estimates that at least one employee in ten has viewed compensation
information on the Internet within the last year. That number is
expected to grow, as salary sites have become a routine component
of both the job search and the career management process. In response
to questions from HR professionals about what to do when an employee
knocks on the door with a salary printout in hand, Salary.com has
prepared this advice for and from employers on responding to online
probably is no way for employers to prevent employees from using
salary sites, and no advantage to doing so. Besides, organizations
that pay at or near the market can benefit from third-party validation
of their practices. So HR professionals should consider directing
employees to the most accurate sites, with an explanation of why
those sites are good. An HR professional should explain why the
data might not be perfectly in line with data for their organization's
reference group. Employees will respect an honest assessment of
the information available on various sites. For credibility, companies
should not direct employees to sites that provide unilaterally low
figures just as they wouldn't direct employees to sites with inflated
Companies should anticipate that knock on the door Companies
should assume that employees will eventually walk into the office
with a salary report detailing market pay for their job. That way,
when it inevitably happens, the employer can be prepared and avoid
seeming defensive. The best response is to show openness toward
the employee's research. The company should use the opportunity
to open a dialogue about the organization's pay philosophy, how
pay is determined, how pay and performance are related, and how
employees are matched to benchmark jobs.
Companies should look at this is a great opportunity to educate
the employee, open the compensation "black box," and become a trusted
HR representative. Often the individual's real concern is not just
pay. The employee wants to be heard.
An HR representative should listen and look for cues that the employee
is concerned about fairness, performance, promotion, etc. An HR
representative should start by asking the employee which salary
sites he or she looked at. The employee can be referred to other
sites more frequently used by the company with an explanation of
why. Regardless of the site, the job description used should be
looked at carefully. Employees often match to job titles rather
than to job descriptions, so the HR representative needs to be able
to explain why it is important to match to job content rather than
representatives should visit sites themselves Employees will tell their coworkers about the salary sites they
find valuable, so it is important for an HR professional to become
familiar with the sites workers most frequently reference. It is
important to note the strengths and weakness of the most common
sites as well as to be comfortable explaining the difference between
the data and methodology used in the company compared to what the
Web site uses.
surfing the sites, keep an eye out for warning signs that signal
a bias or that introduce problems interpreting the data. For example,
vague job descriptions are a major cause of confusion within salary
sites. Beware of language like, "responsibilities too numerous to
mention" or "cannot be classified." Also, look for words and phrases
that communicate a bias, e.g., "are you underpaid?" or "are you
the data in its context Chances are that companies are most likely to hear from employees
only when they find a higher salary than what they are earning,
so it may seem as though data from online sites is high. Another
reason the data might seem higher is that the job description may
not be a match. Self-reported data is most likely to be exaggerated
on the high side (whether intentionally or by inexperienced benchmarkers).
Data published by recruiters may appear high because it represents
the top of the market for a given job. Regardless of the source,
some sites report lower data because they use older data and/or
do not age it. Knowing when and where the data originated can provide
information about what is being reported and how relevant that is.
consideration with online data is that the numbers may not bounce
up and down from one year to the next the way they do in surveys.
The reason is that the population within a survey can change from
one year to the next, altering the corresponding year-over-year
pay figures. Some online sites aggregate data from numerous sources.
These sources naturally tend to be smoother because a high data
point one year will tend to go lower the next, and vice versa, in
a regression to the mean. Some online data sites also adjust for
anomalous data points. They remove, adjust, or correct inconsistent
online data that meets your standards HR professionals can use online data provided that the data
is valid and that it is used appropriately. Certainly companies
should use online data published by currently used offline sources;
its appropriateness has already been determined for the business.
In addition, new data providers may also have data that can be used
if their methodology and sources meet established criteria. Many
sites, for example, are useful for quick spot-checking of other
information. Companies should use ones that they like, understand,
and have validated. It is also encouraged to call or email the site
publisher if anything is in need of clarification. Professional
standards should never be sacrificed for convenience.
should validate an online compensation data source as if it were
any other source - print or otherwise. The accuracy of the data
will speak for itself. So it is recommended to use multiple, like
sources whenever possible, comparing the unfamiliar source's data
to familiar, trusted sources. Also, reviewing the methodology and
determining whether the data comes from a poll, a survey, a meta-survey,
or market pricing is important. Companies should assess the "comp"-etence
and the agenda of the data provider.
Companies should educate employees through the new salary negotiation
The arrival of online data has sparked new conversations between
HR professionals and employees in businesses nationwide. These new
salary negotiations are part of a process of educating the workforce
to understand compensation principles such as the link between pay
and performance. In an ideal new salary negotiation, employer and
employee will follow a process similar to this one:
Agree on a benchmark job.
on the employee's proficiency and performance level.
on the market value of the job.
on where the employee's salary should fall.
on what performance is necessary for future salary increases.
for a win-win.
Bill Coleman, Senior Vice President of Compensation- Modified 11-15-2004