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Compensation Surveys Offer a Strategic Edge

NEW ORLEANS—Everyone knows that compensation surveys can help organizations recruit and retain the best and brightest. The catch is choosing the right vendor, and making the most of what it offers, according to Rebecca Manoli, a senior account manager at Pearl Meyer & Partners, a compensation consulting firm in Southborough, Mass. The key is to find a provider that will analyze fresh data collected from a valid sample size, Manoli told her audience June 29, 2009 during a workshop at SHRM’s Annual Conference here.

The good news is that some of the best salary survey data can be had for free through the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics ( Like many of the best survey vendors, BLS has technical experts available to help employers develop a survey at no charge, though some of the occupational salary data might be too general to be of use to some human resource professionals. In addition, organizations such as SHRM conduct salary surveys as a member benefit at no additional cost.

“Not-so-good” surveys, Manoli cautioned, are based on informal conversations between colleagues in the same industry. Conduct a survey by calling a friend and you both could be in violation of federal anti-trust laws.

In addition to determining competitive pay, surveys can help an employer design a total compensation package, Manoli said. Offering a recruit a sign-on bonus might give an employer an edge in getting an employee in the door quickly. Plus, it has the benefit of being a one-time expense. Want to keep a worker on the job longer? Use a survey to determine the baseline for long-term incentives. “Equity is the most powerful retention tool,” she said.

Are you considering dropping your company’s coffee service to save money but wondering if it will harm your benefits package? Find out what similar companies are doing by perusing a survey of policies and practices. (SHRM is one provider of such information.)

Manoli offered encouragement for cash-strapped companies. In addition to BLS and professional associations, job boards can be great sources of free salary data, she said. And while fresh data is always best when determining a compensation package, in a pinch, a company opting to commission a survey can stagger the years it conducts the survey. In addition, some survey providers will give a discount to clients who get all their data in early.

Rita Zeidner is senior writer for HR Magazine.

Related Articles:

Salary Survey Q&As, SHRM Online Templates & Tools

Selecting and Using Compensation Surveys: Issues for Today's HR Professionals, SHRM Online Compensation Discipline, February 2006

Cash Is Still Key, but Mind the Culture, SHRM Online Compensation Discipline, June 2004

Quick Links:

SHRM Online Compensation Discipline

SHRM Salary Survey Directory

SHRM Compensation Data Center

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