Reaping the rewards of online pay data

Paul Thompson guides you through the numerous sites offering pay data

Accessing high-quality, up-to-date pay data has never been more important.
But to do this, you usually have to trawl through cumbersome paper binders that
are out of date by the time you receive them and then struggle with
job-matching and manual analysis.

Everyone from established survey providers and consultants to job sites and
professional associations are going online with compensation data.

And because of the speed, search facilities and cost savings of the
Internet, there is likely to be a surge in the number of companies offering Web

To help you take full advantage of the opportunities the Internet presents
in terms of salary benchmarking, we have developed some simple guidelines.

Commercial online resources

There is a burgeoning supply on pay data online. Major commercial surveys on
the Web are normally run by management consulting or specialist salary survey
firms. These employer-based surveys include details of base salary and total
earnings levels at a given date, with some information on the provision of
staff benefits.

Recruitment sites

Many recruitment sites now conduct their own surveys. Data is sourced from
either their own client base, collecting data on positions for which they are
recruiting, or from candidates, based on either current (claimed) remuneration
or the pay level at which they are appointed. Some even do both.

Few of these surveys have the credibility of the data the commercial
surveyors provide, as the collection process lacks the checks and balances
applied by those surveyors collecting data exclusively from employers.

Job matching is crucial

For surveys to be of real value, it is essential that jobs are matched
effectively and accurately. The accuracy of salary survey data depends on the
extent to which like is compared with like. Simply comparing jobs that have
similar titles is totally misleading.

Commercial survey providers put a great deal of effort into ensuring that
jobs are matched as closely as possible, but there is a divergence of opinion
over methods. Arguments abound over the merits of surveys based on generic job
descriptions to identify the positions for which members supply data – such as
those conducted by Cubiks and The Reward Group – or job evaluation-based
approaches, as used by Hay Management Consultants.

Three sites providing UK databases of compensation and benefits are

Selecting the right survey

All too many executives and employees believe it is possible and relatively
simple to establish the "right" rate for any given job in any
industry, in any location, for any age or experience level – preferably down to
the last pound.

The expectation is that remuneration specialists can wave a magic wand and
come up with the only right answer. This overlooks the complexity of
remuneration issues. It is rare that two companies, even within the same
industry and location, are managed in exactly the same way.

Ultimately those differences are reflected in the market and the
remuneration paid to people in apparently similar positions. There is always a
choice of rates. No survey is able, despite the claims of some surveyors, to
provide the single "correct" salary for any position, or range of

Using surveys is all about judgement. No survey will make decisions for you,
so you need to be careful to select the right one for your organisation.

With careful selection of your online provider, however, and judicious use
of the results, you will find that managing remuneration policies becomes a
little easier.

Paul Thompson is managing partner of the reward management website

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