Dear AACA Members,
As I start my fourth, and final year as President, I reflect upon the roller coaster ride of a ride the last 3 years have been. We began 2020 with grand plans for a year filled with luncheon meetings, workshops, and special events. We looked forward to celebrating AACA’s 30th birthday and had a fun birthday celebration planned during the Annual Forum. And then in early March, as most of us will never forget, our plans for the year took a sudden and dramatic shift as we all retrenched to our homes, basements, and garages and into our rapidly assembled home offices. For many of us, our total rewards strategies also changed overnight as merit increases and bonuses came to a screeching halt and the focus shifted to designing furlough programs and remote work policies.
AACA like many organizations pivoted into the previously unexplored world of Zoom meetings, webinars, and virtual happy hours. I was particularly proud of our ability to adjust quickly and thank the Board of Directors for recognizing that our organization was needed more than ever at this unprecedented time. We held 6 virtual meetings in 2020 as well as a virtual Annual Forum over a two-day period including a virtual birthday celebration. Our members supported our shift to virtual programming with strong attendance numbers and encouraging feedback. And our sponsors stood by us not only with financial support but also by helping us facilitate a series of virtual town hall meetings.
I’ll never forget our first in-person luncheon meeting in the Summer of 2021, after 1.5 years of having only virtual meetings. With less than 20 people in attendance, in a room that could have easily held 100 to accommodate social distancing, we were so delighted to see each other and resume in-person meetings! By that time, our compensation strategies had shifted to respond to the “great resignation” with previously unheard of signing bonuses, extended flexibility with “work anywhere” policies, and a focus on mental health through expanded global EAP programs. For the remainder of 2021, attendance at our meetings gradually increased and we shifted our Annual Forum to the Fall in response to the Covid environment. With almost 50 attendees, it was so wonderful to see everyone and begin returning to some version of “normal”. I must admit, I will not miss wearing our AACA-branded face masks or hosting a “Sanitation Station” at every meeting!
In 2022, we returned to our traditional in-person programming and as the year progressed our membership responded with attendance increasing at each of our meetings. We ended the year with record membership numbers and a full slate of sponsors. I do not remember a time when membership engagement and enthusiasm has been higher. Meanwhile, our rewards programs remained far from normal. With increasing economic uncertainty, many of our compensation programs shifted to hiring freezes and layoffs, shrinking bonuses, and altered incentive programs. Increasing pressure to return to the office created friction between employees and leadership, putting additional pressure on our rewards strategies.
Given the events of the past three years, I have no idea what to expect in 2023! What I do know is that we look forward to continuing to respond to the needs of our membership and adapting as an organization to the environment we find ourselves in. Our members need AACA now, more than ever, as we all try to navigate the changing expectations and priorities of a post-pandemic workforce through an increasingly uncertain economic environment. If there was ever a time to be in Compensation/Total Rewards, this is it. It’s been my honor to serve AACA through the many challenges of the past several years and I wish everyone a successful and healthy 2023!
Lisa F. Burkard
AACA President— 2020-2023
Lisa Burkard is President of AACA for 2023.
She is the founder of Spectrum Group Consulting Services, LLC. With nearly 30 years of industry experience encompassing insurance underwriting, U.S. benefits consulting and extensive international corporate experience, Lisa brings a unique blend of skills and expertise to AACA leadership.
As the former Director of International Compensation, Benefits and Global Mobility of UPS, she understands the intricacies of working for a large corporation and the associated demands and expectations. She has also lived abroad in Brussels, Belgium where she was responsibility for ensuring the competitiveness and compliance of all compensation, benefit and mobility programs across 35 countries in Europe, Middle East and Africa.