Like a lot of my peers in reward it wasn't planned ... like most of the best journeys!
I had originally started my HR career from an employee relations/admin perspective and was interested in a vacancy for a reward analyst that had become available, wanting to expand my knowledge from employee relations into pay and benefits I decided to take the plunge and began a new journey into this integral area of employment.
Since 2007 most of the roles I have performed in have been within Reward, with a brief stint as a full time trade union official! I have operated at either a manager or analyst level which given the size of organisations I have worked at, I have often been the single point of contact for reward.
Until Sept 2018 I was the sole reward person within the team and two of my main tasks were the annual pay review and bonus payments, a time of year that my wife knows very well as I end up talking about it in my sleep. Both processes, although conducted in different months, require the collation of a considerable amount of employee data as well as highly detailed calculations that need to be accurate.
I also look after the processing of employee pensions each month which isn't as simple as a lot of people think and as I remind people can be a separate area of specialism within reward.
I've always considered that the key responsibility for any reward role is to achieve the best possible balance of objectivity, fairness, transparency and impartiality in any decisions or strategy that is implemented.
Unofficially I am also considered the team geek and end up helping the team with a wide variety of other I.T. solutions.
No two days are the same in reward, especially in our team! Earlier in the year we processed our bonus payments representing the prior financial year and a couple of days before payroll cut-off a typical day looked like this:
0800: Answer some random questions posed by a very inquisitive 4 year old before school.
0830: A quick glance on LinkedIn and other HR sites about any developments in tribunals, employment law, etc.
0900: Catch up with the Reward Manager about the prior afternoon and any developments, emails, etc. Normally over a brew.
0915 to 1000: An 11th hour look at the bonus payments data to adjust for any changes to role, spot errors, etc.
1000: Request executive confirmation to proceed with load into payroll, this overlays the data from finance to ensure the available accrual meets the cost that will be seen in the payroll. Without this nothing further can proceed.
1030: Send files to payroll to be loaded along with authorisation to pay.
1100 to 1200: Commence communication of bonus payments involving sending calculation details of bonus payments to employees by encrypted email.
1200 to 1300: Respond to initial queries and, if necessary, make adjustments to master data source. Resend bonus payment letters and adjust data in payroll.
1330: Asked by a customer to solve a problem that needs resolving before close of business or payroll cut off!
1400: Leave the office to pick up my daughter from school, normally to go to one of many after school clubs!
On my journey home I utilise the time by listening to HR podcasts or an audiobook from Audible back catalogue.
In the evening my brain rarely switches off and moves to a personal interest, normally I'm educating myself on YouTube - one of the best learning resources available.
The tagline by the Recruitment Manager for my current role on LinkedIn was "a geek with character" and have adopted this myself.
When putting together a list I would say analytical, self-critical, reflector, creative, and assertive.
The perfect balance between objectivity, fairness, transparency and impartiality is sometimes impossible to achieve which can involve some difficult discussions, especially if say perhaps adding a recommendation for a pay freeze.
You can do a lot of work for something potentially really great only for the leadership to say "No" ... I've had a lot of moments where I've recommended a course of action to avoid something happening only for it to then come to pass. This is often more down to my experience as a full time trade union official and working on the "other side of the fence".
Everyone wanting everything yesterday!
Tailoring content to an audience, sometimes the level of data a finance manager wants to see isn’t what the HR director wants to see. Being able to condense the message is important.
This may sound a little corny but I really enjoy the people I work with! I don't always agree with everyone during discussions about aspects of HR but the varying characters/viewpoints within the team make every day interesting.
I naturally enjoy solving problems, every day in HR we normally end up with a query that no one seems to be able to answer - with my varied skills, knowledge and experience I like to be able to offer solutions to some potentially unorthodox issues!
There is a "marmite" moment when starting in reward, when you can see other people’s salaries. If you can quickly "get over it" and move on from your personal opinions, then reward is for you ... if not then you might want to give reward a miss for a while. You’re often going to see things you don't like or personally don't agree with and need to maintain ultimate discretion.
It is perhaps the most unusual area of HR and yet the most important to get right. No one will thank you for getting their pay review right or paying their bonus on time, important not to dwell on this too much.
Be prepared to spend a lot of time in spreadsheets, don't be afraid of Excel - know its limitations and work with it.
It's also very niche, sometimes you might be the only person undertaking reward activities and so build your network of other reward contacts as their insight and experience is much more valuable than anything in any textbook. This can be done on LinkedIn, I'm on the CIPD forum on there and happy to share my views/insights with anyone who wants to listen.
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Read the CIPD’s November 2023 submission to His Majesty’s Treasury