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In a war for talent, organizations must find effective and creative ways to attract, retain and motivate employees with highly desirable skill sets. A
Culpepper Pay Trends Survey on strategies and best practices for compensating technical and scientific employees with "hot skills," conducted in November 2007, shows that the most popular methods for compensating these in-demand (but not necessarily executive) employees include hiring bonuses, market pricing targets and base pay premiums.
Juiced-Up CompensationCompanies compensate employees with hot skills in various ways, with most incorporating premiums into an employee's base salary or providing an employee with a hiring bonus.
Table 1Methods for Compensating Employees with Hot Skills
Company Size(# of Employees)
Up to 100
Over 100 to 1,000
Incorporate premium into base salary
Slot employee in higher salary range
Review pay more than once a year
Slot job with hot skills in higher grade
Project completion bonus
Note: Percentages add up to more than 100% since companies may use more than one method to deliver skill premiums.
Hiring BonusesNearly two-thirds of technology and life science organizations use hiring bonuses as a method to attract and recruit talent with hot skills. Hiring bonuses typically range between $2,500 and $10,000.
Table 2Amount of Skill Premium as a Hiring Bonus (US $)
Skill Premium as a Hiring Bonus
Less than $500
$500 to $999
$1,000 to $2,499
$2,500 to $4,999
$5,000 to $9,999
$10,000 to $24,999
Market Pricing TargetsWhen market-pricing pay for employees with hot skills, nearly half of companies target between the 60th and 75th percentiles, compared to market.
Table 3Market Pricing Targets for Employees with Hot Skills
Percentile Targeted(Compared to Market)
Above 90th percentile
Premiums as a Percent of Base SalaryHot skill premiums as a percent of base salary typically range between 5 percent and 15 percent of base salary.
Table 4Amount of Skill Premium as a Percent of Base Salary
Skill Premiumas a Percent of Base Salary
Less than 5%
5 to 9%
10 to 15%
16 to 20%
21 to 25%
Best Practices TipAlthough incorporating hot skill premiums into an employee's base salary may be the least difficult way to deliver premiums, problems result from this approach. Providing premiums within base salary compounds the costs of regular salary increases, incentive payouts (if determined as a percent of base salary) and other benefit costs such as 401(k) contributions and disability premiums. When the hot skills cool down, rescinding the premium requires a base salary cut, a difficult action to communicate to an employee without affecting morale and productivity.
Paying skill premiums as a separate salary supplement or cash bonus avoids these problems. Additionally, these practices allow for variation in the payment of premiums as skills cool and others heat up. Hiring bonuses, used by nearly two-thirds of technology and life science organizations, avoid the problems associated with providing premiums in base pay.
Identifying Hot SkillsThe most common method for identifying hot skills is feedback from managers, followed by changes in new hires' salary demands.
Skill Assessment FrequencySixty-one percent of companies assess when skills cool and others heat up on an "as needed" basis, while 20 percent of companies review hot skills on an annual basis and 12 percent review them semi-annually. There are no notable differences between company size or industry sector.
Table 5Skill Assessment Frequency
Every two years
Technical Skills: What's Hot Today?Some of the technical skill sets considered most desirable today include:
Culpepper Pay Trends Survey of 199 Companies
Breakdown by size:
Breakdown by sector:
Breakdown by country:
Jennifer Berthiaume is a research associate/editor at
Culpepper and Associates Inc., which conducts worldwide salary surveys and provides benchmark data for compensation and employee benefit programs. Leigh Culpepper is president and CEO of the firm.
Reposted with permissionSource:
Culpepper eBulletin, December 2007.
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