I thoroughly enjoyed Luke pulling the curtain back on his job as a Director of Total Rewards. Luke’s job is unique because it has a direct tangible effect on employees’ personal lives, as well as the lives of their families. Luke gets to work on initiatives that have a meaningful impact on each employee’s quality of life.

Date of Interview:July 12, 2021

Interviewee:Luke

Basic Information

Your occupation

Answer:HR professional

Current employer

Answer:Publicly traded manufacturing company

Industry you work in

Answer:Manufacturing

City you work in

Answer:Chicago

Compensation

[Compensation data was not provided by the interviewee. The below compensation information was retrieved from Glassdoor.com data. These averages come from compensation data that is self-reported by employees of various company.]

$164,961 is the average base salary for a Director of Total Rewards in the United States. $167,51 is the average base salary for similar job, Director of Compensation, in the United States.

$71,455 is the average base salary of a Compensation Analyst in the United States. A Compensation Analyst is an introductory role that could eventually work up to being a Director of Total Rewards.

Experience

Years at your current job

Answer: 3 months

Years working in your field, including time at previous employers

Answer:15 years

Where did you work before your current job?

Answer:A financial technology company

Education/Credentials

Did you go to college or pursue any other secondary education? If yes, was it required for your job?

Answer: Yes, received a bachelor’s degree in business. Also earned a few professional certifications related to my profession. Having a degree was required for working in my field.

What was your college major?

Answer: Business Administration

What college did you go to?

Answer: George Washington University in Washington D.C.

Did you go to graduate school? If yes, was it required?

Answer: No

Do you have any other professional licenses or certifications?

Answer: First, a Certified Compensation Professional Certification (comprised of 10 exams). Courses can be taken to prepare for the exams. The certification is to ensure you understand the professional approach to compensation.
Second, a Global Remuneration Certification which relates to global pay practices. The US and global compensation practices are different.
Third, a Global Professional Human Resources certification – that is something anyone can take on their own. It requires periodic recertification.

I received these certifications early in my career and they were paid for by my employer.

Do you work in your field of study?

Answer: Yes, my degree had a focus in marketing and and human resources.

What is the minimum required schooling or training for your job?

Answer: Bachelor’s degree and 15 years of experience to reach a director-level role.

Do you feel that your school’s reputation had a significant impact on getting a job in your field?

Answer: Depends on the employer. For some placed where I have worked, I feel my university was more of a factor. It was not always important.

Job Demand & Stability

How long did it take to land your first job in your field after graduating?

Answer: I was offered a full-time job from the company where I did my second internship. The internship resulted in an opportunity to become a full time coordinator.

Did you have any internships?

Answer: I had a year-around paid internship with Corporate Executive Board (acquired by Gartner) which is a research consulting firm. My internship was with the compensation and benefits team. I did a lot of the grunt work for the team. This included organizing and paying bills, verifying information – a lot of truly entry level work to support the higher ups. Much of the work was done in Excel.

Also, I did an earlier paid internship at a hospital in Iowa with the Director of HR and Marketing. That helped me land the second internship.

If you lost your job tomorrow, would it be difficult to get a similar or better job?

Answer: The higher up you are, the longer it takes to find another job. Every company only has one of these roles. It would probably take 3-6 months, but I could probably more easily do interim contract work while I was looking for a new role.

Advice For Success

What advice would you provide to someone on how to get a job as a Director of Compensation?

Answer: Become an expert in Excel and data analysis. A business administration degree or a Master’s in business administration would be a good degree to get.

Nature of Job and Schedule

Describe what you do

Answer: Develop and administer benefits, base compensation, and short term/long term incentive programs. I have HR employees that have questions about the market price for a job so I get that data for them and talk about what compensation can be offered for a particular role. I also put together executive compensation packages and negotiate behind the scenes with the potential executive, along with the head of HR.

There are certain tasks which I delegate down to others on the team. I also help to resolve benefit issues by working with folks on my team or with third party providers.

A lot of the work I do is fairly autonomous and my deliverables are not always dependent on collaboration with others. I am considered the center of expertise for the total rewards function. The latest trend for HR functions is to have various pillars/centers of expertise.

Describe your daily and weekly schedule

Answer: Monday-Friday with a flexible schedule. I am not a customer-facing employee, so I have flexibility on when I have meetings, etc. My typical hours are 8:30AM – 4:00PM and Fridays are lighter. At prior jobs I had to work a lot more, including many evenings, but I do not need to in my current role.

What parts of your job are repetitive?

Answer: My function is very cyclical in nature. Open enrollment [the period of time where employees choose their benefits] can be very repetitive. We don’t typically role out brand new suites of benefits every year. We introduce incremental changes each year. Compensation/merit increase cycles are also repetitive on an annual basis.

What parts of your job require learning or performing new duties/responsibilities?

Answer: There is constantly legislation that causes change I need to be aware of. One example is trends in parental leaves and any changes we need to consider. I also have a variety of employment training that needs to be completed.

Describe the setting you work in most

Answer: I have worked from home a lot due to COVID-19. We have a ten person office west of Chicago, but my company is spread out throughout the country and I don’t need to interact with the folks who typically go to that office. I plan to continue working remotely beyond the pandemic.

Describe the nature and frequency of working with other people while doing your job

Answer: I do work with others to provide compensation analyses, resolve benefits matters, and assist with compensation negotiations. Also, a lot of the work I do is fairly autonomous and my deliverables are not always dependent on collaboration with others.

Does your job require travel?

Answer: Yes – have to get out and meet people, but I travel less than 10% of the time. At my prior employer, I had to travel to Asia which is where a lot of their revenue came from and many of the employees were based there. Consequently, I also spent a lot of Sunday evenings working due to the time difference with Asia.

Likes/Dislikes/Other

What is the most enjoyable or rewarding part of your job?

Answer: When I am able to work on things that make a difference in people’s lives. For example, a global parental leave policy can make a difference in what it means to be a working parent. Also, helping people to solve problems that add additional stress to their lives can be solved by some of the initiatives I am involved in.

As an example, I was able to resolve a life insurance issue where an employee’s family was not expecting an insurance payout due to a technicality where the employee did not fill out the proper questionnaire. Since the employee was paying their premiums, I was able to resolve the issue and get the family paid which was a huge benefit to them.

What is the most challenging or stressful part of your job?

Answer: I work with a lot of executives that make lot of money and have a tendency to be a little too greedy. Some seem out of touch with the lower level employees who earn much less, yet those lower level employees are the ones really making the business what it is.

Does your job provide work/life balance?

Answer: Yes.

How much time off do you take from work?

Answer: Typically 4-5 weeks a year.

Any interesting/enjoyable perks of your job?

Answer: You get to see how much everyone makes. I also know the ins and out of what an employer offers so I know how to make the most of what is available to me. For example, I asked to defer a sign-on bonus when I started so it could be eligible for a 401k match a couple months later.

Why did you pick your job?

Answer: I kind of fell into it with the internship I did. However, I grew up in a small town where they would publish teachers’ salaries in the newspaper. I would review them and comment to friends about them. In a way, it felt like it was destiny. I’m a first generation college student. I didn’t really know anyone with a corporate job when I was younger. I would encourage young people to ask their friends’ parents what they do for a living to learn about options.

What would you do if you had to change careers?

Answer: Something related to accounting perhaps. I’m passionate about saving enough money to do a soft retirement in my fifties so I can do other work that I am passionate about.