Confessions from a Discouraged (and Terminated) HR Executive

By Christie Summervill

Confessions from a Discouraged (and Terminated) HR Executive

John, a CHRO at a bank, shared his extreme disappointment in how salary administration was handled at his previous employers and how it led to his voluntary termination.

Not Valuing Internal Equity Accurately

The CEO would basically run roughshod over the salary ranges if he liked someone whose pay was above the maximum of the range. This would create internal inequity issues at the bank that I would be left to address. It could lead to gender and minority pay equity issues. I knew the salary administration program wasn’t fair or equitable but was unable to fix it and still look like a “business partner”. I found it gut-wrenching to go to the Compensation Committee and present ranges that I knew were inaccurate. The CEO valued my opinions on some things but would forgo the methodology and have a knee-jerk reaction to situations to make certain people happy. I tried to provide guidance but wasn’t listened to.

Failing to Raise the Salary Range

If the CLO couldn’t justify a higher salary increase based on the current range for their employee, they would be allowed to challenge my salary grades. Suddenly a Commercial Lender III, who would go get a higher job offer would suddenly have a title change to an SVP Commercial Lender III and a higher salary grade. Nothing else about their job changed. Their portfolio wouldn’t even be the largest. They focused on grading the person and not the job!

Grading the Job on the Incumbents’ Skills and Abilities

If a person who worked there for 20 years in a position didn’t need a college degree, they would grade the job for a high school degreed person without considering that the assets were $200M less when the incumbent was hired. Technology and Compliance have changed enough that while a college degree wouldn’t always be required, it would normally be expected. This caused the salary range to be too low and made it difficult to attract and retain talent. Unnecessary turnover leads to hours of interviewing to fill positions, not to mention all the additional onboarding and training necessary to get the new person operational.

Giving Ambiguous Titles

We hired a new CIO who was very best practice-oriented. Suddenly a large portion of the IT team had the word “engineer” on the back of their title. We suddenly had “Developers” even though there is no proprietary software being developed at a bank. They mainly ran reports in Sequel or created an API to bridge our system to third-party vendors. We had “Analysts” who only needed a high school degree and it was demanded that the job be classified as exempt when they didn’t have the decision-making necessary according to the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Not Valuing HR as a Business Partner

Towards the end of my first year there, the CEO told me “I think the salary range for your position was too high” and we needed to lower it one level. There was no examination of the salary data. Apparently, the previous HR Director also had some lower-level duties about 20% of the time, which shouldn’t impact the salary grade, but he felt it raised the grade. On top of not being able to do my job, I was going to be lowballed on salary to work at this mediocre, non-strategic job. The first job offer I received was $10,000 higher than my current pay level. I hate interviewing. By the time I go get another job offer, my employer has already lost me. But if I can’t make a difference, what am I doing here? Why would I be expected to DIY my salary ranges with only 2 or 3 surveys purchased every other year, while the CFO had automation and an expert vendor to support their Asset Liability Management process? I got into Human Resources to make a difference and my hands were tied to the point that the job felt meaningless. I found an employer who really wanted me to add value to workplace excellence.

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