A salary survey gathers information about employee compensation, which can typically include salary, bonus, benefits, or some such combination. In conjunction with other strategies and tools, human resource professionals and business leaders can use a salary surveytool to attract top talent and retain their star employees. Once on board, a salary survey can take the guesswork out of annual salary increase planning.
On a broad scale, compensation surveys are conducted by the National Compensation Survey, or NCS, and published once per year by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This national survey provides detailed data on earnings, from a occupational, sector, national, regional, and metropolitan basis.
On a less broad scale, state governments, public companies, and private organizations conduct online surveys for compensation benchmarks in order to develop pay scales for their own employees. These types of surveys not only provide the average salaries for a given position, but also the highs and lows.
Many large companies regularly conduct salary surveys to determine if the prevailing rate of pay and benefits is still in line with what they are offering. Organizations may choose to purchase a salary survey, or a growing trend is for organizations to hire a survey company to design a custom-made salary survey using sophisticated survey software.
Keep in mind, that when designing or reviewing any salary survey, it is important to compare apples with apples to obtain the most meaningful analysis. In other words, the criteria and assumptions should be the same or very similar. Common criteria include:
- job description profile - what are the job duties and responsibilities?
- region - is the region in a high cost of living area?
- bonus - is bonuses included in the salary figures?
- retirement - is 401K or pension benefits included?
- benefits - are health care benefits or other benefits included?
- company car - is a company car figured into the salary numbers?
- overtime pay - is overtime pay included in the salary figures?
- size of company - all things considered, larger companies may have a higher operating budget.
- education level - do the education levels match up to yours?
- experience level - do the experience levels match up to yours?
- year data was collected - how old is the data?
- one-time survey event or update - trends can provide even more enlightenment than a one-time survey.
Because labor market changes can happen rather quickly, it is important to esnure your salary survey data is current. Obviously, the most recent compensation information will be the most useful to base salary planning decisions on. Over time, repeated salary surveys have an extra advantage of showing trends in salaries through the years.
When designed properly with online survey software and implemented correctly, a salary survey provides a beneficial benchmarking survey tool that organizations can use to compare salaries and benefits and develop their own competitive salary structure accordingly.