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How to Benchmark Salaries: A Guide for HR Leaders
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HR + Payroll Software

How to Get Compensation and Salary Benchmarking Right

One-Minute Takeaway

  • Salary benchmarking ensures that an organization’s pay practices remain competitive by comparing and adjusting salaries based on industry standards and market data.
  • Benchmarking is important for businesses to remain competitive in attracting top talent.
  • There are different types of benchmarking, including internal, external, and hybrid, which provide valuable insights and help maintain internal pay equity.

The race to attract top talent in today’s competitive business environment is not for the faint of heart. Talent acquisition professionals, HR leaders, and managers must consistently evaluate their compensation strategies to ensure they remain competitive. This is where salary benchmarking plays an essential role. This practice ensures that an organization’s pay practices remain competitive by offering valuable insights into pay trends, enabling you to make informed decisions and create a well-structured compensation strategy. In this article, we’ll explore the importance of salary benchmarking, factors to consider, the process involved, and the benefits it brings to your organization.

RELATED: [Webinar] How to Drive Retention with Compensation Planning

What Is Salary Benchmarking?

Salary benchmarking is more than a data collection exercise. It’s the process of comparing and adjusting salaries within an organization based on industry standards and market data. Benchmarking involves analyzing internal compensation packages, pay factors, and market rates (both regional and industry) to ensure that your business offers competitive pay.

Can Small Businesses Use Salary Benchmarking?

It’s a myth that compensation benchmarking is only valuable for larger corporations. Small businesses, operating with tighter budgets, can gain significantly by ensuring they offer competitive salaries. This ensures they attract high-quality talent without overspending. Having salaries benchmarked can also come in handy when it comes to salary and benefits negotiation with a candidate. With complex organizational structures, varied job roles, and a larger workforce, big corporations can also use benchmarking to maintain internal pay equity and stay competitive in the talent market.

Types of Benchmarking

There are several types of benchmarking that you can use to gather salary data. Internal benchmarking compares salaries within your business to help ensure consistency and fairness across roles and departments. External benchmarking compares salaries against industry competitors, offering insights into market trends and bolstering competitiveness. Hybrid benchmarking combines both internal and external data to create a comprehensive view of salary structures.

Should I Hire a Consultant for Compensation Benchmarking?

There are pros and cons to hiring a consultant versus trying to benchmark salary data in-house.

  • In-House Teams: While they have intimate knowledge of the company’s culture and needs, in-house teams might sometimes lack both a broader industry perspective and the valuable commodity of time.
    • External Experts: Consultants offer an outsider’s perspective, free from internal biases. They often come equipped with proprietary data and tools that can enhance the benchmarking process. However, their services come at a cost, so you’d need to weigh the benefits against the investment.

Data Collection and Job Matching

To conduct effective pay benchmarking, up-to-date, reliable data is key. Job matching is another critical step in the benchmarking process. It involves comparing job descriptions, responsibilities, and required skills to ensure accurate comparisons. Job leveling also plays a significant role in this process, as it helps align job roles and responsibilities across different organizations.

A wide array of salary market information is at the disposal of HR professionals and managers:

  • Average Salary: This common metric reveals where a particular role’s compensation compares to the industry or regional mean.
  • Salary Range: These ranges span the minimum and maximum salaries a specific role might command in the marketplace.
  • Market Rate: A real-time snapshot, these data focus on what employers are currently paying for a particular role.

So, where does this information come from? Several sources are pivotal for comprehensive salary benchmarking. Industry reports such as Nation’s Restaurant News and Industry Week; HR surveys such as SHRM and American Payroll Association; and specialized consulting agencies such as Salary.com and Payscale often produce data. Some organizations also choose to participate in mutual data-sharing agreements with their peers.

It’s important to note that different industries may have unique characteristics and market dynamics that influence salary benchmarks. Stay updated on job market trends, such as emerging roles (think self-driving car mechanic and AI prompt engineer) or skills in high demand, to ensure your organization remains competitive in attracting and retaining top talent.

But remember, job matching isn’t only about the title—its about responsibilities, duties, and the skill sets required for the role. When benchmarking, several other important factors come into play:

  • Experience Levels: Two marketing managers can have vastly different sets of experience, influencing their earning potential.
  • Education Level: An employee with a PhD might command a higher salary than someone with a bachelor’s degree, even in the same role.
  • Geographic Location: A software developer in Silicon Valley will earn much more than one in a smaller Midwest city because of cost-of-living variations.
  • Company Size: Multinational giant corporations have deeper pockets and pay scales compared to local startups or small businesses.

With job leveling, roles are then categorized and ranked based on responsibilities and complexities. This process results in like-for-like comparisons, adding even more precision to your benchmarking process. For example, an Engineer I at one company is being compared to a role with similar responsibilities at another, rather than a more advanced Engineer II or III position. Beyond external benchmarking, job leveling is an essential tool for maintaining internal pay equity. It ensures that employees within the company with similar responsibilities and skillsets are compensated fairly in relation to each other.

Analysis and Actionable Insights

Once the data is collected and job matching and leveling is complete, the next step is to analyze your findings. This analysis provides actionable insights into pay trends, enabling you to make informed decisions about salary adjustments and compensation strategies. By identifying gaps and discrepancies, you can then address pay equity issues and ensure fair compensation practices.

Legal and Ethical Considerations

When conducting salary benchmarking, it is essential to adhere to legal and ethical guidelines to ensure compliance with labor laws such as states with salary history bans, anti-discrimination regulations, and data privacy laws. Protect employee confidentiality and data security by anonymizing data and using secure platforms for sharing information.

How Often Should You Benchmark Compensation?

This is one of those questions that gets an “it depends” answer. Benchmarking is definitely not a “set-it-and-forget-it” endeavor. For industries with relatively stable roles and job descriptions, an annual review can keep compensation packages aligned with market rates. In fast-paced sectors, like technology or finance, roles evolve rapidly. Here, more frequent updates ensure that new positions or skills are appropriately benchmarked.

Pay benchmarking is a vital tool for organizations to create a well-structured compensation strategy and remain competitive in the job market. By comparing salaries against industry standards and market data, you can ensure fair pay practices, attract top talent, and retain valuable employees. Engaging in the benchmarking process can enable actionable insights, address pay equity concerns, and make informed decisions about compensation adjustments. With the right data, analysis, and adherence to legal and ethical considerations, salary benchmarking can be a powerful tool in elevating your organization’s success.

How Paycor Can Help

If you’re ready to take control of your compensation strategy and ensure fair pay practices, this salary benchmarking resource can be your guide. Get started with our innovative payroll software and elevate your organization’s success with Paycor.

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