What to reward executives for? A taxonomy of performance metrics in executive incentives supplemented by an overview of business practice
Publication typeWhite paper
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AbstractExecutive target setting and linking it to incentive systems, proves to be a complex process. Moreover, boards are under increasing pressure to use a balanced set of (strategic) performance metrics, and to look beyond financial indicators. Key performance indicators (KPIs) are defined as critical indicators demonstrating a company’s progress towards its key business objectives. The challenge many boards and companies are facing, is two-folded. On the one hand, there is an increased focus on the use of non-financial performance metrics to be included as a driver in executive incentive systems. On the other hand, companies are also having difficulties to find the right set of financial KPIs and often tend to use “easy-to-measure” data while the real challenge is about finding the more critical KPIs, taking into account shareholder structures, business cycles, level in organisational hierarchy, but also being aware of the drawbacks caused by at least some financial KPIs. Vlerick Business School’s Executive Remuneration Research Centre has developed this paper in order to inspire practitioners looking for the ‘right’ financial and non-financial KPIs, both underlying short-term incentives and long-term incentives. It does so by providing a taxonomy of different indicators that can be used. On top of this, the reader will be inspired by the inclusion of a large set of real-life examples (more than 100!) found in remuneration reports of Stoxx Europe 600 companies as a key source of inspiration, grouped by type of KPI. The objective of the paper is not to be prescribing by providing the ultimate set of KPIs, which would be a mission impossible as this is highly dependent on each firm’s specific situation. Rather, the objective is to take a broad and non-prescribing perspective by providing an encompassing overview and inventarisation of performance metrics used in executive remuneration. As such, it offers a guide to improve the choice of key performance indicators by summarizing examples and inspiring practices. Needless to stress that KPIs need to be deduced from the firm’s strategy and the objectives the firm wants to achieve.
KeywordExecutive Incentives, Key Performance Indicators, Executive Remuneration, Executive Compensation
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