Sales Compensation Trends and Takeaways from the 2017 WorldatWork Conference

This year’s WorldatWork 2017 Spotlight on Sales Compensation (21st-23rd of August, Chicago, IL) attracted more than 300 attendees across many functions within sales compensation, sales operations, human resources, talent management, and finance.  

The Optymyze team was on hand during the entire event, providing vital information about current sales compensation challenges, the leading-edge solutions that technological advances are making possible, and predictions for the future of compensation. We were thrilled that two of our clients joined our thought leaders to present case studies.  

sales compensation

In their session, “Altering Your Approach to Non-Cash Sales Incentives Can Have Game-Changing Results”, Erich Sachse, Vice President of Professional Services for Optymyze, together with Jason Farley, Director of Sales Operations at Kowa Pharmaceuticals, explored a fresh approach to the topic of incentives. They focused on how the millennial generation’s shared values are leading forward-thinking organizations to leverage game-changing, non-cash incentives in addition to traditional financial incentives. Cash bonuses and merit increases are no longer the only ways to keep sales engaged, productive, and aligned with company strategy.

sales compensation

Mihai Popoaca, EVP of Services for Optymyze, and Loris Severino, Head of Rewards & Mobility at Nespresso, presented a session titled, “Harmonizing Global Compensation One Cup at a Time”. They offered a glimpse into the key insights Optymyze delivered to Nespresso during the company’s expansion in multiple, complex markets. Participants were led through ins and outs, and intricacies, of implementing a global approach to SPM.

Here’s an overview of the hottest topics covered at the conference, along with some of our key takeaways.

  1. Incentives – front and center

Innovative incentive plans in the ever-changing world of sales compensation were a key theme at this year’s conference. The business world is facing huge technological progress as well as a change in demographics, with more and more millennials entering the job market. Participants at the conference were quick to point out that millennials are energized by a different set of motivators than previous generations. Some phrases came up repeatedly during discussions: “talent scarcity,” combined with the “rise of the millennial generation,” is triggering the need for careful use of heavily weighted commission plans, and “seismic shifts” in the world of work are reshaping how we think about best practices in sales compensation.

All these considerations are bringing machine learning to the center of incentive plan design. By combining the power of data science and behavioral economics, businesses will be able to tailor comp plans to fit individual employees. In sum, machine learning is expected to become a key component in defining plans that align human behaviors with organizational goals.

  1. The impact of ASC 606

Another hot topic at the conference was the foreseeable impact of ASC 606. Numerous sessions addressed and clarified questions about who will be impacted, the data that’s needed for compliance, the relevance of transitional models, and the ongoing effects the new standard will have on sales operations.

The New Revenue Recognition Standard requirements go into effect on December 15th for public companies, and at the end of next year for private companies. However, several expert speakers noted that businesses in general have to step up their preparation efforts.

Stay on the lookout for an upcoming blog post on the subject!

  1. The Future of Sales Comp: Automating

Using technology to automate routine processes was a main topic again this year, with more and more experts in sales comp denouncing the use of spreadsheets. Automating processes releases people from the grip of spreadsheets and manual, repetitive tasks. It also minimizes the possibility of human error – which is especially important when it comes to sales comp – and maximizes your sales force’s time.  Equally important, automating boosts the effectiveness and the profile of people in sales operations by enabling them to proactively identify upcoming challenges in sales and to “put the fires out” before they ignite.

According to leading authorities in the field, companies that want to jump on the automation bandwagon and reap the benefits should invest in the following:

  • Automating routine processes with technology
  • Developing leaders and encouraging their cognitive skills
  • Optimizing systems using artificial intelligence

All in all, the 2017 WorldatWork conference in Chicago was as relevant and empowering as ever. It provided the means for people to communicate about major shared challenges in the industry and the latest developments in game-changing sales compensation solutions, and to return to their jobs with a lot of new, exciting ideas. We’re already looking forward to next year’s event.

Follow Optymyze on Twitter and LinkedIn and find out in real time about sales compensation trends and insights.

7 Steps to Designing an Incentive Compensation Plan that Drives Results

Most companies are dissatisfied with their compensation programs. Read this guide to learn how to design a comp plan that gets results.

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Michael Giordano

Director, Advocacy and Communications

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. Follow him on Twitter @Optymike and @Optymyze.

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