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Big Ideas and Takeaways from the 2017 WorldatWork Total Rewards Conference

More than 1,100 of the world’s top HR and total rewards professionals gathered this month at the 2017 WorldatWork Total Rewards Conference, “where big ideas begin.” The Optymyze team was there to share the secrets to overcoming global sales compensation challenges and cover other hot trends in the industry. Here are the big ideas that stood out throughout the conference along with some of our key takeaways.

“Run toward the disruption”

Change was a key theme at this year’s event. In his keynote address, Peter Sheahan, author of Matter: Move Beyond the Competition, Create More Value, and Become the Obvious Choice, challenged the audience to embrace change and “run toward the disruption.” Disruption is critical to making change happen; without it, businesses cannot grow, said Sheahan. When organizations not only accept but invite change, they free themselves to focus on innovation and encourage perpetual improvement. These are the companies that tap into ingenuity to create value for their customers, gaining the public’s trust, spurring excitement about their products, and ultimately becoming the obvious choice in their markets. The same companies that move beyond the competition.

“Big ideas always start with questioning what we think we know,” Sheahan emphasized from the conference stage.

To claim a spot at the winner’s table, organizations need to step out of their comfort zone.

The future is automated

For sales compensation professionals, the automation of time-consuming, manual tasks and processes is the high on the list of disruptors, said Sheahan. But few companies embrace this raw burst of innovation.

During my own presentation, I launched a poll that revealed that 50% of respondents still use spreadsheets to manage their incentive compensation process, while 40% still work with legacy systems.

These solutions may suffice for small organizations, but companies that want to go big need to think big. Innovatively. Process automation eliminates the burden and potential for human error that comes with using spreadsheets to manage account information which is spread across teams. All key data are automatically fed into one integrated system, ensuring accurate compensation calculations and timely payments. Moreover, both management and their sales teams gain easy access to the crucial performance data that keeps motivation high and significantly reduces turnover.

For most organizations, automating is a big change. But a good one. It’s powerful enough to distinguish any one company from others and give it a competitive edge. Knowing this, industry experts are more open than ever to dismantling the old modus operandi, creating space for a solution that helps drive revenue.

The power of analytics and data visualization

Unsurprisingly, data collection and analysis were also hot topics at the conference. The bedrock that supports instrumental change, data and analytics are powerful tools that provide leadership and salespeople with invaluable insights into sales performance and trends. With access to the most useful data at the right time, people throughout sales organizations can quickly respond to critical issues and act on promising opportunities.

Data visualization also gained a lot of traction at the conference due to the role it plays in achieving best results. There’s enormous value in presenting data in a format that’s easy to understand and that makes essential patterns and trends readily recognizable.

A global way of thinking

Proficiency in “reading” data is even more important as more and more organizations consider going global. During my presentation, “Globalization Is Great…Until It Isn’t,” I offered a glimpse into what successful globalization looks like by demonstrating Optymyze’s role in helping major organizations orchestrate sales compensation technologies and change management processes. Maigan Simmons, Project Coordinator at Dun & Bradstreet (D&B), joined me on stage to explain, based on D & B’s own story, how Optymyze’s solutions can provide a level of data transparency that unites all levels of the organization.

And efficiency is paramount. In today’s hyper-connected business world it’s clear that being a savvy player in the global marketplace is a must for many businesses and is likely an eventuality for virtually all businesses. Arguing against globalization, as former Secretary General Kofi Anan once said, “is like arguing against the laws of gravity.”

So, it’s no surprise that many participants in a quick poll I took either already have global sales forces or are planning to go international soon.

Those companies now or will soon face the enormous challenge of adapting to a global stage. It’s simply not efficient or even feasible to use spreadsheets or legacy systems to manage global sales compensation.

Global sales organizations need scalable and flexible software solutions that allow them to maintain steady practices across businesses while accounting for economic and cultural differences. They also need to minimize the operational costs that come with expansion to new regions or countries.

An agile and flexible sales compensation solution can help organizations gain economies of scale and reduce the costs of business-process administration.

“Nothing changes if nothing changes…”

In the end, growth is impossible without disruption. It’s the only way to make space for new ideas. As Peter Sheahan said, “You have to be prepared to take some action and do something different because nothing changes if nothing changes.”

I look forward to next year’s event. But for now, we want to hear from you. What changes are shaping the future of sales compensation in your organization? Tell us your story in the comments.

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Michael Giordano

Client Advocacy

Michael has over 15 years of experience building teams and transforming processes to produce highly-effective sales, marketing and technical functions. He excels in leveraging industry-best process and technology practices while implementing strategies to deliver continued growth and success.

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