How To Introduce a New Compensation Plan To Your Team Without Causing Resistance

How To Introduce a New Compensation Plan To Your Team Without Causing Resistance

Let’s face facts. Change isn’t easy for most people. As human beings, patterns of behavior become our subconscious habits for 95% of the things we do.
If you don’t believe me, think about the difficulty you have when trying to change a behavior you engage in that gives you results you dislike...Say, overeating, or regularly shorting yourself on sleep. Try a new diet or adopt a sleep plan and think about how many times you “fall off the wagon” before you see new habits form.
Effective changes in your behavior happen when you have a compelling reason beneath the goal you seek. In other words, the why underneath the what. 
In our two instances above, the desire to shed pounds and to log more hours of shut-eye contribute to a healthier body and mind for sure. Those are the “whats”. Why someone might want that health? To be around to play with their grandkids, or to take that trip around the globe with a loved one. “Whys” are charged with positive feelings they evoke.
How does that all translate to rolling out a new compensation plan?    
When your company why and your team members whys align across most of the spectrum, you have built a work ecosystem that fosters connection.
Connection is a byproduct of vulnerability and trust. 
A team that connects vulnerably and trusts each other also feels included and safe to exchange feedback between peers and with their leaders without fear of repercussion.
With this kind of environment, one with teams whose core values are a match to the company values, crucial conversations get to be easier, even when they are about hot-button topics like money.  
When it comes time to introduce the topic of a change to compensation, be sure to be open and supportive of honest feedback.
Framing the benefits to the team, the company, and the clients they serve are important to include. Without this type of context, it’s easy for some to fill in the blanks with “worst-case scenario” thinking. 
And, if others on the team feel uneasy with change, they can easily fall victim to the same. Because negative thinking spreads far and fast if not addressed. 
Also, be sure to bring the topic up with your team for discussion long before you make the decision to implement it.
Even if you’ve already made the decision to alter how people are compensated, knowing well in advance the objections they might have makes it easier to find solutions that assuage their resistance.
Communication early and often in the process is key to get buy-in and for the team to feel like they are part of the process.

Around the subject of meetings, when and how often to have them is important to consider. A two-month lead time is ideal. 
If you have weekly team meetings, discussing one aspect of the new compensation plan at a time works well. 
Opening the discussion to things like new tools you may need for time or performance tracking, key performance indicators, and other technical information are training topics important to address.
More importantly, opening the meeting for two-way feedback to address questions about how the new compensation plan impacts them and what changes they can expect as a result of adopting it qualifies as best practice.
Additionally, having one-to-one meetings with each team member regularly before, during, and after the roll-out will make the transition easier and provide you with real-time feedback on whether the shift is successful.
Make sure each team member understands your new compensation strategy. Include whether your strategy is based on performance, pay grades, industry alignment, or bonus structures.
Also, make sure your team members know when adjustments to pay can be expected.
Give clear direction to your team members on how compensation decisions are made. In other words, when base salaries, raises, and promotions are given, explain the criteria so they can aim their performance accordingly.
Finally, keep your discussion both simple and personal. Explain the facts in the easiest way possible, yet, be sure to address how the team member can benefit. This allows you to identify opportunities they have, praise their performance, and reinforce their strengths and achievements.
Here are a few improvements you can realize if you frame your new compensation plan rollout properly:   

  • Allowing team members to set realistic expectations about what they can do to improve their compensation as well as the pace at which they can expect their compensation to grow

  • Motivation for individuals to meet or exceed stated goals and objectives

  • Feeling included in the change process and safe to provide feedback about it

  • Improved understanding of company strategies, priorities, and goals

  • Appreciation of the achievements, successes, and dedication of individuals on the team

Rolling out a new compensation plan doesn’t have to be met with resistance. 
Observe the following guidelines and you can ground the highly-charged energy that often surrounds compensation conversations.

  • Share the context or “the why” for the change

  • Be honest about the need for the change and how it affects the team

  • Allow for varying points of view and encourage open and honest feedback 

  • Meet early and often both as a team and individually to educate and set expectations 

By Judy Cirullo, PT, ACC, CPC, C-IQ Certified
Certified Professional Coach
Executive & Team Coach
Founder - Grow Strong Teams 

For more tips on how to frame a crucial conversation in your business or practice, email me directly at or connect with me on LinkedIn.

Jason Wambold

Jason is the co-founder and managing partner of OnusOne, by Pay-for-Performance Solutions LLC. OnusOne is a web based system that designs, installs, and administers shared-risk employee compensation models for fee-for-service industries. Jason has a proven track record of leadership success in the healthcare industry. He has over 20 years of experience building and strengthening clinical teams, and creating and developing effective leadership teams.

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