How businesses pay their critical talent for their ‘value’

Every company will have some critical talent that add more value to the overall business goals of the organisation compared to others. So how are they paid differently?


In any organisation, there will always be some set of skills, certain roles or talent that are more valued than others. This is because, such roles add more value to the company, in terms of growth, revenue or other strategic and business goals.

For instance, today, talent with digital skills are more sought after and critical for businesses across industries, since the pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation agenda in organisations.

Post pandemic, the IT boom in India has increased the demand for tech talent in the industry, coupled with upcoming startups that also want to hire techies. Therefore, for many companies, the most critical talent would be their digital or tech talent.

It is not just the tech talent that is always more valued. The most valued employee can also be a normal account manager — someone who is handling the account of a very strong client for the company. What makes this talent critical for the company is the particular set of interpersonal skills required for that role; the qualities needed to handle the complex needs of the clients that make the role even more critical.

“All businesses have a set of people that come under ‘critical talent’, as they are difficult to replace”

Reetu Raina, CHRO, Quick Heal

What makes such talent ‘critical’ and ‘valued’?

Demand and supply: Talking to HRKatha, Ashish Anand, CHRO, SAR Group says, “There have always been some roles in an organisation which are more valued than others, and hence paid more than the others as well”.

He goes on to add, “It has to do with the demand and supply of the talent in the market”.

Citing his experience in Europe, Anand says that in some cities of the UK, it was very difficult to find banking talent. There was scarcity of talent and companies were willing to pay more to such talent since they were in short supply in the market. “For such roles, companies could only get three to four people,” recalls Anand.

Anand also believes that since the demand for such talent is high and supply is low, companies are temporarily willing to pay such talent above the market rate or the company bench mark.

Niche skills: Apart from the demand and supply of talent, which sets the value of a function or a role in an organisation, there are also particular niche skills in a company which are really hard to acquire.

Reetu Raina, CHRO, Quick Heal, shares that for her company, people with cybersecurity skills are hard to come by. In fact, these skills are not readily available in the market for the company. “All businesses have a set of people that come under ‘critical talent’, as they are difficult to replace,” says Raina.

Now, the question is, should the more valued employee or critical functions get more pay as compared to the rest of the people?

“The value of is related to the demand and supply of the talent in the market”

Ashish Anand, CHRO, SAR Group

Compensating critical talent

Raina further explains that such talent is always treated and compensated differently, since they are tapped differently by the organisation.

As Raina reveals, some of her top talent may enjoy a 100 per cent compensation ratio, compared to the average, mean or median salary for that job. That means, the Company pays such critical talent more as compared to others in the organisation.

Simply put, while a top performer may get 100 per cent more than others in similar roles, a more valued and critical talent may even get paid 130 per cent more, as in the case of the cybersecurity professionals at Quick Heal.

As per Anurag Verma, VP-HR, Uniphore, such valuable talent is not always compensated with cash or salary hikes. More often than not, they are given additional perks such as vacations with family members or employee stock options (ESOPs).

Identifying critical talent

Before we compensate, we need to identify such talent. It is very easy for any organisation to very easily spot critical or valuable talent within by just examining how the role is actually adding to the overall growth of the organisation as a whole.

Performance-management systems: Generally, companies with robust talent processes in place are clearly able to identify such talent, which may be scattered all across the organisation, in its nooks and corners.

“At every level, there will be people in roles that really add more value to the company than others. Therefore, they are treated differently,” says Verma.

Unfortunately, apart from the top performers, many organisation miss identifying high-potential employees, who are very consistent with their performance.

“A performance-management system alone is not sufficient to identify such talent in the organisation,” adds Verma.

“Valuable talent is not always compensated with cash or salary hikes. More often than not, they are given additional perks such as vacations with family members or employee stock options (ESOPs)”

Anurag Verma, VP-HR, Uniphore

“Since such people do not exhibit major performance spikes, they fail to get noticed. However, they are adding consistent value to the company, which is actually crucial for the overall growth of the organisation,” points out Verma.

While many companies feel that such talent is always at the top of the hierarchy, in reality, that is not actually the case. A McKinsey research, which has worked on linking talent with value, has found that almost 60 per cent of such talent exists four to five levels below the CXO.

Do these critical roles keep changing in an organisation? Since the world is continuously evolving, do these roles also undergo alterations as per circumstances?

A certain role may be more critical than others today, but later on, this role may not be as critical to the business, depending on circumstances and other factors.

For instance, there may be a critical employee taking care of a very important client for the company. If the company loses that client for certain uncontrollable reasons, will that make the employee — who handles that account —less critical for the company? Not really. After all, only the account has been lost. The employee’s abilities and skills remain in his possession, which can be applied to handling other key clients for the company with the same or even better results.

“Such changes do not happen frequently, unless and until there is a major course correct in the organisation,” enunciates Verma.

Besides, as Verma rightly points out, such valuable talent have their own way of avoiding stagnation. “They do not stay in one role for many years. They keep moving to different projects, acquire multiple skills and continue to evolve,” concludes Verma.

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