Trying to find market data for some jobs may seem a little like searching for a needle in a haystack—tedious, time-consuming, and marginally successful. Often, the problem isn’t that no data are available but in how we’re look for them, says BLR’s Senior Compensation Editor Sharon McKnight, CCP, SPHR.
A Job by Any Other Name
“We sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that every job title in our organization should be included in every salary database. That’s not a very realistic view and it’s time to face the ugly truth—they’re not and they probably never will be,” McKnight says.
That doesn’t mean that a hefty percentage of your job titles can’t be found in most salary databases. It just means that not all job titles are common to all organizations, so the data for them may not be obvious in every salary survey, she notes.
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Picking Out the Pieces
When scouring any salary database, including BLR’s, it can help to search using keywords instead of job titles.
For example, if you’re looking for salary data for a help desk technician, you’ll have better luck finding pertinent data if you search using the keywords “support” or “computer.” Keywords can usually be determined by looking at a job’s primary function(s). For example, a help desk technician provides user support for computer systems.
Job Titles Are Directional Signs
“If you’ve been working in compensation for very long, you know that you can’t rely solely on a job’s title to ensure that the salary data for it is valid for your position,” McKnight says. “Job titles can point you in the right direction to find applicable data but you have to dig into the details of the job you’ve found to make sure it’s a good match for your position before you use its market data.”
Using keywords to search for jobs helps ensure that the data you find will be relevant. Whenever possible, review the job description for the job you’ve found before deciding to use its data. Even the summary description provided by most surveys is a better indicator of a match than just the title.
A good rule of thumb is that if the job description matches 80% or more of your job, it’s a strong match. If it matches less than 70%, it’s not a match—so you need to keep looking for a closer match for your position.
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Added to the issue of job title variation is the reality that many jobs are really a combination of multiple functions. For example, they can start out being one thing and end up being quite another. New responsibilities, sometimes not related to the original job, can be added that broaden the scope of a position and, in effect, make it another job altogether.
Even when a job doesn’t morph into a completely different creature, adding responsibilities can alter the position enough that salary data for only the base job doesn’t paint an accurate picture of its market value.
In those cases, blended job data is a good solution for more accurate salary data: Essentially, you blend the salary data for multiple jobs into one composite position—a pretty easy task.
Tomorrow—what to do if you’ve tried all the strategies above and still find yourself coming up empty, plus we introduce the new interactive webinar, Compensation Metrics: How to Analyze Pay and Make Better Decisions.