Job Descriptions

Should You Meet the Market, Lead It, or Lag It?

In yesterday’s Advisor, consultant Michael Strand began laying out seven key steps to move to market pricing. Today, the rest of the steps, plus news—your job descriptions are rewritten and ready to go.

Strand, owner of consultancy HR Dynamics Inc., offered his seven steps to successful market pricing at a recent webinar hosted by BLR/HRhero.

[Go here for steps 1 to 4]

5. Choose Your Rate

Let’s say that in analyzing market data, you come up with a market rate of $61,400 for an Office Manager position, and a 75th percentile of $70,900. Now you have another compensation philosophy decision:

  • To meet the market, make the market midpoint of $61,400 the midpoint of your position’s range
  • To lead the market, set your midpoint between the market’s midpoint of $61,400 and the market’s 75th percentile of $70,900
  • To lag the market, set your midpoint below the market’s midpoint of $61,400

Lagging more than 10% below the market is not recommended, says Strand. He also suggests being wary of bringing a new hire at the 75th percentile. However, he notes, you may a “mission critical” position or a position in which you have a lot of turnover, and maybe that suggests hiring at the 75th percentile.

If you do start a new employee at that high level, be sure you have good business reasons for doing it, he cautions.

6. Calculate Your Range

Now say you decide to select the “meet-the-market” rate of $61,400 as the midpoint for the Office Manager position. Then you have to select the range; that is, determine how far the minimum and maximum will be from the midpoint.

There are conventions/practices regarding ranges. Typically the entry positions have a smaller range (35% to 40%). And executive positions have a larger range (65% to 75%) because of the learning curve. More specifically:

  • CEO—80%+
  • Executive/VP—65% to 75%
  • Managerial—55% to 65%
  • Supervisory—45% to 55%
  • Technical/Skilled—40% to 50%
  • General Clerical/Entry—35% to 40%

Following are the multiplication factors that will easily identify the range minimum and maximum from the midpoint and desired range:

35% = 0.8511/1.1489
40% = 0.8333/1.1667
45% = 0.8163/1.1837
50% = 0.8000/1.2000
55% = 0.7844/1.2156
60% = 0.7692/1.2308
65% = 0.7547/1.2453
70% = 0.7407/1.2593
75% = 0.7273/1.2727
80% = 0.7143/1.2857

For the Office Manager position, a range of 50% is selected, yielding the following range minimum and maximum:


1st Quartile


3rd Quartile







Step … away … from the keyboard! Your job descriptions are already written. Click here to see why thousands of managers have a permanent place in their offices for BLR’s classic Job Descriptions Encyclopedia. For a limited time receive a FREE HR report.

7. Consider the Incumbent

Finally, you consider the incumbent. Let’s say survey data indicate the average time in position for the Office Manager is 9.2 years. The 9.2 years is a benchmark that should align with the range midpoint.

Say the incumbent Mary Smith is making $59,800.

  • If she has significantly more than 9.2 years in position (12+ years), she is underpaid … and a pay increase is indicated.
  • If she has significantly less than 9.2 years in position (4 to 5 years), she is overpaid … but no pay reduction should take place.
  • If she has about 8 to 10 years of time in position, her pay is appropriate.

Note, says Strand, that this analysis doesn’t reflect job performance, which typically also has an effect on pay levels.

Key Element? Job Descriptions

What’s the key element for all pricing? Job descriptions. Current descriptions that clearly specify the current and future requirements of the position. What’s the status of your job descriptions? Are they ready to help with planning? Are they ADA-compliant? Are essential skills delineated?

If not—or if you’ve never even written job descriptions—you’re not alone. Thousands of companies fall short in this area.

It’s easy to understand why. Job descriptions are not simple to do—what with updating and management and legal review, especially given the ADA requirement of a split-off of essential functions from other functions in the description. Wouldn’t it be great if your job descriptions were available and already written?

Actually, they are. We have more than 700, ready to go, covering every common position in any organization, from receptionist right up to president. They are in an extremely popular BLR program called the Job Descriptions Encyclopedia.

First created in the 1980s, the “JDE” has been continually refined and updated over time, with descriptions revised or added each time the law, technology—or the way we do business—changes.

700+ prewritten job descriptions in the Job Descriptions Encyclopedia now come with pay grades already attached. Click here to try the program at no cost and receive a limited time bonus.

Revised for the ADA, Pay Grades Updated

There was a major revision, for example, following the passage of the ADA. In fact, BLR editors reviewed every one of those 700 descriptions to ensure they were ADA-compliant.

Another enhancement was the updating of pay grades for each job. According to our customers, this is an enormous time-saver, enabling them to make compensation decisions even as they define the position. You can see a sample job description from the program by clicking here. (Yes, it is the one for HR Manager—Pay grade: 37.)

The BLR Job Descriptions Encyclopedia also includes an extensive tutorial on setting up a complete job descriptions program, and how to encourage participation from all parts of the organization. That includes top management, the employees, and any union or other collective bargaining entity.

Quarterly Updates, No Additional Cost

Very important these days, quarterly updates are included in the program as a standard feature—key at a time of constantly changing laws and emerging technologies. We’ll send you new or revised descriptions every 90 days. And the cost is extremely reasonable, averaging less than 43 cents per job description … already written, legally reviewed, and ready to adapt or use as is.

You can evaluate BLR’s Job Descriptions Encyclopedia at no cost in your office for up to 30 days. Get more information or order the Job Descriptions Encyclopedia.

Download product sample
Download list of job descriptions included