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Women: Don't Get Left Out of Pay-for-Performance Plans

Are you paid what you're worth? Not as a person: as an employee who helps her company achieve its business goals. A new survey by temp behemoth Kelly Services indicates that more men than women are included in pay-for-performance compensation plans. Overall, the latest Kelly Global Workforce Index found that 30% of men and 23% of women are getting paid bonuses and similar incentives for delivering business results. That gap widens on the way to the top, with 47% of senior executive men and 33% of senior executive women covered by incentive-pay plans.

It's possible that women put such a high value on non-monetary benefits like flextime and child care that they underestimate the importance of pay-for-performance compensation, says Carol Curtis, Kelly's vice president of Global Compensation, Benefits and Human Resources Information Management. It's also possible that women aren't sure what's involved in pay-for-performance plans, especially since the parameters can shift mid-career. For example, once you reach the mid-management level, your pay may suddenly include direct rewards for results. At big companies, that transition is part of a standard conversation, says Curtis. But in these tumultuous times, your boss may have forgotten to fill you in. Here are five things Curtis suggests you find out in order to frame up a conversation with him or her:

1. What are the norms for your industry and for your company? What exactly constitutes success, and how is it measured? Get conversant with those terms and dynamics, because this is the language of money. 2. Exactly what is measured for your position? Is it customer retention? Top-line revenue growth for your business unit? Profits for your project?
3. What are key terms for your company's incentive compensation plans? Curtis says two to know are "threshold," the minimum level of performance required to capture the bonus, and "cap, " the maximum bonus under the formula. 4. What are the factors that go into your incentive calculation? Are any weighted? How will the formula evolve to reflect changing business conditions and factors? 5. What are your results? Quantify your most recent results and calculate a bonus accordingly. Work through your rationale with your supervisor or a human resources compensation staffer to be sure you're linking the correct factors and incentives.

Once you've done your research, check out my interview with Robin Ferracone on how to have the incentive-plan conversation with your boss.

And don't forget: "total compensation" benefits like telecommuting, flexwork, and dependent-care benefits are supposed to be available to everyone. You shouldn't have to give up your money to keep your life.

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