Juggling between budget, bell curve and people priorities: For functional leaders.

Every business is different, every individual is different. Give a thought to what can work in a particular case. Retaining and keeping your teams motivated is the key, and there has to be a way around. Think. #bellcurve #manpowerbudget #peoplepriorities

These insights are primarily for the functional managers, and HOD’s. At times it’s difficult to find a way out through the various career progression options that may or may not be available for your team. This normally happens considering the limitations that the business ( through the HR & Finance function ) sets for your function / team etc.
If you don’t have a team to look after but are going to be a victim of these limitations,  place this piece of advise in front of your boss. This may help you guys generate some idea that could work in your case.

We are talking about the limitations of:

  • Manpower budget for salary increase, bonuses etc.
  • Bell curve to bucket employees based on performance ratings  (either prescribed or implied).
  • Inadequate opportunities for promotion. 

Even if the above conditions are not really written down, they apply across businesses,  unless of course, a business has surplus funds or is cash rich to the extent that the management is not bothered about outflows. This also happens even in case of well funded start-ups, where the priority is growth at any cost. In such scenarios no one bothers about cost optimisation , budgets, payroll costs etc.

So, how do you strike a balance between these limitations and the need to keep your people & team’s somewhat satisfied and motivated.

How to protect the interests of your team members ?

In most scenarios you may not be able to award a cool increment, a top rating or a promotion to every one. But, it will be wise to give all deserving members, at least some thing to ensure that they are satisfied and some of their interests are protected.

Try to work out a balance between, how and what can be offered to the deserving team members. Try to see, if spreading the different options across the deserving team members help ensure the budget limits, bell curve limits and team’s satisfaction in order. It’s not perfect mathematics, and there will be compromises, adjustments so a good tune up with your team members, and an understanding of their personal priorities will help. Idea should be to create a win win situation based on the limitations and opportunities that exist.

Some ideas:

  • Keep top ratings, for those who are really awesome and really – really deserve a salary jump. These may be your critical talent. New comers who are doing great can also be kept in this box, as in most cases they may not be eligible for promotion in their first or second year.
  • Oldies, and experienced people with a great track record can be allowed to face a compromise once in a while. I don’t mean to say, they should be made sacrificial lambs, but it has to be done if there is no other option.  If their immediate performance rating does not impact their upward career movement push their case for a promotion. However, this may only happen if the past of the concerned team member is great, and you have a position to offer. In mature setup’s and process oriented companies, promotions can only take place provided you have a vacant position at senior level, or if the existing position is now assessed as being at a higher pay grade – courtesy width of job, span of control, accountability etc.
  • In case you can neither compensate a team member using either a great performance rating and thereby a cool increment, or a promotion, we need to think some more alternatives. Plan one of these, build a case with adequate reasoning and push for it. Hopefully some team members can be happy with one of these.
    • Role Change, that allows for managerial development, learnings thereby allowing growth opportunities in future. 
    • Increased and challenging responsibilities, that allow for better learning and growth going forward. 
    • Sponsored training’s at some premium academy / B School or sponsored certifications. 
    • Re-designations: Talk to HR to work out cool re-designations, some where between the standard pay grades. This helps your team members eco, without hitting their pay grade, and therefore the budget.
    • See, if you can get some salary corrections worked out. Discuss the possibility with HR. You may want to offer a mid year correction or commit an early review for the concerned who is good but is missing out on his/her due because of the bell curve limits, or lack of avenues for career progression etc.
  • If the above ideas don’t work and in case you fear loosing a critical talent, try to wriggle out some thing from the HR/Business as a unique one off case. Present a well thought out business case, backed by data to your business head, and the HR. Now, if loosing key talent is going to negatively hit your function or business, I am sure the concerned will try to get a deal for the guy.

What else ?

The above ideas are suggestions, and reflect on what exactly transpires in every business in some way or the other. These are the ideas on which discussions take place in review meetings during the performance appraisal season at most businesses.  I have just tried to pack it up in one post. However, every business is different, every individual is different. Give a thought to what can work in a particular case. Retaining people and keeping your teams motivated is the key, and as a manager you have to push for what best can be done.

Image: Pexels

Praveen Mishra

Praveen is the Founder and Principal Consultant at Khedge Business Consulting Pvt Ltd. He works with organisations in areas of business strategy and human-resource management. Over the last 15 years he has helped various organisations with their HR processes, structure, alignment and effectiveness; and talent strategy and processes. You can connect with him at praveen@khedge.com. 


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