Confessions of a benefits manager: New starter questions Candid’s incentive schemes

We have just hired a new senior director of procurement, and this guy, Greg, is making his presence felt already.

He is not, as we had intended, getting stuck into our purchasing budget, but bizarrely he is shaking things up in HR instead.

Confessions of a benefits manager

I’ve come to realise that all Higher Beings think that HR is a waste of space, and let’s face it: they may have a point. Consider my colleague Lazy Susan for a moment. In fact, you could consider her all day and the answer would be the same.

However, Greg goes beyond just thinking HR is useless; he wants to do it himself. Every now and then, an executive manager turns out to be a frustrated HR manager in this way. Greg started on an HR tack from the first day: he didn’t ask to see the new supplier agreements; he asked to see his team’s employment contracts. Geez.

Revise the recognition programme

He has only been here two days and now he wants to revise the recognition programme among other things. I wouldn’t mind, but after much soul searching and management pondering, we have only just re-launched the wretched thing. We even had a proper campaign with posters, emails and leaflets. We’ve trained managers and presented to Higher Beings (who don’t attend anything with the word ‘training’ in it). I can hardly make changes after all that.

Unlimited holiday

Worse, Greg has some funky ideas on prizes to offer. In particular, he wants to give out unlimited holidays. Yes, you read that right: unlimited. He wants to build the kind of culture where people come into work because they love their job, and where they would come no matter how many holidays they have. I understand where he is coming from; Greg has come from one of the original dot.coms, somewhere that prides itself on creative, happy staff.

We, on the other hand, are one of the original bureaucracies, and we pride ourselves on focused and uptight staff. His last organisation provided on-site massage and comedians to cheer everyone up. We provide on-site showers and a dry-cleaning collection service so you can stay longer at work.

It is true people here don’t always take all their holiday, but it is not because they love their job so much. It is because their manager creates so much work they dare not leave their desk for fear they won’t find it when they get back. I just don’t think unlimited holidays are feasible here. People such as Lazy Susan and the boys in IT would never be seen again. The rest of the employees would just treat the offer with suspicion.

Knowing the Higher Beings as I do, I am sure anyone who took noticeable amounts of holiday probably would simply end up on the next redundancy list no matter how refreshed and creative they became as a result of being away. Face time is all.

Vouchers as rewards

Greg doesn’t like the fact we give out vouchers as awards. Well, I don’t like the fact we give out vouchers, but Big Bad Boss was taken to lunch by the voucher supplier, so that was that. What’s more, we have signed an agreement and printed its logo on all the materials, so we are stuck with it.

Instead, Greg wants to give out iPads like Smarties, for anyone who smiles at work. Well, I am sure that would be very nice, but the minuscule award budget doesn’t run to that. Besides, you will have to search hard in finance to find anyone smiling. The old dear who processes expenses gets quite jolly when someone makes a mistake on their form, but otherwise it is like a morgue in there.

Bonus programme

If messing about with the recognition programme wasn’t enough, Greg wants to review the bonus programme as well. At his last organisation, they had the opportunity to earn two-times salary as a bonus. Well, really, I feel like telling him, in my last company we were all given gold-plated Ferraris. You may have gathered I am getting a bit sick of hearing about things at Greg’s last employer. If I were his manager, I could tell him if it was so great he should go back there then, but I am in no position to do that.

It is also really embarrassing to have to keep saying no to his suggestions. I want to come across as a creative and happy employee like those at his last organisation, but I am the product of a staid and miserable environment.

To show willing, I agree to look at the bonus targets of his team. It is an easy enough thing to offer, because I have looked at them quite recently and I have all the data to hand.  

Unsurprisingly, the data shows our bonus targets are broadly in line with market median. Greg goes quite red in the face at that. He wants to know why the hell we are targeting the median when we should be leading the market. Because it is our reward strategy. I am not getting in a debate about that, so I let it be known that the Higher Beings signed off on the strategy we are working to.

It is not long before I see Greg barge into Big Bad Boss’s office and shut the door. Oh no, I hope he doesn’t complain that I have been unhelpful. I really did do what I could for him. Greg comes out even redder and disappears upstairs to bend the ear of the rest of the executive management team no doubt. I wonder how he has any time to look at the many issues in procurement.

A week later, Greg has left the company. The reason is not given, but my guess is his boss called his bluff on how great things were at his old employer. I can’t say I am sorry.    

Next time…Candid’s team is put at risk.