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I'm sure many of us read this with our hands waving in the air. Yes! Yes! Other data elements we find important are how the survey cuts the data in terms of regional scope and the regression analysis methodology. We look for specific regions that match our labor pool criteria by job (e.g. managers = national, nurses = within the state, clerks = within the region) and we tailor certain jobs to our revenue/beds using regression. Too often we're approached with a magazine article that uses national data skewed by the small number of participants, heavy on the coastal regions that inflate the numbers significantly. Bravo for another great observation!

Ann,

Excellent comments and recommendations on the pay data quality battle. We have found certain well-known internet based pay data providers to be 20%+ above market pay means. It is prudent and efficient to have a market pay study policy process. Quality market salary data is becoming harder to obtain due to rising costs and an unwillingness by the HR Pros to complete numereous requests for internal pay means and range information. Job matching is critical if the organization seeking market pay data does not have an internal job valuing process. We really encourage our clients to utilize the combination of an internal job valuing process and a healthy amount of market pay comparisons as possible.
Blair

Amy:

I appreciate the enthusiasm - glad you found the post "on message"!

And thanks for the added emphasis on matching up to your organization's defined labor pool. Not enough to just have quality survey data, it must be quality survey data that captures the right labor market.

Blair:

You bring up an important point going forward - quality market survey data is becoming harder and more expensive to obtain, just when (and perhaps in some part because) the market is becoming more and more dynamic and fast changing. This will have interesting implications going forward, for sure ... but that's the topic of another post...

Thanks - both - for sharing your thoughts and comments!

Why not counter the employees data with your own valid data?

You suggest, "Sit down with the employee and review their information together to ascertain whether it meets the organization's criteria." Nowhere do you suggest being sure your own data are valid or criteria anything but arbitrary.

When presented with the typical outlandish number found on the internet ("so it MUST be true!") with mysterious or self-nominated sources, refer them to http://bls.gov/bls/blswage.htm where the Bureau of Labor Statistics hosts its free OES and NCS survey data. Updated versions of government data covering thousands of jobs titles are also available in the free online calculators at http://SalaryExpert.com which uses national statistical office data (BLS in US, StatsCanada, NatnlStatsOffice in UK, etc.) and presents the original source data. It is never as high as commercially-collected industry/size-specific data, but the authority of federal pay data cannot be contested.

Roland:

Good point. I guess this post starts with the assumption that you have your own data act together - but if not, certainly that is the place to begin!

Jim:

Thanks for the tips and the links here - helpful!

Hay Group has some more on this subject, through an article in Workspan last year - http://bit.ly/cGnKmv

For me, the "garbage in, garbage out" rule applies particularly well when looking at salary surveys - and that means it is well worth spending the extra time needed to get job matching or job mapping right.

Thanks, Benjamin. This post wasn't meant to address the overall market pricing, survey quality process - a very important topic and deserving of its own separate treatment. This simply represents a few thoughts to help HR and compensation pros in dealing with employees who bring in their own independent pay data.

Certainly we - as the professionals charged with pay system design and management - have an obligation to ensure that we are building on a strong foundation of quality data. I appreciate the link to the well-written Hay article on the topic. I have also written a number of posts here addressing this, which readers might find helpful to revisit, including...

http://www.compensationforce.com/2010/03/dont-short-shrift-the-review-of-your-market-data-set.html

Thanks for adding to the discussion!

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About The Author

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    Compensation consultant Ann Bares is the Managing Partner of Altura Consulting Group. Ann has more than 20 years of experience consulting with organizations in the areas of compensation and performance management.

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