Compensation Studies


Certificate Overview

  • 2 month duration
  • 4 two-week courses
  • 3-5 hours per week

Compensation plays an essential role in attracting and retaining the key talent you need in your organization. It’s important to understand how to leverage compensation in such a way that it benefits both the talented employees and the organization as a whole. The Compensation Studies Certificate will give you the confidence and skills to articulate key compensation factors within your organization, assess compensation needs, align those needs with your organizational strategy and goals, use compensation to attract and retain top talent, and evaluate the effectiveness of pay-for-performance practices.

The certificate is ideal for individuals working to improve their organization’s compensation system so that it functions more effectively and aligns with their organization’s strategic, financial, and institutional objectives.

  • Recognize and apply elements of the total-rewards framework
  • Identify how to effectively communicate and implement a compensation plan
  • Determine ways to align the compensation strategy to the talent strategy
  • Define performance in a contextually appropriate manner
  • Recognize differences within the workforce that either facilitate pay for performance or make pay for performance more challenging
  • Identify opportunities to improve pay-for-performance practices that are counterproductive or misaligned with organizations’ needs
  • Choose pay-for-performance elements to attract and retain key talent and superstars
  • Critically assess the improvements in attraction, retention, productivity, engagement and motivation associated with pay-for-performance systems

This certificate program is ideal for current and aspiring human resource professionals. This includes new and intermediate-level HR professionals, including lower-level specialists in Compensation and Benefits as well as HR Generalists looking to specialize or round out their skills. Additional audiences may include higher-level HR professionals in small companies who need to be conversant in compensation issues, high-level operational and financial decision makers outside HR who need to be conversant in compensation issues, and governments/nonprofits interested in pay for performance. This is primarily geared to organizations that operate in the US or whose headquarters are in the US.

Faculty Authors

Linda Barrington
Stephanie Thomas
Kevin Hallock

Certificate Courses

The conversation around employee pay has changed from one of base salaries, bonuses, and cash compensation to a “total rewards” approach that seeks the right blend of monetary and non-monetary elements that will engage each employee and benefit the organization.

Course Description

Cornell University ILR School professors Kevin Hallock, Linda Barrington, and Stephanie Thomas are the thought leaders behind Cornell’s prestigious Institute for Compensation Studies. This team of authors and educators offers a learning experience that combines real-world case studies with an evidence-based, social science approach to the field of compensation. This course equips HR professionals with the tools and insights they need to apply a total-rewards view to compensation that aligns with their organization’s strategic goals and operational realities. This includes the Compensation Calculator, created by the Dean of the ILR School, Kevin Hallock, offering a method of job comparison that incorporates the total rewards view.

Learn how to assess and measure performance and then determine proper compensation in a way that aligns with the goals and needs of the organization. 

Course Description

Compensation plays a critical role in attracting and retaining the right talent to meet organizational goals. Performance is each individual's contribution toward these goals. An effective compensation strategy should ensure individual performance and organizational outcomes are connected.

Decisions made regarding the compensation structure must also be aligned with the organization’s financial ability to pay. Can you afford the pay-for-performance system in good times and in bad? Learn how to design and evaluate your compensation strategy as you determine how to measure performance using the expertise of Dr. Barrington and Dr. Thomas.

After completing this course you will be able to understand the challenges of measuring and compensating on the basis of performance in a way that aligns with the goals and needs of your organization.

Learn how to use incentive compensation to attract and retain talent in a way that is both profitable for the organization and fair to the employee. 

Course Description

Attracting the right talent to the right position from the start is crucial for organizational success. Once you have your talent in place, retention is an equally important challenge. It costs your organization effort and money every time you need to bring in someone new. As organizations try to do more with less, resources are scaled back and compensation plays a more important role in your talent-management strategy, making it essential to identify and select compensation elements that provide the highest return.

Through the research and expertise of Dr. Barrington and Dr. Thomas, this course will teach you to compare and contrast different pay systems. Doing so will allow you to attract and retain key talent within your organization while also identifying internal equity concerns that may exist.

Learn how to evaluate pay-for-performance practices as they relate to financial performance, strategic alignment, and talent management.

Course Description

Like any other factor in an organization, compensation is expected to show a return on its investment. To ensure you are driving behaviors and rewarding results that are consistent with your organizational strategy and mission, your compensation program must be evaluated periodically. Learn how to do so and then how to compare outcomes to expectations and recognize when you are, and aren’t, supporting your long-term organizational goals. 

Dr. Thomas and Dr. Barrington examine how incentive pay benefits an organization with an emphasis on assessing the value of the performance pay plan. They examine the value including not only the profit margin but also the many other factors such as increased productivity, lower turnover, and improved morale. As you assess the financial return of pay-for-performance systems during this course, you will also see the customer experience, business image and reputation, sales, and other outcomes creating more value. 

After completing this course you will be positioned to evaluate pay-for-performance practices as they relate to financial performance, strategic alignment, and talent management.