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Author's profile photo John King

Create or modify the background element for Variable Pay

Once you have established how you’re going to reward employees, you will want to systemise your incentive program. Where to begin? The Employee History File! Variable Pay holds this information in it’s Background Section as defined in the Succession Data-Model to help calculations and eligibility.

For this example, we will focus on an EC integrated Variable Pay programme as it’s the most common implementation.

What is Background Section?

The Background Section is where we start to gather the user history data that we need to run the incentive programme in the Background Element.

The Background Element will pull data from Employee Central into a table for referencing and calculations. Each column is configured and mapped with a few columns being reserved for particular jobs such as calculations.

(Employee History Records)


When previously using Employee History from Employee Central for Variable Pay the background element was maintained through the Succession Data-Model XML. It is now possible to create and maintain background elements which are defined in your data-model through the user interface. This previous enhancement from Employee Central allowed feature parity between the Succession Data-Model and the Business Configuration Manager.


How do we configure/modify the Background Element?

Navigate to Manage Business Configuration and under the Employee Profile tab there will be a list of Background Elements. Typically, at the bottom with the prefix ‘varPay’ will be your variable pay background elements.

As mentioned, there are some reserved fields:

  • Start and End Dates, As the programme is time bound, we need to know when a record begins and ends to prorate correctly when required. startDate and endDate is required and reserved for this purpose.
  • Program Name, in VLFD5 we capture the Variable Pay Program name.
  • Basis, the basis will define what’s achievable for each employee. The basis can be captured or calculated from fields within Job Info, Comp Information or even by manual input. The basis field MUST be FFLD1 in the template which is a drop-down option in the ‘Details’ hyperlink next to the Data Field.
  • Salary and Target Percent, these fields must also be FFLD, especially if you intent on using a Custom Basis calculation.
  • Currency, with any amount or sum we need to know the currency to define its true value. VFLD14 is reserved for this task.
  • Record Type, the record type defines where the record has come from. With Variable Pay you can import records which is useful when there may be multiple core systems. The history file will be noted with Employee Central or Import.


(Mange Business Configuration)


Need to include a new field or just some optimisation?

To add a new column to your background element, first click Details on the last unused row.

(Blank details)


To create a column we must have

  • Id, an appropriate code to reference the new field. This must be unique.
  • Field Name, the field name will help define what kind of data is in the field. For example, as mentioned, VFLD14 will be currency.
    • VFLD, alphanumeric text values, up to 20
    • IFLD, integer field, up to 8
    • FFLD, decimal or boolean, up to 8
    • DFLD, date field, up to 3

Other tips and tricks for optimising the background element.

If there is a need to map a value from the employee profile we will use the HRIS Data Mapping Value. The address should be [portlet].[identifier], i.e jobInfo.manager

There is a setting within the Variable Pay program to merge similar records, but it doesn’t quite work as may be expected. If we set the Merge drop down to No for the fields that are not important to calculations, such as Title or Location, the system will not produce splits for any changes in these fields.

Blog Summary

Getting the background element right will ease the build and with the correct optimisation can automate and simplify the end product.

Further Reading

Please use the comments section for any thoughts and feedback. For more blogs in the Total Reward space follow the tag on my profile! More blog’s can also be found within the community.


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      Author's profile photo Xavier Le Garrec
      Xavier Le Garrec

      Great blog John, thanks for taking the time ! very useful for customers to know how to do it themselves.

      When adding new fields to the VarPay background element I would recommend to first make a screenshot of the EC mapping defined for each field of the background element (from the VarPay template's admin center > Plan Setup > EC Employee History Field Mapping) before adding the new field (in the past we've seen issues where all mappings were scratched after adding a new field / I just tested and it looks like it's been fixed but customers should be careful with this).

      It looks like with the same fix they also recently made the list of field-type dynamic (previously even though vfld5 for example was already used for another field it still appeared in the list of selectable field-types for a new field which was a problem for data consistency).

      Regarding the merge attribute, video #2 of this blog can hopefully help (recording with test case and explanations on the whys).

      Thanks !

      Author's profile photo John King
      John King
      Blog Post Author

      Thanks for the feedback Xavier, hope you don't mind me linking your video blogs at the bottom! A great post and very on topic for anyone who has found themselves here!

      I agree and would always recommend backing up data in a screenshot or extract where possible. Especially when working around the Total Reward space!


      Author's profile photo Xavier Le Garrec
      Xavier Le Garrec

      Hi John,

      Documenting here something that came up today on the Partner Delivery Community and that I've been wanting to document for a long time :

      Vfld13 is also a reserved field and if it is mapped to a field in EC it will allow us to import records from EC HOWEVER it will return the following error message when trying to manually edit records after retrieving them from EC (which can be blocking for customers).

      Thanks !

      Author's profile photo Xavier Le Garrec
      Xavier Le Garrec

      Hi John,

      One more thing worth sharing here that I've had issues with in the past : the ID or Label of a VarPayEmpHistory background element (that you explain how to edit in your post) should never contain any special characters such as "&" "!" "?" as it may lead to issues in the Admin Center when trying to save changes afterwards (especially the Set Bonus Calculation screen).

      Underscores and hyphens are fine I believe but I would try to stay away from them too.

      All the best,