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I agree whole-heartedly that best practice is a bad idea and best-fit is the way to go. I always look at best practices as "directional." Meaning that I will look at what they did to see if it has an application - with modifications - based on the context I'm working in.

I don't know if I agree as strongly with the "design being the easy part." While implementation is a issue - poor design is still a major reason programs and initiatives fail. That has been my experience.


I guess that depends on how you define reward system.

I've seen some profit sharing and bonus plans that were incomprehensible to the average employee (and most people in HR) because the calculations of the bonus threshold and pool were very complex and required a deep knowledge of finance to understand.

I guess that's a design issue that could have benefited from simplification.

In other cases, doesn't a good design result in a simple implementation?


Great comments, Paul and Frank - thanks!

Paul: I'm with you on the best fit/best practice question, and I do agree that best practices can give helpful directional input. The problem I see, is that people are oh-too-willing to simply lift and re-apply them without sufficient thought to situation and context.

On reflection, I think you are right to challenge the second point. It was made too simplistically. What I liked about it and meant to reinforce are two things: the over-attention to plan design as a fix-all solution, and the imbalance I often encounter between design and implementation. We get caught up in the design intricacies, adding element after element in an attempt to address every possible employee behavior (or misbehavior) until the reward plan threatens to collapse under its own weight, And then we basically overlook implementation - or figure that sending out a memo is good enough. Perhaps I'll add a clarifying postscript to this effect.

Frank: Your point illustrates exactly the "over-design" issue I am referencing. In my experience, getting too caught up in design can easily lead to the trap of over-complexity. Hence the Duncan Brown point that I see, at its essence, as being about balance. I have seen some very basic and not terribly insightful reward plans create tremendous success (in terms of award $s for employees and performance improvements for the organization) because of a masterful job of implementation and communication.

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    Compensation consultant Ann Bares is the Managing Partner of Altura Consulting Group. Ann has more than 20 years of experience consulting with organizations in the areas of compensation and performance management.

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