Confessions of a benefits manager: Candid works on a training programme


If there is one thing I quite like working on, it is training presentations. So, when HQ asks for a volunteer to work on a manager education programme covering reward topics, I jump right in.

I love the idea of installing new managers with all the basics they need to stop asking stupid questions of their HR partners. I must have created dozens of training decks, covering performance management, salary planning, benefit changes and so on, so I do know what I am doing. Little did I know, I would not be alone on this thing.

It turns out that this ‘project’ has been running in the US for over a year with a team of 10. Seriously. Ten people to create a training deck?  The person leading the project has left, and none of the working group want to take it over, hence the request for a volunteer.

I take a look at what they have done. I do not know quite how to put this. My cat could do a better job. My colleague Lazy Susan even. I ask the team who is the intended audience. That gets a very muddled response: it is directed at managers, but we really want to educate the talent team so it stops doing crazy things on hiring, oh and help our HR business partners to field questions. I would have done separate targeted training for each, but there you go.

Let’s just focus on managers for a moment. They need to understand our reward philosophy and approach to pay for performance. There are three slides on this, but they are quite confusing. I make a few edits of my own and skinny it down to one slide. Then we need to explain job evaluation as the reward framework rests on the grading structure. There are four slides on this, all of which appear to say the same thing, which is not actually the thing we need to say. As a company, we keep hiring people at a base really low in their salary range and then adding sign-on bonuses and pushing for other non-standard benefits, instead of just offering the right salary in the first place. I put in one new slide to cover proper use of the salary range and tuck the original slides in the appendix.

I notice there is nothing on mobility. I do not know about your organisation, but here the number of requests to transfer people around Europe has doubled in the last year and shows no sign of reducing. Managers seem to think they can just convert an employee’s salary to the currency of the new country, and they are good to go. Even the Higher Beings (our executive team) are guilty, and you would think they would know better. We absolutely need to start training on this. I add one simple slide.

Benefits are included in the existing presentation, but again there is nothing to explain the differences from country to country. I am beginning to wish I had not taken this on. It is one thing to create a new training programme from scratch; it is quite another to amend one which has already been done so badly.

I pull together the original team to review the new draft. This is where is gets even more dirty. I am not sure who got it wrong, me or the team, but I find our expectations are very different. They thought the deck they worked on was perfect and that all we had to do now is work out how to roll it out. I thought we needed to develop something fit for purpose. One by one members of the team object to the edits I have made, saying things like ‘that was not in the original slides’ or ‘where did that come from’. Awkward. After much discussion, we edit it again together and end up with something much closer to what they had already done. Huff. If everyone thought the presentation was done, why ask for help to finalise it?

Another meeting is set up to discuss the roll out. I have learnt my lesson and I am not going to assume I have any say in this. I ask what the team had already decided regarding roll-out. Again, there are several conflicting answers. One thinks they were going to hand it over to the learning and development team to include in its manager fundamentals training. Another thought we were going to record it and post on the intranet. It also needs to be part of the induction process. I guess that if we record it, anyone who needs it can use it. Then I realise we have not yet reviewed the speaker notes. If the slides were bad, the speaker notes are even more confusing. On some slides, they do not even seem to cover the same topic. We have another two calls to agree the speaker notes. No wonder the person leading the project team left. It is like herding cats. Particularly dull cats.

Finally, we have a deck. I am not happy with it; but it will have to do. I am reluctant to be associated with it, as it is not what I would have done. We need a final sign off from senior folks in the US, so I set up that call, The US are not happy with it either and I make yet another version with their edits. I would not mind suggestions for improvements, but their suggestions only make it more complicated when I have worked so hard to try to simplify and get the key messages across.

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Just when I thought the misery is over, no-one in the team wants to do the recording, so it is down to me.  I record it several times to get it word perfect. By now I hate the bloody thing. Maybe I can consider another career in voiceovers.

Next time…Candid helps with system testing.