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Jim - Perhaps the diminishing salary survey data is due to the changing workplace environment, where job descriptions, if they exist at all, tend to be short lived. The combination of challenging economies and rapid change may have created a 'what the market will bear' pay philosophy, and being 'competitive' is whatever someone says (thinks) it is. Frankly, many organizations don't have a pay philosophy to guide their reward practices, which makes survey data less meaningful. Moreover, the speed with which business models are changing require current, up to date information, and traditional salary surveys can't compete in that environment. The internet is quick, easy and mostly free, so despite the questionable veracity of the data, many will use it simply because its there.

All of these dynamics will require comp professionals to take a fresh look at how they manage their pay systems. To be relevant they must respond to the business and employees they support, and employ highly creative practices to address the compensation needs of their current and future workforce.

Jim this is indeed troubling and I hope it doesn’t spread.

John makes a good point about traditional salary surveys not being updated quickly enough to match the demand for new data (especially in the uber-competitive tech space). Certainly this requires HR and Comp professionals to think on their feet about how to supplement mid-year as business situations change and/or new job families are created/evolve.

By the same token, I'm a firm believer that the traditional surveys are STILL the backbone any solid compensation program. There are times when I can’t buy every survey on my wish list. When that happens I still make a concerted effort to supply my data, however time-consuming. Obviously this helps maintain the health of the overall survey database… and it allows me to claim a discount later in the year if it turns out there’s some extra money in my budget. Some surveys are pleased enough with this dedication to offer a free cut of data in exchange for my efforts. (This doesn’t happen often, but it’s always appreciated.)

John and Windsor both make good valid points. Yes, there are many contributing causes behind the decline of credible surveys, but that simply places more weight on those few still surviving. "Free" open-sourced data have severe limitations, because anonymous numbers cannot withstand any serious challenge. Furthermore, remember the old saying: "there is no good price for bad data."

I thought that EVERY survey that solicits participation offers a participant price discount. But I guess there are still some around that don't.

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