Performance Reviews and Bonuses

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Q: I am at present trying to identify the best way to evaluate and reward through bonus communication staff. Has anyone a good rule of thumb or formula?

Sue Bourke

A: Dear Sue:

In a consulting environment, typically the annual pay increase is used to compensate for the variety of less measurable (and more subjective) things communicators do, such as teamwork, professional skills development, leadership, task force/committee work, etc. The bonus is based on a very few things that are highly measurable and tied more closely to bottom-line outcomes.

If your staff works in an agency setting (or are internal consultants in a corporate setting) you can measure the number of their billable hours and the amount of new business they generate. At lower job levels, they would have higher targets for billable time; at higher levels, they’d have higher targets for new business.

If the staff are at a corporation and not structured like an agency, the bonuses can be tied to a combination of things, depending on the job. For a bonus, these need to be quantifiable. Some examples would be:

  • Improving knowledge of certain topics from a pre-existing level to a higher level.
  • Achieving a certain percentage increase in usage of a communication tool, such as visitors to the intranet site or number of people who are not receiving a printed publication.
  • Improving the communication skills of supervisors through a training program (as measured on an employee survey where they rate the skill levels).

Make sure that whatever the target is, it is something that the communicator has real responsibility for and is somewhat under their control. For example, I would recommend holding a communicator accountable for an increase in an audience’s awareness and understanding of topics, but not necessarily for an audience to agree with the company’s position (it might be a harmful position for the individuals themselves, like the need for layoffs or a price increase).

You could hold a media relations representative responsible for improving the accuracy of news stories over time (although reporters won’t ever be perfect!) but you should NOT hold them accountable for achieving a certain percentage of positive vs. negative stories. (The negative news stories running about Enron and Firestone/Bridgestone certainly weren’t the fault of the communicators at the company.)

I’d recommend that you Identify the types of things that make sense for your communicators to be “bonused” on, do some baseline measurements of where you are right now on those things, use that information to develop targets, then measure again at the end of the year before determining the size of the bonus.

Angela D. Sinickas