What is a Salary Benchmark Job in Compensation?

by Connor Harrison - June 17, 2019
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A salary benchmark job is defined as a job that is widespread across many industries. For example, Accountant is a benchmark job. Some companies may title the job Bookkeeper or Financial Planner. But if the job descriptions for these roles are the same, they would each fall within the benchmarked job of Accountant.

Compensation surveys use benchmark jobs so that participating organizations can be consistent in reporting compensation data for their employees. They also assure workers doing the same job are paid comparatively to other workers, even if they have different job titles, and even if they are at different companies.

Compensation surveys are invaluable for establishing accurate and effective hiring processes. However, compensation surveys cannot tell you exactly how much you should pay your employees.

Salary benchmark jobs will give you an idea of what similar companies pay their employees in similar positions to your unique roles. To find the right job match, we recommend your organization look for benchmark jobs whose content matches 80% or more of the content of your internal job description.

For instance, Business Development Representative and Sales Representative may seem similar based on job title alone, but a comparison of the job descriptions might reveal one job or the other is a better match for your internal position.

Salary benchmark jobs are usually defined in terms of employee category (e.g., management, individual contributor), department (e.g., sales, marketing), and level (e.g., entry, intermediate). Each of these buckets reflect a common organizational structure so survey participants can more easily match jobs.

What Surveys Have Salary Benchmark Jobs?

Salary benchmark jobs are used in a variety of employer-reported surveys. Among a few of the most common are:

  • Government surveys – The Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes data for certain jobs and geographic areas, but this usually appears as raw, uncut data. Organizations will often use subscription and custom surveys to meet more specific salary benchmark job data needs.
     
  • Subscription surveys – These are typically published by a third-party survey publisher who collects, analyzes, summarizes, and reports the results on an annual basis. Participating organizations will usually pay a fee to have full access to the report, but can also request specific cuts of benchmark job data (such as based on location, industry, or company size).
     
  • Custom surveys – These are similar to subscription surveys, but are conducted less frequently and tend to be limited to a niche group of participants (such as in a specific industry, e.g., healthcare). Salary.com has its own set of custom surveys which deliver a tailored look into data for specific jobs in local markets or specific peer groups.

Why Benchmark Jobs Don’t Mesh with Self-Reported Surveys

In subscription or custom surveys, employers or HR professionals are reporting data for all employees in specific jobs. But in self-reported surveys, employees report their own compensation data – usually online.

Self-reported data is typically considered less reliable than employer-reported data since:

  • Employees are not as skilled at assessing their own job levels and matching them to that survey’s specific scopes.
  • Data cannot be easily verified by the vendor.
  • Data of this type is often rounded.
  • Entrants occasionally enter bogus data while filling out a form to receive free content as a reward, such as a white paper, webinar access, or online article access.

Ultimately, it is very difficult to know if self-reported data represents the market overall. As a result, specific salary benchmark job data in self-reported salary surveys is not as reliable for compensation management.

Salary benchmark jobs are the compass by which companies can understand a survey and begin the job benchmarking process. Both the Salary.com consumer wizard and CompAnalyst platform for small businesses and enterprises utilize curated, HR-reported data from surveys to generate the most accurate price points available.


Download White Paper – Establishing a Small Business Pay Program:

Download our white paper for more information about salary benchmark jobs and the initial steps organizations should take to establish a pay structure.

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