Compensation surveys – the ultimate buyer checklist

Compensation surveys – the ultimate buyer checklist

Maybe you are expanding into a new country, or you need complementary information on top of the one you already possess in your markets. So you are considering participating to a compensation survey.

Beyond the price and reputation of the provider of compensation data, here is a checklist, in no particular order, of what you may want to consider when making your decision :

  1. Which industries are represented and what are the other participating companies ?
  2. What is the timeline for submission and publication of results ? How does it fit your regular, planned Compensation & Benefits activities ?
  3. How long has the survey existed ? And how stable is the database of participating companies ? You want to ensure that data is comparable from one year to another, and also that that the survey provider is able to maintain long-term relationships with their clients. Big changes in the database (for example, the loss of a large company or two, and the entrance of multiple small companies) can impact the level of the compensation results quite significantly. Also, losing lots of participants every year or two may be a sign that you need to consider whether there is a customer experience issue, or a lack of data integrity, or some other problem that you should be aware of before making a decision in full understanding of the situation.
  4. Is it possible to get a peer cut if you want (to compare to a smaller set of competitor/benchmark organisations) and what are the rules for obtaining that peer cut ? A peer cut to be ethical, should comprise no less than 11-13 companies (otherwise you can identify a specific company results), and to be relevant, should comprise no more than 25-30 companies (otherwise the results are not relevant enough).
  5. If you are “late” the first year and express interest after the deadline for data submission, will they sell you the results provided you commit to participate to the next upcoming round?                                                  

  6. Is the survey local or international ?
  7. Do they train you in the job matching methodology and if so, how ? A collective presentation is good, but individual training especially in the first year of participation, is really helpful.
  8. What kind of support exists if you have questions while preparing data submission internally ? Email and phone are the minimum. Some providers will also send a junior representative to support you and your team in collecting and preparing/formatting the data for submission.
  9. What kind of quality checks do they put in place to ensure apples are compared to apples ?
  10. What kind of data is covered in the survey and is it relevant to you ? For example, don’t take a survey mostly focused on Long-Term Incentive Plans , especially if you don’t have one / don’t plan to put one in place soon.
  11. Do they cover policies as well as pure raw data ? This may be especially relevant considering certain allowances and benefits.
  12. What format of results will you receive ? For instance, I insist on getting an Excel file back with the data I submitted along with the survey results for each position I submitted (ie multiple columns added at the end). This allows for internal simulations and analysis, at a more detailed level like by nationality, gender, job family, BU, for support functions etc
  13. In terms of survey results, graphs with your data points and the Q1, median and Q3 are good to have for overview and presentation to top management.
  14. Will the market results include all companies including yours (all participants receive the same data) or are the results tailored to each company (it means that (market data = all companies – yours) so each company receives different results ?
  15. Will you receive a soft copy as well as paper version ?
  16. Will there be a presentation of survey results ? If so how will it take place ? A meeting with all participants for a debrief, networking opportunity and hearing from the community for suggestions of improvement ? And/or one-on-one presentation sessions at your company’s premises ?
  17. And finally, evaluate the innovation or exclusivity factor. This is why beyond the “big” survey providers, you should also consider providers like for example McLagan if you work in the Financial Services industry, Comptryx if you are in the high tech area, or Birches Group if you have employees in emerging countries or are looking for an unusual mix of NGOs and multinationals.

What other elements do you consider when you start your purchasing cycle for compensation surveys ? Is there something you find important for choosing to which survey you will participate ? Please share them in your comments below !


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