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July 07, 2004
Compensation Trends for 2004
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you feeling trapped in your job? Unappreciated? Are you doing the job of two people? Are layoffs a real fear and retirement a fantasy?

Well, join the club.

"Employees are the crabbiest I've ever seen,'' Sharon Koss told a session at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) annual conference and exposition in New Orleans on June 28.

Koss, president of Koss Management Consulting in Seattle, spoke on the topic of "Compensation Trends 2004."

After two years of a relatively stagnant job market, retention is going to be a problem in 2005, she said.

More than half of all employees say they are eager to change jobs, according to a recent poll by Sibson and AOL. The resulting turnover can be extremely costly: On average, it takes six months to hire a non-exempt employee and a year to hire an exempt employee, Koss said.

The lobby of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans during the SHRM annual conference and exposition.
With hiring beginning to pick up, employers have to address their workers' negative perceptions, she said.

A University of Michigan study showed that the top five factors in determining the success of an organization are, in order, energy/sense of urgency, technical excellence, company culture, a rewards system, company structure, and a strong board of directors.

Company culture is extremely important and often overlooked, Koss said. Up to 50 percent of employees who leave do so because they feel they don't fit in, she said.

A SHRM study found that for male employees, the five most important factors of a job are, in order, benefits, job security, pay, communication, and balance. For women workers, the order changes to balance, communication, job security, benefits, and pay.

To hang onto key employees, companies are going to need multiple creative solutions, which might include:

  • Fair market pay with salary ranges.
  • Communicating the reality of pay and benefits.
  • Rebalancing total compensation (fat benefits programs don't give your money's worth)
  • Offering performance appraisals and career growth
Merit pay increases are another solution, but, to be effective, they have to create at least a 3 percent difference between the average worker and the star, or else the star won't feel it's worth it, Koss said.

Other retention tools include incentive pay, orientation programs, employee recognition programs, and employee communication programs.

Koss said BLR offers 'a great salary survey and one of the best benefits surveys you'll ever run across.'
Communication is key, she said. Employees want to know what their future with the company is likely to be.

Other ideas Koss suggested included:

  • Making the most of organizational milestones and celebrations
  • Organizing fun, inexpensive, or "quirky" company outings
  • Selling the value of your benefits program to employees
  • Balancing bad news with good news (e.g., giving the Christmas week off)
To make sure that your organizational pay ranges are competitive, Koss suggested:
  • Doing a full study every two to three years
  • Doing a benchmark job update every year
  • Using a variety of surveys, including Abbott Langer, Watson-Wyatt, BLR, and, among others
"With BLR, they have, especially for smaller companies, a great salary survey and one of the best benefits surveys you'll ever run across," Koss said.

In using the survey information, it is important to match job duties, not job titles, and to use a simple average rather than the median, she said. It is also critical to use at least three surveys, she said.

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