Month: September 2021

composition and position from the salary survey

Understanding the importance of determining your composition and position from the salary survey can improve the way your organization can move forward with your salary scale

Salary surveys are an important tool and step that managers use when building or refining their company’s salary scales. This helps managers establish and set appropriate compensation and benefits within their organization based on information provided by other employers present in the labor market. Current salary surveys offer different methodologies to capture market data, each one with differing employer samples, compensation and benefits information collected, and more importantly, varying approaches to job evaluation. All these are important factors to consider when selecting the right survey to use when building your salary scale.

Often, especially in large labor markets, there has been a preference among many employers to go with the salary survey that has the biggest employer sample. While this approach may seem reasonable, the reality is that many of the employers in the survey will not be relevant comparators, especially if they do not compete with you for the same jobs or share similar characteristics as your organization.

After establishing your compensation policy, creating your job structure, and participating in your chosen salary survey, determining your composition and position in salary surveys is the next crucial step towards building your salary scale.

Selecting the Right Comparator Group

Composition refers to the composition of the market used to establish your competitive position. Many employers will say, “We want to be at the 50th percentile of the market.” Composition answers the question, “50th percentile of what market?”

When designing your scale, you should establish a refined comparator sample, made up of employers important to your organization. Your compensation philosophy should identify the number of comparator organizations to be selected and the criteria they must meet to be included in your market comparison. Examples of criteria to consider include:

  • Talent competitors (those you recruit talent from and lose talent to)
  • Industry peers
  • Organizations of the same size or in the same geographic location
  • Other leaders in your market outside of your sector

Keep in mind that participants in a survey can change each year, with new ones added and old ones dropped. The key is having consistent criteria that ensure, even with a changing survey sample, your selected comparator group is consistent and still sufficient to meet your requirements.

Targeting Your Market Position

Once you have narrowed down your target comparator group, you will need to identify your desired market position. Position is the expression of how competitive you wish to be against your defined market – your target market position. The 50th percentile, or median, is a common target. That means you will be right in the middle of the pack. Is that where you need to be to reach the talent you wish to recruit and retain? Is it the same for all levels of the organization?

Before deciding on a percentile, it is important to refer to your organization’s pay policy. This will ensure that your resulting analysis aligns with the standards approved by your management, is credible, and is easily defensible to stakeholders. Selecting your target market position also depends on whether you wish to lead, match, or lag the market.

If you match the market, you are anchoring your salary scale to where the market is today. With lead or lag positions, you are deciding to either get out in front of the market or trail behind. A simple way to lead is to estimate the market movement from the date of your scale for a period of time forward — typically a year. This ensures your scale is competitive even as other employers adjust their compensation during the same period. A lag position is usually not desirable, as you will be trying to constantly catch up to your peer organizations.

If your organization is facing challenges to recruit or retain talent, you should reassess your target market position and adjust it to ensure your organization is positioned competitively against your chosen market. Sometimes recruitment and retention issues are limited to specific grades or bands. While some organizations may use the same target market position for all grade levels, labor markets are not uniform and do not move in a linear fashion. Certain grade levels can move faster due to high demand, hot skills, or other considerations. Organizations can choose a more competitive target market position for job levels where these talent challenges exist.

Finally, do not forget to consider budgetary resources. Whatever steps you take in the design of your structure need to be made with the cost impact in mind.

Understanding the importance of determining your composition and position from the salary survey can improve the way your organization can move forward with your salary scale. Hopefully, with this information, organizations will feel more informed and empowered to build one of the most important tools in human resources management. Birches Group conducts salary surveys in over 150 countries around the world and uses a simple and straightforward job evaluation approach to ensure consistency throughout. Through our surveys, we help organizations design salary scales that will fit their needs. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you get started.


Bianca manages our Marketing Team in Manila. She crafts messaging around Community™ concepts and develops promotional campaigns answering why Community™ should be each organization’s preferred solution, focusing on its simplicity and integrated approach. She has held various roles within Birches Group since 2009, starting as a Compensation Analyst and worked her way to Compensation Team Lead, and Training Program Services Manager. In addition to her current role in marketing and communications, she represents Birches Group in international HR conferences with private sector audiences.

Follow us on our LinkedIn for more content on pay management and HR solutions.