Ultimately, what it comes down to is demonstrating how these units promote a far more transparent bonus structure; that they will enable people to very quickly see the value of what these units represent, and how this worth is closely linked to the financial performance of the wider Kantar Group. This was the point we really wanted to get across, as it provided both the intellectual and emotive platform for driving forward our collaboration agenda. The new plan has also helped introduce greater consistency into the bonus narrative, with people both clearer as to what they need to do and more confident that they’ll be rewarded for their actions.
TB: How is the number is units calculated? Has the plan been judged as successful?
RR: We’ve tiered every market from A through to E, with a country like the US being in tier A as salary levels are comparatively high. Next, we factor in a person’s grade, and allow a narrow range of movement here, before calculating the total number of units each individual should receive.
From this point on, whether you’re an executive in Bangladesh or a mid-level director in the UK, the system pays out based on 30% Kantar performance in your region and 70% on personal performance and related KPIs. The overall value of each unit moves up and down depending on Kantar’s overall financial performance.
As for measuring success, I think a good place to start is the area of engagement. Under the old scheme people could receive a bonus without really understanding why. Whereas now it’s becoming more evident that people are showing a growing interest in how Kantar is doing in their locality. There’s also a greater clarity behind the financial metrics involved, with the CEO sending out quarterly emails to all participants to keep them informed of business performance and what each of them can do to bolster success. As a result, people can anticipate the value of their units, and have far greater insights into how the Kantar Group as a whole is doing. This to me is one of the biggest benefits of the plan overall, as it reinforces the collective nature of our shared destinies.
TB: How inclusive have you been in joining the broader dots in HR?
RR: Out Talent Acquisition CoE has been a key partner in helping us communicate the bonus plan to new candidates. Then there’s our Learning and Leadership CoE, who have been heavily involved in helping improve our objective setting capabilities. That said, I would suggest the critical HR partners have been the country HR leaders, who we’ve partnered with to make sure we’ve been able to implement the plan in each market. To help them implement we provided all participants with different performance scenarios so they could see very transparently how their bonus would change in different conditions.
TB: What were the most important factors in getting the plan widely accepted?
RR: Certainly I would say the support we had from the CEO was instrumental, and the advocacy he has provided. I’ve also heard him praise the plan as being central to stimulating the types of behavioural change demanded by the business strategy, which suggests we’re heading the right direction! Even though business performance is patchy, people are more confident that we have a plan that is fairer and is consistent across the organisation. There are no side deals or a sense that your bonus pay-out is more a result of ‘pot luck’ of whether you happen to be sitting in a successful brand or not.
I have been able to talk to individuals about the benefits of having a percentage of their bonus based on corporate results, with the actual figures being announced at each quarterly review. Yet even then, there was still the inevitable suspicion in some quarters that the change was all about lowering the amount Kantar paid out each year in bonuses.
We’ve done our best to address this impression by focusing on the transparency and openness of the new plan. I believe the message is getting through, but such things take time to fully filter through.
TB: Going back to the topic of changing employee behaviours in line with strategy, what else can you add to that?
RR: In part it’s a question of what came before, and the pervading expectations that existed prior the new plan. You can’t spend years incentivising one behaviour, then suddenly turn around and say the whole corporate strategy is moving in the polar opposite direction. That’s why I believe that changing behaviours is, in reality, dependent on local leadership more than on my team. I will also say that where leaders have been enthusiastic we can point to more of an uptick on engagement. We won’t fully be able to judge overall success until next year and many challenges persist.