If you work in international HR, you know how important market data is for the management of your international operations. Finding reliable data in all of your countries is undoubtedly a challenge. Each country has different survey suppliers, different employers participating in the surveys, and variable levels of quality. So naturally, when you find a survey you trust, the tendency is to stick with it. But is one survey enough? I don’t think so.

Two Surveys Provide A Balanced View of the Market

Typically, your “go-to” survey has several characteristics:

  • It reflects the market in which you compete – the participants are the ones you are most often look for, usually from the same sector. It’s the survey “everyone” is in.
  • It’s the one that “corporate” designates (and pays for) – sometimes it’s not the best, but you have to follow headquarters instructions, and besides, it doesn’t hit your budget.
  • It’s the survey you’re used to – why bother exploring another option when you’ve finally mastered this one?
  • The survey results are OK – you’ve never had a problem using the survey, well, except a few times when some of the data was a bit suspect, but overall, it’s fine.

These are some of the typical reasons why companies participate and rely on surveys year after year. But these same reasons often stand in the way of exploring additional options.

They say two heads are better than one. While I have yet to meet a two-headed individual, I have worked with a lot with surveys, and I can attest to the fact that two surveys are better than one!

There are many reasons for this — here’s just a few:

  • Some key employers might be missing – by participating in another survey, you will get an alternative group of employers and therefore, a broader view of the market. If your main survey is a sector-based one, try a general market survey to complement your sector data.
  • Survey methodologies vary – and this means the results from another survey could be different. Different could be good – it will challenge you to dig deeper and try to understand the differences. Perhaps the alternative survey provides more details in certain areas, such as non-salary allowances and benefits in-kind, or uses a unique valuation for benefits.
  • The results might actually be aligned – maybe the data from the two surveys match closely. That reinforces the conclusions you may have already reached and raises the confidence in both surveys as a result.
  • The results might be totally different – thus allowing you to explore the full extent of the market options. Is it the employer group that causes the difference, or the methodology? How do you know which survey is right?

The answers to these dilemmas, of course, vary according to your unique situation. Which country? Which sector? How great are the differences? You have to explore to find the answer for your company.

So Look Beyond Your Old Reliable Survey

Challenge yourself to participate in at least two surveys. Make sure that they focus on different aspects of the market and bring a unique perspective. Analyze the data carefully and apply your judgement to incorporate data from both perspectives. Soon you will find you have a better understanding of the market.

If you need a first or second survey source for your international locations, be sure to check out Birches Group surveys. We cover 148 developing markets, more than any other global provider, updated three times a year. Together with Aon Hewitt, our marketing partner, we cover the world.

Warren joined Birches Group in New York as a partner in 2007, following a long career in Compensation and Benefits at Colgate-Palmolive. He held the position of Director, International Compensation for 10 years immediately prior to joining Birches Group. Warren has broad experience working across the globe with clients on local national and expatriate compensation projects. He leads our Business Development and Client Services teams and manages our strategic partnerships around the world. Warren previously held leadership positions for the Expatriate Management Committee of the National Foreign Trade Council and was president of the Latin America Compensation and Benefits Forum.