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I agree, but then what? I normally use surveys as reference that may guide to a thoughtful pay decision, to validate a Pay Range or to job price a new job, etc. I've always seen Surveys just like that: a bunch of data with a lot of technical imperfections and inconsistencies (scope, industry, role) across different regions, aiming to fit within a consistent methodology... Do not rely on them as your Bible, but as a reference; team with HR recruiters (in and out) to grasp more fresh-real data from prospects/candidates and you will have more validation points to whatever your up to in Comp.

Excellent piece, Jim. Straight to the mark. The cowardice angle is especially telling, as it's so much easier to say, "It's not my idea, it's what the surveys say." All the while pointing the finger at everything but themselves. That's not leadership, but it's awfully tempting to those without the self-confidence to stand up for what they believe is right. My mother used to say, "If Billy jumped off a cliff, would you follow him?"

Rodrigo: You are a smart user and probably carefully explain the limitations of those sources to your managers. Using input from HR recruiters illustrates your wisdom, since they have more current insight about the real market for precisely those whom you seek as employees. Just keep on truckin'.

Thanks, Chuck. Let the readers also note that, no, we did NOT coordinate our posts so your quite timely related article would appear the next day!

I agree with Chuck. "Whenever in doubt, let's do a survey". I must admit that I am surprised about how 'sparse' the comments about your piece are on this blog.

Is anybody 'hiding' out there?

Welcome back, Jay! Missed you while you and Pat have been traveling and otherwise having fun.

Perhaps everyone simply agrees with the points already posted and sees no need to pile on. Alternatively, maybe it is a situation where the readers have no choice in the matter, given the endless stream of management directives to "see what others are doing" covered in my ancient http://www.compensationcafe.com/2013/10/forgive-dumb-questions-1.html article. Could be embarrassing if agreement brings a negative backlash from Above.

Of course, data from recruiters carries its own set of problems. Contingency fee-based recruiters will self-interestedly push the highest-priced candidates they can get you to accept. And as we are now being instructed (and in Massachusetts are about to be legislated), asking candidates about their salary history perpetuates the "gender wage gap".

Double-true, on both items, Tony.

Always found the "Thomas Quarter" survey to be quite overstated. Much easier and more profitable for them if/when gullible hiring managers accepted their figures as nominal. Like the old College Placement Office association's "accepted rate" figures. (As if anyone would take the middle or normal offer amount, when given a choice!)

And research has proven that systemic discrimination is perpetuated by reliance on tainted salary history. Affirmative Action programs did little for women and other less overtly visible protected classes. Mark my words: some day, sexist terms will be banned from bios and resumes. They also facilitate illegal bias.

As a matter of curiousity, what is a "less overtly visible protected class"?

Oh, like those over age 49, religious minorities who don't wear identifiable attire, many handicapped, etc. The majority of the workforce belongs to some protected class.

That does invite the question of how one is supposed to discriminate against an individual whose protected class characteristics cannot be discerned. (Elizabeth Warren's Native American ancestry comes to mind.) But that may be a topic for a different forum than this.

Let's say I shall be back in a 'limited' fashion. I fear that my opinions have offended some who visit here and I am sorry for that.

Surveys often create change to copy others rather than because of some business or staffing reason that makes better sense. It is better, I guess, to follow the lemmings over the cliff rather than think through the business issues that really should drive change.

Sarcasm like your lemming statement is just what we need, Jay! Seriously, professionals should not resent alternative thinking but should strive to accept it, consider it, debate it and at least recognize it as sometimes appropriate. It is determining exactly WHEN it is right to use that is the real trick ... but you lose any opportunity to apply a different approach if you thoughtlessly reject it out of hand. We need open minds for the best solutions.

One last post on this one from me . . . .

One of the reasons (I believe) for the research from Ed Lawler's CEO constant 'finding' that HR folks are not nearly as 'strategic' as they think they are is the reliance on surveys to replace a business view of how best their specific organization can approach a business goal that requires help from talent.

"Follow the leader" is just not proving to be the best way to gain advantage through the deployment of talent. To 'win' it is often necessary to match a custom response to a specific business challenge.

This is such a great subject area to explore and this blog has some very good people adding value. (Even you, Jim)

Thanks again, Jay. I will really enjoy correcting the typo in your last comment, too. ;-)

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