I met with Kevin Raines, of Compexecs, to talk about the state of recruiting for Compensation and other HR roles in the ever changing world we live in. A recording of our conversation can be found below. If you to read the executive summary, that too has been included, below:
Thanks so much, Kevin, for joining me this afternoon. Kevin Raines is the head of Comp Execs, a recruiting and placement firm that specializes in compensation professionals. Do you also support Benefits professionals as well, Kevin?
Comp Execs is a national Executive Search firm focused on Compensation, Benefits and HR Professionals executive search for the US and Canada. Comp Execs is very much a high relationship, low pressure – treat people like you want to be treated sort of approach. I came into this organization after a long career in compensation and benefits.
There has been a lot of change in the world lately. How have you seen that change impact the work that you’re in and the people you’re working with?
People are cautious. I have a lot of folks who were part of a COVID layoff and are looking for their next role, and I have other clients who are saying “Kevin, can you help us out with this role in August?”
But people are still hiring?
Absolutely, but it’s taking longer. I think people are being very deliberate and cautious with where they are hiring, though some industries are booming right now because of the pandemic.
Are you finding that people have now a little more time and are being a little more intentional with the roles that they are sourcing for?
The role design right now is under a great deal of scrutiny for every hire. People are thinking about “How am I going to get the very most value and impact out of each one of these roles that I’m putting in place in this uncertain time.”
It certainly feels like anytime you make a hire, it needs to obviously be a good fit both culturally and from a skillset perspective. Have you found that this situation has created opportunities for both employers and companies that makes the sourcing easier because now folks are considering remote locations or they are looking at other ways that they can hire folks?
Absolutely. I think it’s been a game changer. Going into this, I think post the financial crisis, a lot of people had tried the remote model before, and it worked a little bit, but after several years, folks found that a couple of things happened:
One, they didn’t get the savings on the real estate costs they were hoping for because they still had people keeping offices and, and working remotely a few days a week, or they didn’t get the productivity that they were seeking because they didn’t appropriately train people or give them the tools to be effective at. I think this one’s completely different. I think this time you had IT functions just fully deployed to try and figure out how to make this work for a fully remote workforce. In many cases, I think you’ve had people learning that “Hey, this actually works!”
What you find is people are more productive when they’re in an environment that they’re comfortable in, and right now with COVID and with the risks that are associated with that, a lot of people just don’t want to go back to the office. They’re saying I’ll be happy to be as productive as I’ve ever been and more, but let me stay home. And organizations are accommodating that. And I think that’s going to be a huge retention tool. I think the organizations that don’t recognize this trend are going to be vulnerable to the losing their key talent to organizations that do recognize it.
We’ve heard in the news, recently, that Twitter, Facebook and a lot of other companies are making a push to move folks remotely on a more permanent basis. As a result, Facebook will adjust compensation based on the cost of labor / cost of living or labor where folks live. What are your thoughts on that for both the candidate and for the employer? What’s the guidance you’re giving to both sides to candidates and to employers?
I think that someone’s compensation value is determined by, or a person’s value as an employee or an object’s value for a sale is always determined by what the market will bear. I think in most cases it makes sense.
It may not be what people want to hear, but if you’re living in Dallas, Texas, which has a reasonably low cost of living relative to the Bay area, and you’ve been earning Bay area wages, and the Company is saying, “we’re going to let you stay in Dallas, but we’re not going to pay your Bay area and wages”, I think that’s not unfair for a company to have as a policy. Though, those individuals may have organizations that are willing to pay them what they have made in the past and it may make Company’s vulnerable, especially for their key talent.
One of the things I always have found to be interesting is that for compensation people, we know what exactly what the market bares, due to our access to market data. Does that create any kind of unique challenge when you are hiring compensation folks? Or does it make it more straight forward because salary expectations are usually well understood?
I think that everyone is an expert in compensation; comp people just happen to have the credentials sustained. What happens with comp people is they have in their head, but every person who’s been around for a while knows that there are anomalies relative to the market up and down for any position and market data is something that’s tremendously valuable, but it’s a single data point, right?
Executive Compensation people tend to be the highest paid of the compensation field. They tend to be folks who have grown up in an organization and the organization has allowed them in the inner circle. It is a place that takes a long time to get the credibility to be in.
What you’ve mentioned is good information for the candidate. What would you say that organizations need to keep in mind?
A lot of the same things that I coach them on to begin with. If your Company targets, say, 90% of the organization being within a market range, and then we go to recruit new talent in a very tight labor market, you may end up paying a 10 to 15% premium.
As you do that over time, you create this gap between the folks that have been loyal and have been with you that have been getting 2% – 4% merit increases over time, they’re not competitive with the new talent that you’re bringing in. As a result, your B-talent becomes somebody else’s A-talent because they ARE strong and affordable.
Be aware of the internal equity gaps that you have, especially when you are bringing in roles that have multiple incumbents. I would say be very cognizant of where you’re going as an organization. If you think you need a specific skill set, make sure you don’t skimp on key talent.
With the unemployment rate increasing as it has, we are finding a lot of folks are now unemployed and looking for new roles and we have other folks that still gainfully employed but looking for new roles. What advice would you have for those people that are currently looking for a new opportunity?
To anybody who’s looking for a job, whether they’re employed right now or whether they are shaking off the recent layoff and not knowing where to turn, the first thing I asked people to do is make sure they really understand what they are solving for. Make sure you know what it is that is going to make you happy.
I tell people all the time: “think back on a Friday afternoon, you got home from work sometime in the last 10 years and you took off your coat and you said, I had a blast at work, asked the question, what specifically were you doing?”
- What makes you happy?
- What drives you crazy at work?
- What are things that you look back on in the last decade and knew: “I wasn’t happy, and that perhaps brought that home with me, or it really caused my family stress because I wasn’t happy”.
Make sure you spend some time writing those things down, then make sure you look at that list of what’s made you happy in the past and start thinking through what it is you’re solving for. I’ve been around a long time. I have looked at my career and thought about when I was the happiest and the reality is that money comes and goes.
Lastly, if you are recently unemployed, one of the best suggestions I can give you is to go find a soup kitchen or a clothes closet… Go find a place where you’re going to be helping people who can never pay you back.
It is an amazing gift to spend two or three hours a week during your search and go serve other people who just need some help. It keeps your head on straight in a way that I cannot describe it. I’ve had so many people come back and say, “Kevin, I thought you were crazy when you first asked me to do that. But after spending some time there, suddenly I have my priorities straight and in focus.” For additional counsel on my website, go to https://compexecs.us/Resources.html. There are several articles I’ve written solely with the intent to just try and help people.
Great, great. Kevin, thank you so much for taking a couple minutes today. This has been great information. I appreciate your perspective and being willing to share this with folks.
CompExecs is exclusively focused on executive search for compensation, benefits, and HR professionals. As an industry leader for over a decade, CompExecs as served as trusted advisers to a broad range of Fortune 500 clients and a diverse network of VP through analyst level compensation, benefits, and HR professionals.
CompExecs has successfully connected great talent with great client
companies in CA, NY, OR, FL, RI, CO, VA, MO, WA, MI, CT, TN, NC,
OH, NE, KY, TX, SC, GA, Washington DC, etc.
To learn more about about CompExecs, visit their website, here: www.compexecs.us