Most people have a reasonable feel for what they should be paid, though for some it’s not the most important thing keeping them in their role. For many others, however, falling disposable incomes make salary a question of increasing significance. In most organisations, prospects for pay rises look bleak and even if you’re lucky enough to get one, it probably won’t outpace inflation.
Comparing salaries is an inexact science and it’s important to look at the total packages to get the full picture. Here are five ways you can benchmark what you earn against people with similar roles. While none of them can give you precise answers (there are too many variables), taken together they should provide you with the most complete picture available.
Register for job alerts
Pick 10 organisations similar to your own and register for job alerts in roles identical to your own. Create an email address specifically for this and let the alerts begin to stack up. Set up a calendar reminder prompting you to check that email inbox every six months.
By that point, you should have enough to scroll through and see the remuneration packages being offered. This approach works best for larger organisations. If you work for an SME, you will need to register for alerts from good HR job boards (like Changeboard) or directly with specialist agencies. You might have to filter them manually for similar-sized organisations.
Talk to recruitment firms
Make sure you know who the real recruiters are for your seniority level, skill-set and discipline. Make contact with two or three and ask them about demand and remuneration expectations for someone with your career profile.
Any good recruiter should have an acute sense of what you’re currently worth in any given market. After speaking to your three sources, take a median figure for the most accurate view.
Make sure you know who produces the most authoritative and credible data for you sector. The HR trade press and websites of the larger international reward/compensation consultancies (eg Towers Watson or Mercer) are good starting points.
Remember, though, what you find will most likely be average pay rather than upper and lower ends of the scale or additional non-salary benefits. And if you’re a ‘high potential’ employee, you’ll need to add 15-20% to the top figure.
Make friends with a reward professional
If you know someone who works in reward for a non-competing organisation, ask if you can access some of the tools of their trade, such as those offered by Hays.
Keep track of fast-paced developments
As in many other walks of life, technology is driving transparency, so keep yourself up to date with what’s happening. For example, US-based Payscale offers what it claims is the world’s largest, real-time database of 35 million global pay rates. While I can’t vouch for this personally, it offers a free summary report or a ‘premium’ version with more variables for just $19. You can now also log on with your LinkedIn account and automatically see a salary report based on what similar professionals are earning. It’s certainly worth a closer look.
Once you have accurate data on where you sit in the market for the role you perform, you can then decide whether to negotiate with your employer or look more actively on the open market. If you choose the latter, consider potential targets based on the market challenges the employer faces, the opportunities offered by a potential new role in that organisation and your cultural fit.