Survey or Strategy?

This isn’t a discussion about the latest in rewards strategy, just plain old salary surveys.  Compensation surveys have come a long way over my 30+ years in the profession.  From 4” 3-ring binders with three sets of tabs stacked on top of 4-drawer file cabinets full of job descriptions, to the desktop access or even mobile device through the Cloud, with custom calculation capabilities, this profession has changed profoundly in so many ways.  And yet some things haven’t changed at all, nor would I want them to.

Keeping with surveys, and since so many of us rely almost exclusively on market data to tell us what to pay jobs, let’s consider a few things that I wouldn’t want to see changed as well as opportunities for change:

1. I still want to see job descriptions in surveys with enough detail to do a good job matching.  I’m not so concerned about whether I match the job right or not, I’m more concerned about whether YOU match it right.  Remember, I’m buying YOUR data, not mine!

2. Speaking of matching, surveys that represent all the levels in a job family rather than just a few are definitely superior.  Extrapolation and making decisions about “heavier” or “lighter” matches may appeal to some as “Art,” but I’ll take the Science when it comes to the data thank you.

3. I believe survey providers owe it to all of us to keep us participating in their surveys every year, especially larger companies.  On an overall basis it may not make a difference to the total data set in a large survey, but it can make a significant difference within a specific job family or a job.  Surveys aren’t perfect, but it’s hard to run a compensation program if I also have to dig into all the why of seeing wild variability in data.

4. Percentiles matter.  But we’re still approaching this like it’s all printed on paper.  Percentiles are a calculated value, shouldn’t we be able to use a dropdown calculator of some sort to use the computing power available to us if we really have a need to know the 60th percentile rather than paying extra for that?

5. I’ve taught a few WorldatWork classes for a while now, and one of the topics questions I always ask the participants (typically early in career professionals) is, “who typically is responsible for completing salary surveys?”  And the answer is nearly always, “the newest person.”  That is, the person who probably knows the least about the work.  Least seniority… new guy gets to do it, not me.  Drives me nuts.  Best thing I ever did in managing market intelligence was find someone who really enjoyed doing survey work and didn’t mind teaching others when they came along.  But owned the work.  Bless you Marleen!

One of the best innovations with surveys that has come along in the last few years is the understanding that there is so much more information that salary survey providers can give us because they have more data than just average salaries or percentiles.  The more we as compensation practitioners understand that and push our survey providers – and our company leaders – towards that understanding, the more we’ll have the real strategic impact on our company’s success that we all yearn for.

I guess there was something regarding strategy in there after all.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *