This is the time of year when a lot of salary surveys are conducted. However, the number of companies that conduct rigorous reliable surveys of employer wage and salary practices seem to have shrunk to little over a dozen. And not all of the few survivors have a broad enough data collection process to satisfy all buyers.
ERI Economic Research Institute
A short list is bad for our tradecraft. The current limited number of independent sources still in business supplying vital comprehensive and reliable factual data for well-informed management decision making has troubling implications.
Do we want to be left at the mercy of government pay surveys (slow, delayed, laborious, limited, non-specific, etc.)? BLS does great work, but their OES/NCS surveys have a narrow focus that doesn’t serve wider employer needs. Federal wage surveys tend to be simple head-counts by income bracket for broad occupational categories rather than collections of actual rates paid to specific job titles by employers sortable by industry and size. There are other shortcomings, too: see Why is government salary data considered to be conservative? at the top of those SalaryExpert.com FAQs. Since America is the home of the most robust pay and salary survey firms in the world, I'll keep this American and won’t even comment about the limitations of Statistics Canada data or British National Statistics Office information.
Dare we rely on indefensible sources? Internet sweepings, especially those collected from self-nominated input via possible incumbents, anonymous postings and unverified sources, have proven to be extremely inaccurate. Enterprising web marketing firms offer hearsay guesses undistinguishable from cocktail party gossip or messages etched on restroom walls. Boards of directors cannot be confident placing their trust in unverified assertions based on (at best) anonymously sourced supposed employee-volunteered input. Such sources also fail the DOJ/FTC safe harbor tests, and that makes them problematic (if not downright toxic) to top management committees and their legal advisors.
It is my intent to share a list of major salary survey candidates deserving employer input participation and purchasing support. Have I missed any good pay survey company in the United States? A few of the smaller ones almost escaped my notice because they literally did not come up on any of my random internet searches to identify firms that survey employers to collect their input on salaries actually paid.
There doesn’t seem to be any other one left standing like my employer, ERI Economic Research Institute, who does no consulting, no insurance and no actuarial services and who only publishes surveys. Or am I wrong? If I'm right, you understand why I find this shrinkage of my employer's field of competitors (while good for our business) very bad for our profession and scary in its implications. We always recommend at least three reliable survey sources be referenced for any really important pay decision, so we only want to be one of the three. But you need two others to have the tradecraft-standard three. There's plenty of room for competition!
Anyway, I’d appreciate any suggestions of firms that conduct employer salary surveys that should be added to my list.
Please, all you employers out there… participate in the wage and salary surveys conducted by these enterprises! Sponsor their pay data collection efforts, because they operate to your benefit. Give them good data (GIGO)! Buy their surveys! Keep them in business because they keep you in business.
By patronizing surveyors, you encourage healthy robust competition for quality, breadth, speed and price. If you ignore pay survey requests or abandon salary survey purchases for too long, you could end up cutting your own throat, creating a sparsely-populated supplier environment. Consultants are always happy to create a unique customized survey, but it requires a large market demand to support detailed comprehensive surveys of all employers or even to justify repeating the same limited observation sample pay survey each year. The shrinking pool of professional salary surveyors capable of producing high-quality statistically reliable results year after year is troubling. Employers may end up finding critical shortages soon. Insufficient demand may further reduce the number of independent pay surveyors, leaving compensation professionals with inadequate reliable research sources to support their recommended plans.
Support your favorite surveys, for the benefit of everyone.
E. James (Jim) Brennan is Senior Associate of ERI Economic Research Institute, the premier publisher of interactive pay and living-cost surveys. Semi-retired after over 40 years in HR corporate and consulting roles throughout the U.S. and Canada, he’s pretty much been there done that (articles, books, speeches, seminars, radio/TV, advisory posts, in-trial expert witness stuff, etc.) and will express his opinion on almost anything.
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