July 17, 2015
Finding market data for tough-to-find jobs

By Sharon McKnight, CCP, SPHR

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Trying to find market data for some jobs may seem a little like searching for a needle in a haystack—tedious, time-consuming, and marginally successful. Often, the problem isn’t that no data is available but how we look for it.

A job by any other name

We sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that every job title in our organization should be included in every salary database. That’s not a very realistic view and it’s time to face the ugly truth—they’re not and they probably never will be.

That doesn’t mean that a hefty percentage of your job titles can’t be found in most salary databases. It just means that not all job titles are common to all organizations so the data for them may not be obvious in every salary survey.

Picking out the pieces

When scouring BLR’s salary database, it can help to search using keywords instead of job titles. For example, if you’re looking for salary data for a helpdesk technician you’ll have better luck finding pertinent data if you search using the keywords “support” or “computer.” Keywords can usually be determined by looking at a job’s primary function(s). For example, a helpdesk technician provides user support for computer systems.

Job titles are directional signs

If you’ve been working in compensation for very long you know that you can’t rely solely on a job’s title to insure that the salary data for it is valid for your position. Job titles can point you in the right direction to find applicable data but you have to dig into the details of the job you’ve found to make sure it’s a good match for your position before you use its market data. Using keywords to search for jobs helps insure that the data you find will be relevant. Whenever possible review the job description for the job you’ve found before deciding to use its data. Even the summary description provided by most surveys is a better indicator of a match than just the title.

A good rule of thumb is that if the job description matches 80% or more of your job then it’s a strong match. If it matches less than 70%, though, it’s not a match and you need to keep looking for a closer match for your position.

Evolving jobs

Added to the issue of job title variation is the reality that many jobs are really a combination of multiple functions. For example, they can start out being one thing and end up being quite another. New responsibilities, sometimes not related to the original job, can be added that broaden the scope of a position and, in effect, make it another job altogether.

Even when a job doesn’t morph into a completely different creature, adding responsibilities can alter the position enough that salary data for only the base job doesn’t paint an accurate picture of its market value. In those cases, blended job data is a good solution for more accurate salary data. BLR’s Salary Finder makes blending salary data of multiple jobs into one composite position a pretty easy task.

Finding the right slot

So, you’ve scoured the salary survey database and still can’t find a job that matches your position. You’ve used every keyword you can think of and even broken the job down into its key components to create a blended job but can’t find enough relevant jobs to include. That’s okay. Not every job in your organization is going to be included in any given salary survey. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t have valid market data for that pesky position.

If you have valid market data for all of the benchmark* jobs in your organization and have organized them into a job worth hierarchy (ranked lowest to highest), you can now slot the non-benchmark jobs in. These jobs are slotted into the hierarchy based on their overall value to the organization in relation to the market.

At least 50% of the jobs in your hierarchy should be benchmarked using market data but the fewer jobs “slotted” in your structure the better.

Setting expectations

Market pricing jobs can be a challenging process but a bit less so when viewed from a practical perspective. As a general rule, find as salary data for as many of your jobs as you reasonably can using the salary survey data available to you and “slot” in the remainder. Remember, though, to never slot in more than 50% of your jobs because the more slotted jobs in your job worth hierarchy, the less confidence you can have in its validity.

*WorldatWork defines benchmark jobs as positions that are “commonly found in many organizations and used to make pay comparisons, either within the organization or to compare to jobs outside the organization. They are used for making pay comparisons to develop or validate a job worth hierarchy.”

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