Cafe Classic: Want a Promotion? Start Reading Your Annual Report

Editor’s Note: In today’s Classic post, we revisit Margaret O’Hanlon’s sage career advice for fellow compensation pros.  Looking to advance?  Hoping to be first in line when the next promotional opportunity pops?  Then listen up.

Every one of us wants to be considered a trusted advisor to our leaders. But how many of us have read our company’s annual report?

I think I can hear a pin drop.

It’s a good thing that no one’s talking, too, because our work doesn’t deserve even a “meets expectations” unless we read the annual report each year. Here’s what we’re missing:

What the CEO has publically committed to do. Note to self: Have our employees written objectives that will roll up into this achievement? Who are the managers that are under the most pressure to deliver? Do they have the resources they need? Do they have the HR support that they need?

How the CEO and the Board talk to each other about the business. When strategy is communicated within the company what you typically hear are the headlines. These communications make you aware of the priorities, but don’t imagine that you understand the strategy until you know — and can talk about — the reasons for the strategy.

Worried that you won’t understand what the terminology and numbers in the annual report mean?

A. That’s the best reason to read the report. You could use more professional confidence and savoir faire! 

B. It’s easy to Google anything you’re fuzzy about.

C. Most companies make a real effort to talk to the general business reader in their report. It’s time to become one of those, don’t you think? Plus you can learn so much, especially from the bigger companies, who often provide investor education along with their announcements.

Where the company is investing for the future. Can’t get your leaders to think about talent management or even HR strategy? Follow the money. You’ll find a lot of the information you need in the annual report.

If the company’s heading in X direction, managers need to be equipped to support that strategy. If X division is expected to be the next big thing in terms of revenue . . .  Do they need more people? (Payroll and Recruiting) Will other employees want to be able to move into the division? (Policies and Salary Management) Are mergers and acquisitions on the horizon? (Planning and Staffing) Will there be greater emphasis outside of the U.S.? (HR Operations and Compensation Design)

Wondering why your ideas for X division or department are falling on deaf ears? It may be that they are not a focus for investment right now and you haven’t noticed.

It’s pretty straightforward, don’t you think? If you’re in Compensation but unaware of what’s in the annual report, you really may not be doing your job as well as you could. On the other hand, if you’re conversant with the annual report, odds are you’re earning management trust and attention for your insights.

Margaret O’Hanlon, CCP brings deep expertise to discussions on employee pay, performance management, career development and communications at the Café. Her firm, re:Think Consulting, provides market pay information and designs base salary structures, incentive plans, career paths and their implementation plans. Earlier, she was a Principal at Willis Towers Watson. Margaret is a Board member of the Bay Area Compensation Association (BACA). She coauthored the popular eBook, Everything You Do (in Compensation) Is Communications, a toolkit that all practitioners can find at

This post originally appeared on Compensation Cafe
Author: Ann Bares