The Compensation Course Your Team Needs Isn’t The One You Think

The Compensation Course Your Team Needs Isn’t The One You Think

“Why am I paid less than someone with my same job title?”

“There are other jobs out there—similar to mine—that are making more money. Why?”

If employees were to ask these questions, are you confident ALL of your organization’s managers could answer them both accurately and confidently? More importantly, are they prepared to engage in a conversation to find out what else is on the employee’s mind about their pay, their role, and their experience?

If the answer is no, then training is in order—just not the kind you might think.

Keep reading to find out why traditional compensation courses won’t solve the problem and what you can do instead to promote honest, transparent pay conversations that will engage and retain the best employees.

Learn how to navigate three common compensation discussions in our free ebook. Download Compensation Conversations: A Manager’s Guide to 3 Common Questions now.


What are compensation courses (& why don’t they work)?

Compensation courses typically surround topics of accounting, job evaluation, market pricing approaches, and some communication theory. In other words, they speak to the brain of a leader.

Some compensation courses are designed for executive MBA programs and teach leaders to align compensation systems to organizational strategy. Such courses—which usually provide formal certification—are valuable for compensation professionals who are learning to support and lead compensation initiatives.

Depending on the attendee’s objective, these types of compensation courses may be appropriate. For example:

  • If you want a full-blown compensation certification, or need to become a Certified Compensation Professional (CCP), you might consider certifications offered by HRCI or World At Work.
  • If you’re interested in a human resource management angle, then perhaps consider SHRM’s offerings.
  • Wharton’s Executive Compensation courses might be useful if you are a business leader or executive looking at strategies for structuring your business overall.

So what’s wrong with these types of courses? In the right circumstances (like the ones described above) nothing.

But these courses are ineffective when it comes to training managers, who are on the front lines handling compensation issues on a daily basis.

That’s because none of these courses actually teaches leaders how to have pay conversations that truly engage employees. These generic classes will not speak to how your organization pays. You want leaders to understand your pay philosophy and your strategies, so you can have conversations that align with your company culture and values.

These elements are essential for the kind of genuine, heart-based conversations that organizational leaders need to master in order to do their jobs effectively.


A Better Alternative: Manager Compensation Training Programs

Most managers will never go to the Wharton School of Business to get a compensation certification or get a CCP because those certifications won’t bring value to their roles. But, all managers and executives need to be equipped with training that will simultaneously broaden their leadership skills and help them have more effective compensation conversations.

This isn’t something they can learn to do on YouTube. There is no substitute for human-to-human shaping and coaching.

This is why we designed our compensation manager training program, CompAware. Our program elevates the awareness of pay and pay decisions between the manager and the employee.

We find that too few managers are aware of the types of conversations that should be taking place. Instead of explaining to an employee how the organization arrived at a specific salary, being able to market the evaluation process, and then confirming confidence in the salary being paid, managers tend to simply say, “Your salary increase is X, and XX is your salary range.” By doing this, they’re actually starting a salary conversation in the middle instead of the beginning, leaving out important information that provides context and builds trust.

I frequently tell leaders “your employees don’t have to love what you say—they just have to believe what you say.” Your employees are intelligent; they want to understand why they get paid for what they do and how they can increase their earning potential, as well as their value to the organization. Unfortunately, new data shows that only 38% of organizations reported being effective at educating managers on how to have conversations about compensation.

Only 38% of organizations reported being effective at educating managers on how to have conversations about compensation.

With CompAware, we’ve deliberately constructed a five-part learning series that elevates leaders’ skills in understanding compensation basics to have interactive pay discussions with employees. We also have an ENGAGE™ model where managers learn to have impactful coaching conversations with employees that focus on more than just the numbers.

Unlike compensation courses, which are usually completed in self-paced courses or in small groups and are based on theoretical situations, our manager training program is for entire organizations—both practitioners and leaders at any level in your company—and based on real-world situations. Our program is unique in that we can tailor our sessions to be taken at the employee level if needed, shaping their knowledge of compensation and teaching them how to have productive conversations with their managers. As a result, your entire organization will establish a common vocabulary and nomenclature around how to talk about pay.

The interactive nature of MorganHR’s CompAware manager training means your team will learn from one another’s experiences and about their different techniques. The participative learning environment also allows participants to practice with their team through case studies. Everyone gets immediate feedback and can apply what they’ve learned right after the course.

Plus, unlike the extended timeframe of some compensation classes and certifications, manager training sessions are only 90 minutes—they’re easily digestible and loaded with takeaway techniques and tools participants can apply to any compensation conversation.


Why Manager Training Should Be Your First Step

Leaders and managers need (and want!) to be confident while having these tough conversations because, ultimately, they want engaged and motivated employees. We’ve found that the more solid the relationship between leader and employee, the more likely the employee is to be engaged in their work and with the organization.

Leaders who can have open, honest conversations about pay and performance build trust and solidify the engagement of their employees.

The bottom line: Traditional compensation courses are fine for niche needs. But the overarching need is for leaders to gain the skills to conduct clear, authentic compensation conversations.

For that, there’s no certificate required.

And this is a skill that truly matters for the long-term health of your company:

When organizations educate employees about how pay is determined, employee trust in the organization increases by 10% and pay equity perceptions increase by 11%.


Give your managers the only compensation training program that actually works—CompAware by MorganHR.

The MorganHR team has 25 years of experience in compensation training and has trained hundreds of managers and business leaders to have meaningful compensation conversations that resonate with employees. Our CompAware program is the single best way to level up your managers’ overall leadership skills; it’s also an excellent investment for the future health of your organization!

Here’s one quote from a 2023 CompAware attendee:

“It’s hard for anyone to be self-reflective on the behaviors that might need adjusting, especially for managers who often feel the weight of being a leader and constantly being present for others.

MorganHR approaches manager training by really trying to understand the purpose of the training and then building a curriculum around those objectives. A hugely beneficial takeaway for managers can be something simple, such as language and terminology. Not only so the company leadership is united, but also to relieve the burden of answering tough employee questions. MorganHR recognizes small efforts in training can go a long way in developing leadership capabilities.”

—Amy Dick, Wynward Insurance


Learn more about the CompAware Manager Training program now.

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About the Author: Stacy Fenner

Stacy Fenner is a Senior Consultant and Program Director for MorganHR. Over the course of her 25 years of human resources experience she developed a passion for inspiring and coaching others to achieve results. Stacy’s multiple certifications—including InsideOut Coaching, Korn Ferry Leadership Architect, and many more—have given her a wealth of perspectives to draw from in designing effective customer solutions. Her expertise lies in the areas of HR Consulting, Employee Engagement, Culture, Coaching, and Leadership Development.