GROWING CONNECTIONS IN THE TOTAL REWARDS COMMUNITY.
May 2023 - Meet Jeff Swerdlow
Hello everyone, we hope your spring is going well! In this month’s newsletter, we would like to spotlight long time RMTRA member and past president Jeff Swerdlow. Jeff is a Senior Director with Alavarez & Marsal’s Compensation and Benefits consulting team. As a consultant, his work spans all across all of the Human Resources and Total Rewards (HR/TR) fields. Jeff’s goal is to be a trusted advisor to his clients. He wants his clients to feel comfortable reaching out about all issues in the area and to be confident that if he cannot help them he can assist them in finding the right people who can.
Jeff spends most of his time working on executive compensation and incentive plan design (both short- and long-term), as well as some of the more technical areas of tax and accounting (i.e., payroll tax/mobility/fringe benefit issues, IRC section 409A/deferred compensation, IRC section 162(m)/deduction limitations, IRC section 280G/golden parachute calculations, and ASC 718/stock-based accounting). Jeff prides himself on finding creative solutions for his clients that also are practical and sustainable. This has led him to also focus on aspects of HR/TR administration, including equity plan and payroll tax/administration issues.
Jeff joined RMTRA because we provide great educational opportunities and networking in the Denver market. Being able to serve on the board for number of years was also an enriching experience that helped him grow and develop immensely in his career. Jeff said that as a past board member, RMTRA would always have a place in his heart. It continues to serve as a great local resource for professionals in our industry, both to continue learning, network and integrate with colleagues in our market.
We asked Jeff if he would recommend RMTRA to someone, and if so why? Instantly, Jeff said, always! I think RMTRA serves an important purpose in the development of total rewards professionals, providing key opportunities to learn about all aspects in the HR/TR space, find opportunities to network, and collaborate with others in the industry. Total rewards is constantly changing and becoming a bigger part within human resources. We wanted to know what have been the biggest changes that he has been a part of. He said, I “came of age” in the total rewards space right after Dodd-Frank (The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act) was enacted, which really solidified the construct of “pay for performance” as a fundamental aspect of modern compensation and total rewards.
While already a trend, companies really started to move en masse to objective, formulaic incentive compensation approaches, rather than the more discretionary approach that was predominant prior. The legislation also really enhanced the roll of proxy advisory firms (i.e., ISS and Glass-Lewis) in the compensation world, and led to significant enhancement of the discussion around compensation (initially with public companies, but that subsequently influenced the approach of private companies as well).With that being said, we wanted to know what aspect of total rewards does Jeff think will be the future of total rewards? Jeff said that “change” will be the predominant factor. Jeff continued to say that it seems like over the past decade there has been an ever-changing new trend that has been trumpeted as “the future of Total Rewards”. However, these “new trends” seem like they are typically important for a couple years and then something else comes along that displaces that thing as the “must have” component of a rewards package and philosophy. Ultimately, Jeff thinks our world is going to keep changing in terms of what people prioritize within the Total Rewards construct.
Thank you Jeff for being a long-time RMTRA member, past president and continued supporter. We look forward to seing you at future RMTRA events.
Who is going to be our June spotlight member? Stay tuned for next month’s newsletter and find out. Have a safe and fun May everyone!
April 2023 - Meet Kristie Rossi
In this month’s newsletter, we would like to spotlight a long time RMTRA member and Kristie Rossi. Kristie has been in the been in the Compensation field for over 10 years and most recently joined the Compensation team at Empower Retirement. After several years working in accounting, Kristie was asked to join the Human Resources team as a Compensation and Benefits Manager, and she has never looked back. Kristie wanted to expand her total rewards network being new to Colorado and joined RMTRA. She chose RMTRA because RMTRA hosts events on a variety of topics and are held at so many amazing venues and she has met so many amazing people through RMTRA. She loves volunteering and giving back and RMTRA was able to fill both of those needs for her. Not only that, but Kristie has built an incredible network of colleagues and friends through RMTRA. Every year RMTRA offers new classes, webinars and lunch & learns and Kristie always absorbs something new from each one. In addition, with a remote job, she enjoyed getting out and talking to other professionals.
We asked if Kristie would recommend RMTRA to others. Absolutely she said! Kristie pointed out that RMTRA is on the forefront getting the message out to our network of practitioners on current topics, best practices, and trends in the market. Most importantly, the networking is amazing. Whether you are just starting out in total rewards, or a seasoned veteran, RMTRA can offer something to you. She also thinks it is more than just for total rewards for most compensation professionals. Other human resources positions can really benefit from networking with total rewards experts and being knowledgeable in the ever-changing laws/offerings in the total rewards field.
We wanted to know from Kristie’s perspective what are the biggest changes or challenges she has seen in her career. She said transparency in pay. When she first entered the compensation world, pay ranges were only shared for your role (sometimes), but never for other positions within an organization. New laws are allowing employees to talk about pay, but also making organizations have open conversations around pay. With Covid, we were able to see so many organizations switch to remote opportunities, which allowed us to be even more involved in pay conversations and how we approach pay outside of our home base. This has and will continue to change and shape the future of how compensation and total rewards is done and delivered to employees.
What does Kristie think the future of total rewards will be? She believes continued transparency around pay. Kristie would like to see more states adopt pay transparency laws. She also thinks there will be more conversations around a continued remote workforce. As well as, seeing companies expand on their “well-being offerings”, meaning the whole person: nutrition, diet, mental health, time off, exercise, the work-life balance we are seeing more and more of in job and career expectations.
Thank you Kristie for being a long-time RMTRA member and continued supporter. We look forward to seeing you at future RMTRA events.
Who is going to be our May spotlight member? Stay tuned for next month’s newsletter and find out. Have a safe and fun April everyone!
March 2023 - Meet Chad Atwell
In this month’s newsletter, we would like to spotlight a long time RMTRA member and past president Chad Atwell. Last September Chad joined Lattice to lead the compensation consulting services to their customers and help shape their compensation product. Unfortunately, the company had layoffs early in 2023. As a result, he is actively looking for another consulting leadership role or leadership role with an HR tech company.
Chad has been focused on broad-based rewards most of his career. He has been involved on both the design and delivery of rewards. He believes that the delivery focus is specifically on the employee experience, and depends heavily on the communications, technology and operating model used by the company. He has consulted with too many companies who in the past paid a lot of money to design new strategies and programs only to have those fall flat when it comes time to roll out to managers and employees.
Chad has always been a big fan of building a large professional network. He joined RMTRA early in his career to meet and discuss HR and total reward trends with those of the same mind set. He soon joined the board and eventually became Board President in the early 2000's. During that time, he met so many people who eventually opened up new opportunities for him or gave him lots of great advice.
Chad stays a member because he is committed to paying things forward and because he has enjoyed a lot of success in this profession. Chad also teaches WorldatWork courses regularly throughout the year, and RMTRA and other affiliate groups around the country continue to be a great resource for him to find new teaching opportunities. He continues to recommend RMTRA to others, because its members are a great resource of learning and networking. He highly encourages any member to join the board or, at minimum, attend a few of the in-person events offered every year. You never know when you might bump into someone who you can help or can help you in the future.
We asked Chad what types of challenges he has been a part of in the total rewards field. Chad said that pay transparency is the biggest. He believes many of our colleagues in this profession are struggling to create real differentiation in their ranges, and that is for good reason. Pay ranges will soon become more of a commodity, and he sees that opening more doors for cash and stock incentive programs. Overall, he is excited to see how the public will be better educated on compensation and for that to drive increased equity in how we compensate our employees.
We wanted to know what he sees as the future of total rewards. His hope is that we look back at this time as the beginning of when companies started to focus a little less on their competitors' compensation levels and started designing what he likes to call "People-Centered Pay." The main difference is you focus more on employees' needs and preferences and lighten up on micro analyzing every movement of the market. He did a few conjoint analysis studies during his time at Deloitte and it is still the number one thing he recommends to clients when they are asking for his advice. When a company designs its rewards strategy based on the makeup of its workforce and its overall business strategy, the results are incredible.
Thank you, Chad, for being a long-time RMTRA member, past president and continued supporter. We look forward to seeing you at future RMTRA events.
Who is going to be our April spotlight member? Stay tuned for next month’s spotlight member and find out. Have a safe and fun Saint Patrick’s Day everyone!
February 2023 - Meet Nicole Davies
In this month’s newsletter, we would like to spotlight a long-time RMTRA member and recent past President, Nicole Davies. Nicole is the Vice President of Talent Optimization at Valet Living; Talent Optimization encompasses learning and development, talent enablement and performance management. Nicole joined RMTRA because she wanted to deepen her understanding in the compensation and benefits space. She has worked in the field of Human Resources for a long time, but most of her roles only interacted with this aspect of HR on a surface level. Nicole decided that the best way to get detailed knowledge was to earn her Certified Compensation Professional (CCP) designation. She was successfully able to complete all 10 courses in about three years through the chapter’s in-person course offerings. She feels the knowledge that she gained has proven invaluable to her as a senior leader in Human Resources. Recently, she participated in a conversation about Nonqualified Deferred Compensation Plans (NQDCPs) and had very fresh knowledge on the topic from attending a recent RMTRA program.
Nicole said she stays a member because the Total Rewards space is a natural fit for HR folks focused on employee experience and workforce engagement. Talent teams are great partners to compensation and benefits teams as all of us have the same goals in mind. Because of this, she recommends RMTRA membership to everyone! Total Rewards education is a benefit to every type of HR professional. Nicole is also actively involved with SHRM on the local level as well and finds that the programs and educational offerings available through RMTRA provide the perfect level of specialized learning beyond the general knowledge gained through her SHRM membership.
Nicole, like many of us found out, COVID-19 has been a challenge well past the pandemic for all areas of human resources. Nicole believes COVID-19 challenged us to think differently about our non-financial Total Rewards offerings. Wherever possible, we now allow our workforce to work when and where it is convenient for them. We also significantly increased our on-demand learning library to allow people to learn when it is most convenient for them. Our hope is that both efforts will continue to help our organization retain top talent.
What is the future of Total Rewards? Nicole thinks talent enablement will continue to take a prominent seat in 2023 and beyond. She believes professional coaching opportunities will be offered more regularly outside of the executive team, allowing all levels of employees to accelerate their performance. As organizations continue to experience positive returns on this investment, she believes full-time coaches will gain a prominent placement on many HR teams of the future.
Thank you, Nicole, for being a long-time RMTRA member, past president and continued supporter. We look forward to seeing you at future RMTRA events.
Who is going to be our March spotlight member? Stay tuned for next month’s reveal and find out. Have a safe and fun Valentines Day everyone!
October 2022 - Meet Tiffany Herron
We would like to spotlight a long-time RMTRA member Tiffany Herron. Tiffany is the Director of Total Rewards & Corporate Support for Flatiron Construction. She oversees compensation, benefits, retirement, and the administrative function within HR for Flatiron Construction. Flatiron Construction is a heavy civil construction company with operations throughout the US and Canada. Tiffany joined RMTRA (then RMCA) back in 2001 when she was just getting started in her HR career. She wanted to learn about the HR job family and somehow, even then, she understood the importance of networking, professional development, and giving back to the community.
Having been a member, as well as a board member of RMTRA for over two decades, she has watched it grow and evolve as the Total Rewards function has evolved. Tiffany sees the benefits of membership for herself, but she also really enjoys “watching from the sidelines” to see where each new board takes the association. We asked Tiffany if she would recommend RMTRA to someone and why. Her response was absolutely! She has recommended it to colleagues and those newer to the Human Resources and Total Rewards arena. The value of membership in her mind revolves mostly around networking and continuing education.
We wanted to know what has been the biggest change in Total Rewards that she personally has seen. She said, “The biggest change that I have seen in Total Rewards is simply its prevalence. When I first started in HR, the concept of a holistic, multi-faceted approach to rewards was just coming onto the horizon. Now the number of jobs supporting Total Rewards has skyrocketed! Companies are realizing that its rewards program must be broad-based and comprehensive, expansive, but inclusive, all at the same time. Years ago, it was just compensation and benefits. That landscape has definitely changed for good!”
We asked Tiffany what she thought the future of Total Rewards would be and where it is going. She thinks the future of Total Rewards will incorporate the principles of Diversity Equity & Inclusion. She believes companies will have to offer benefits that meet people where they are at in their life and family situation. In order to do that, Total Rewards professionals will have to get creative with the types of benefits they are offering, as well as number of offerings. Unique, lifestyle benefits (e.g., student loan forgiveness) will need to be included amongst the core offerings to make employers competitive in the current and future labor markets.
Thank you, Tiffany, for being a long-time RMTRA member and supporter. We look forward to seeing you at future RMTRA events.
Who is going to be our November spotlight member? Stay tuned for next month’s reveal and find out. Have a safe and fun Halloween everyone!
September 2022 - Meet Denise Liebetrau
We would like to spotlight a long-time RMTRA member Denise Liebetrau. Denise is the Founder & Principal HR/Compensation Consultant at Prosper Consulting LLC. Denise and her team maximize profit and impact for employers as trusted advisors on HR and compensation issues. Denise also coaches high performers, so they get paid what they are worth and have careers aligned to their values. As a speaker and trainer, she focuses on topics like how to have difficult conversations, maximizing pay through effective negotiation, pay transparency, workplace equity, emotional intelligence, and executive presence.
Denise joined RMTRA many years ago to network and to learn more about total rewards. Denise served on the board and has enjoyed getting to know and networking with many of our members. Denise believes the Total Reward profession is constantly changing, and the education and networking opportunities offered by RMTRA are truly valuable. She cannot imagine not being a member of the organization.
We ask her if she would recommend joining RMTRA to others. Yes, absolutely she said and if you are not a member, attend as many events as you can. You will find people you can learn from, and it is a great way to share your knowledge with others. You may even find your next job through a contact within the organization.
Being a Total Rewards professional, Denise believes we have so much more data accessible to use now. Whether it is external market data from surveys, or it is internal data from HCM systems, we need to be great at turning data into stories that drive good business decisions. Too often, we have data that is not shared in a way that supports better business decision making.
The complexity of total rewards will continue to increase. The laws and regulations at a local level as well as federal will continue to evolve and cause us to need to be flexible. The push for more pay transparency and workplace pay equity will continue. Employees will continue to share their rewards with each other, and disparities will be highlighted in these conversations. We must get in front of this by being proactive. In addition, we must become better at recognizing which employees are the most productive so we can manage labor costs. We must get better at difficult performance conversations, and be more decisive around who needs to stay or go. Denise believes there are tremendous opportunities to make a difference, but prioritization on the right things continues to be a challenge for many employers.
Thank you Denise for being a long-time RMTRA member. We look forward to seeing you at future RMTRA events.
August 2022 - Meet Alex Anderson
Everyone...meet Alex! Alex enables organizational efforts in the design & execution of strategies involving employee benefits, compensation, and engagement solutions, including the assessment & mitigation of associated risk.
He works as a direct extension of HR, Finance, and Senior Leadership teams, his role revolves around developing Total Rewards programs & processes built to;
• Achieve financial efficiency & fund growth projects;
• Strengthen employee value propositions & workplace experiences;
• Decrease administrative burdens.
His only objective is to bring as much value to his client’s table as possible; much of that value stems from evaluation, negotiation, and proactive problem solving, but companies & employees are unique and should be treated as such – everything depends on the goals, priorities, and specific situation of each partner.
So, above all – asking questions and listening – is far & away the most important part of his professional duties.
Alex joined RMTRA for the learning and networking opportunities. He has been in the industry a long time, but is relatively new to the broker world. He was looking for ways to connect with professionals in the field and acquire new insights to help improve his ability to service clients.
Alex said that networking has never been his strong suit and something historically he has always avoided; in many ways, so Alex joined RMTRA to get out of his comfort zone and gain perspectives from top-caliber leaders.
Alex has been a member for over ten years and continues his membership because he has been to several HR/business associations & conferences, and while most are enjoyable & worthwhile he wants to learn more. The content covered at RMTRA events cuts the fluff and is specific enough for a legitimately productive discussion.
For Alex, the key is choice; some topics are more applicable than others, depending on your role, but the structure at RMTRA promotes curiosity & makes it easy for one to dive into whatever looks interesting. The subject matter experts & overall level of professionalism always impress him. With a wide range of tenure, roles, and industries, he always takes away insights that fill knowledge gaps & improves his overall awareness.
One aspect that he has especially enjoyed is the genuine passion from RMTRA members. Alex said, “It’s abundantly clear that they’re people who care & are actively striving to make a difference in their respective organizations. Total Rewards is a crazy, complex world & we are all in it together. If your job involves winning the war on talent or equipping humans with resources - Rocky Mountain Total Rewards is the Association for you.”
While he loves being part of total rewards however, insurance is an objectively change-averse industry that has largely operated with the same approach, mindset, and solution offerings since the sixties. Thanks to COVID and given recent staffing & cash flow pressures, he believes client needs are evolving at a greater pace & degree than at any time in history. Insurance carriers, brokers, consultants, and tech vendors must adapt to everything to keep up.
While every company is unique, there’s one universal commonality that he feels best represents the future of Total Rewards, and that's » time-value.
Alex believes we will undoubtedly see a ‘focus shift’ that prioritizes the development of efficient internal processes built for continuous improvement. Total Rewards encompasses the top two corporate expenditures, making the associated financial, administrative, and workforce strategies of utmost importance. Alex said,
• “Time is our most valuable commodity; it’s a sunk cost that cannot be recovered. More time means more money + more capacity for operational teams to achieve other, more productive work/life objectives (less time = less opportunity).”
The time-value impact of Total Rewards will cause companies to place more weight on individuality and customization. Flexibility is rightfully gaining steam in talent strategies, but for business priority areas like automation, streamlining workflow, and establishing frameworks for effective task management will only become more prevalent; digitization, internal mobility, and modernizing outdated methods all play major parts as well.
A personal point of pride for Alex, is helping free up capacity for HR teams; the workload & sheer volume of tasks that HR deals with day-to-day is overwhelming, but there are many ways to make their lives easier. Regardless of your goal, whether it relates to approach, mindset, or solutions, the rise of Total Rewards has created a completely new realm of interesting possibilities to explore. Employee experience is everything, and its improvement starts & ends with People Operations.
Thank you Alex for being a RMTRA member. We look forward to seeing you at future RMTRA events.
Who is going to be our September spotlight member? Stay tuned for next month’s newsletter and find out. Even better, join us for the RMTRA Annual Conference September 22, 2022. We cannot wait to see you there!
July 2022 - Meet Joann Nelson
We would like to spotlight a long-time RMTRA member Joann Nelson. Joann has her own consulting company, Rooted Resolve, where she conducts business as a Compensation Consultant. After working in-house for the first 15 years of her career, she has spent the last 7 years as an external compensation consultant. Joann collaborates with organizations to develop internally equitable and externally competitive pay practices. She first became a member of RMTRA in the spring of 2003. She was new to Compensation, and joined as a way to learn and grow in the profession.
Joann continues to be a member because of the people, the informative and learning events, taking CCP classes, and she previously served as a member of the RMTRA Board. She has made meaningful and lasting connections with others in the field and has developed an extensive networking community. She would recommend RMTRA to total rewards professionals at any stage of their career. RMTRA provides opportunities to learn, network and share knowledge with other total rewards professionals facing similar challenges. The challenges Compensation Professionals are facing today are changing more now than ever.
One big change that she has seen has been greater pay transparency (“the degree to which employers are open about what, why, how and how much employees are compensated”). In her early compensation days, pay practices were more secretive – more of a "black box" approach. Over the years, she has seen an increase in pay transparency. It was already becoming more of a priority, and then the passage of Colorado’s Equal Pay for Equal Work Act really accelerated things. Joann believes the future of total rewards will be an increased focus on pay equity - making sure compensation decisions are fair and unbiased”.
Thank you Joann for being a long-time RMTRA member and previous board member. We look forward to seeing you at future RMTRA events.