input from leadership. Are all compensation programs aligned with organization strategies? Take a look at your policies and guidelines. These programs are meant to be fluid, and change as the organization changes.

2. Review turnover. Specifically focus on regrettable turnover. Is there talent that you regret losing? Conduct a post turnover survey of employees who have been gone at least 12 months. People are more open and honest after a period of time. When they resign, typically they will say compensation was the reason for leaving to not burn bridges. After they have settled into their new norm, there is a tendency to be more honest, which provides you with better data.

3. How can you retain the high-quality talent that you have? Consider conducting a retention survey that includes a cross-section of current employees. Ask them what would cause them to leave. Don’t assume or guess—ask. What would make a difference? It may not be pay. This will provide valuable information that could become a component of the strategic goals for Human Resources.

4. Identify Compensation Gaps. What’s missing? Are there compensation programs that competitors have in place that are impacting your ability to attract and retain talent? Benchmark your peer group. Determine if there are compensation programs that could work for your organization and improve.

5. Conduct a Mid-Year Review. This is a mini-review outside of the regular compensation planning cycle. Review internal pay equity. Are your consistently high performers being paid at a high level? This review can take time, but imagine the surprise and the message that is sent if an employee is given a pay increase that they aren’t expecting. Priceless. Communicate to top leadership that you are conducting this review and then share the outcome for employees in their specific areas to ensure that any recommended pay increase is appropriate. Then, have the affordability conversation with your CFO.


Ideally, the review and collection of this information should end with a recruiting and retention strategy roadmap for compensation and human resources. Don’t just collect and shelve it. Once the roadmap is completed, communicate it to your organization’s leaders. They will know that the input provided proved a valuable use of your time and support your future efforts.

Have a great “Off-Season” and good luck in the draft!

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