Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Establishing incentive plan measures, part II

Last month we took a look at Profit-Based Allocation as a basic approach for company executives to consider when developing incentive plan indicators; this month we’ll explore Targeted Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and how they can lead to improvement in profits.

KPIs generically constitute incentive plans that are within the reach or control of employees, the theory being that the easier it is for employees to reach their goals, improvements in company profits will be the outcome. The KPI approach can involve company, department or individual metrics, but in order to achieve the best results the right metric must be selected.

Company metrics could be a combination of revenue growth and net income and might include return in equity, return in assets, gross sales, net income, revenue per employee and profit per employee. Departmental indicators could include gross sales and margins, overhead percentage, production quotas, client referrals, and employee retention percentage. Individual metrics are tied to personal performance goals.

While Targeted KPIs can achieve good results, down sides do exist:

-Miscalculations; KPI improvements sometimes do not sufficiently offset failures in other areas, leading to incentive payments even though profits are off the mark.

-“Gaming”; some employees may learn how to play the system and achieve KPIs without hitting profit goals, resulting in intentional or unintentional failure to achieve profit objectives.

-“Sandbagging; there may be a few employees who barely reach their targeted KPIs during the allotted time period, and then attempt to carry-over performance into the next period, leading to failure to achieve full profit potential.

-Misalignment; KPIs can sometimes force employees into action outside their skill sets and abilities. The KPI may be achieved, but job satisfaction could be diminished.

A single solution to designing an incentive plan with universal effectiveness simply does not exist – measures and metrics must be suitable and specific to the company and industry and based on an organization’s culture, business model and goals. By making a decision about which incentive plan indicators works best for your company, staying the course and tweaking when needed, the results in terms of both profitability and employee commitment will be evident.

About our Benefits Installment Author:

James E. (Jim) Moniz, CEO of Northeast VisionLink, a Massachusetts firm that specializes in structuring executive compensation. James E. Moniz is a national speaker on the topic of wealth management and on executive compensation. Jim Moniz will be presenting at this years SHRM conference in Phoenx, be sure to check out our presentation: “Creating and Sustaining a Competitive Advantage, The Role and Impact of Effective Compensation and Rewards Strategies”