Ann Bares is the managing partner of Altura Consulting Group, which provides compensation consulting and survey administration services to a wide range of organizations. She is also the founder and editor of Compensation Café, a blog by and for reward professionals.
What is the No. 1 career assist you received?
A: For me, I’d say that this was the serendipitous decision to start a blog about compensation, at the urging of a friend who had begun blogging herself. I started with a personal blog called Compensation Force in 2006, when human resources blogs were a relatively new thing and the HR blogging community was small. In 2009, I launched Compensation Café, a group blog with a team of writers. Blogging has been an incredible professional development tool for me. I discovered that by putting my ideas out in the public sphere, there’s a good chance they will catch the attention of smarter people who can share their own take, challenge my assumptions or simply let me know (hopefully with tact) that I’ve completely missed the boat. Blogging introduced me to many great people and brought career and business opportunities that I’m sure I would never have found otherwise. The blogging space is very different than it was when I began — less renegade, more corporate — but now there are many platforms for sharing ideas. It may not be for everyone, but sharing your experience and expertise, in the spirit of collaboration and humility (and not as a “sales” effort), can bring many benefits and opportunities your way.
What key career advice would you give to others?
A: Cultivate a sense of curiosity and put it to work by trying to understand your organization, its customers, the value it seeks to bring into the world (whether charitable or for-profit) and the different roles that people play in making that happen successfully. Work in the rewards field is a lot more fun, and delivers a lot more value, when programs and practices are created by professionals who are interested in and enjoy learning about the businesses andjobs they support.
What is something HR can’t live without?
A: Business smarts and some level of financial acumen. My undergraduate degree was in the social sciences but when the time came for grad school, I went the MBA route. A business degree not only provides some basic grounding in disciplines like accounting, economics, marketing and business strategy, it can also help your credibility in the eyes of your colleagues in these functional areas.
What are two out-of-the-ordinary skills every rewards professional needs?
A: Communication and implementation. We often underestimate the level of communication and implementation support that is necessary for our programs to succeed. Often, this is because we are more comfortable in the arenas of analysis and plan design, and when applying our technical skills. We invest our time and energy in these areas and then short-change the communication and implementation steps. Communication goes beyond the ability to write an email or prepare and deliver a PowerPoint presentation. Implementation is more than just an information dissemination exercise. We often overlook or ignore the obstacles to gaining acceptance and to changing behavior
that we know are out there. Rewards professionals who want their programs to have real impact need to learn about the different tools and skills necessary to change attitudes and behavior, from holding focus groups and delivering training to creating feedback loops and chartering advisory committees.