Confessions of a benefits manager: Candid integrates a new location


As part of the Higher Being’s strategy for world domination, we have bought out an organisation in east Germany. We have several locations in Germany already, but apparently this firm brings a unique blend of synergies to our niche technology. That is what we always say about random acquisitions, so I have my doubts.

Unusually, I have not been part of the due diligence process, so I know nothing about the new organisation. I schedule a meeting with the HR team there to establish contact. I hesitate to use the work ‘harmonisation’, as it is not yet clear if it will be continuing to be managed separately, or it we will need to bring things in line with our corporate reward strategy. At this point, I just want to find out what it has.

It is a manufacturing organisation, and most employees are unskilled workers. It turns out the organisation has offered only the bare minimum in terms of benefits. There is a standard pension offering which has already been reported on in full by Smarmy Consulting as part of the due diligence process. Dieter, the HR director, promises to share the whole report with me after the call.

Incorrect data

The one thing Dieter is concerned about, and rightly so, is that it has been determined that they will be part of our next online performance management and merit planning process. They have already been added to our system Choreday, but Dieter does not think it has been done correctly. I love it the way this has all been decided centrally without anyone in European reward being consulted. I will check in with Big Bad Boss on that, but I am sure he would have mentioned it.

I take a look at the data, and I can see what he means. Almost everyone in the location is showing with a compa-ratio of below our minimum. The impact of that may be a push towards unwarranted higher increases. I promise to dig into what has gone wrong.

The first thing to check is the job evaluation. Maybe they have just over-graded everyone. Again, I am intrigued as to why we were not involved in this process. I have to say, as the organisation is getting bigger, I find a lot more things happening outside of my control. I do not like it. However, the job evaluation looks ok; based on the job titles given, I would have slotted them in the same grades.

Dieter points out its location is in a very low-cost part of Germany, and wages are much lower than the national average. Whoever has loaded them on our systems has used the general pay scales for Germany. We only have one. There are a few countries, UK and US among them, where we note regional differences, but until now we have not needed this for Germany.

Sourcing market data

I reach out to Smarmy Consulting for some regional market data. It does not have job-specific data for the region in question. Nor does Mercenary Consulting. Dieter explains that is to be expected; his region has only smaller organisations and they would not participate in such surveys. I sigh. We have a central corporate team which manages the pay structures in Choreday and I know it will be difficult to get a new pay range signed off without data.

Eventually, we find a national statistics office showing regional pay differentials for the country. It will have to do. But that is just the start of it; the next thing I need to do is get our central team on board. It sounds straight forward, but then you have not met Cynthia. Actually, I have only met her on Teams, but the toxicity of the woman came over loud and clear. Cynthia is one of our robots. By that, I mean she follows a process and does not know how to deal with anything out of the norm. Ideally, she does not deal with anything at all.

I set up a meeting, which Cynthia postpones twice. Yes, this is one of her work avoidance tactics, but I am persistent and finally we meet.

Cynthia greets me as if I have called specifically to ruin her day. I explain the problem with the current pay ranges and the lack of market data. Cynthia is adamant; she cannot create a new range without job specific data. I grit my teeth. We are not asking to create a new range, I protest, we just want to create a new regional differential for this location. I am not sure if I am getting through. This is off script for Cynthia so she is having trouble following.

I am tempted to ask her if it would be easier if I spoke slower and used shorter words. You know how we have different ranges in the UK, as in the London range is 10% above the national average? Well, we want to do the same here, only the new location will be 20% below the German national range as supported by government published data. I can almost hear the cogs turning, but Cynthia is not going to agree that easily.

I decide it is a good time to play the Big Bad Boss card and I get him to send a note to Cynthia’s boss, asking what is causing the delay in getting the new regional range set up. You do not keep scary dogs and bark yourself. I do not like playing these games, but we are running out of time before the next annual process in the system.

When the ranges are finally in place, Dieter is delighted, and I feel we have got off to a good start. Just as well, I have now read Smarmy’s report on its benefits, and I know I will need to do something about their car policy. I will leave it for now though. I do not want to ruin a new relationship just yet.

Next time…Candid goes to an internal conference.