One of the critical functions of HR that significantly impacts an organization is recruitment. Hiring talent is a multi-faceted process with many steps. In the blog, we discuss the 4 biggest problems in recruitment and how to fix them. These steps begin with having clear job descriptions, sourcing qualified candidates, conducting job interviews, and setting the starting salary of new hires. All these steps, coupled with the lack of standards and the personal biases of the hiring panel, could be a minefield of challenges and potential pitfalls.

Areas where organizations often make recruitment mistakes include vague job descriptions focused on tasks and not effectively screening applicants based on a solid and objective framework. Without the proper structure and processes, an organization’s recruitment efforts can quickly go sideways. Instead of hiring a perfectly qualified incumbent based on their skill level, managers and recruiters typically settle for the most charismatic person who happens to apply. But how can they determine if that candidate meets the role’s requirements?

Recruiting new employees can be daunting, so organizations must ensure corporate standards when assessing talent. What if an organization’s approach to recruitment can be fairer and more transparent—with purpose-driven job descriptions, structured job interviews focusing on the candidate’s experience, a solid skills-based framework for assessing candidates, and a transparent and objective approach to setting starting pay?

This blog post will present some of the most pressing recruitment challenges faced by managers and panel interviewers—and helpful ways organizations can solve them. A hint: it’s about revamping the process.

Vague job descriptions

Job descriptions describe the purpose, scope, and impact of a job. It should be clear, concise, and, most importantly, detailed enough to provide a clear picture of why the role matters. It must describe the role’s various functions, its placement within the larger unit or team, and how it contributes to the mission.

Unfortunately, due to the lack of guidance and proper tools, managers often try to write job descriptions by creating a mile-long list of tasks.

There are several problems when job descriptions focus on a list of tasks or inputs:

  • First, a list of day-to-day tasks doesn’t demonstrate why the role is crucial to the organization. How can candidates genuinely understand what they’re applying for if they only see a list of what they need to accomplish at the end of the day or week?
  • Second, when job descriptions use inputs, this does not give the incumbent room for flexibility or creativity with their approach to work. The concept of input stems from the old days of ‘clocking in and out’ from the office every day and ensuring your manager sees you at the office to give the impression that one is working hard. But does being in the office and clocking in truly mean that work is getting done?
  • Finally, a checklist of tasks often uses vague language, such as ‘assist’ or ‘prepare,’that fails to describe the impact of the role. The use of vague language affects how the job is evaluated at the proper level and, subsequently, affects compensation, learning & development objectives, performance measures, and career milestones.

So, how can this be avoided? By writing purpose-driven job descriptions that focus on the what and why rather than the how or where. An effective job description has a clear mission statement at its core. It should describe to the candidate why the role is crucial and what it is expected to deliver.

Additionally, a targeted skills profile must be incorporated into the job description to guide the recruitment process. By indicating the desired skill level required for the job (whether Basic, Proficient, or Skilled), managers or the hiring panel can better identify qualified candidates that meet the level of expertise required for the role.

Little to no structure to job interviews

It’s not unusual for job candidates to feel they are being grilled during an interview. The hiring panel asks questions that gauge the knowledge and experience of applicants. What do they know about the organization? What are their strengths? Where are they in their career?

The problem is when interviewers only ask candidates why they want the job. When going through the typical job interview process—where interviewers often think of questions on the fly—they fail to let the candidate demonstrate their experiences reflecting the required skill level for the job.

In many job interviews, questions are not given much thought. The concern is getting through the countless resumes and long line of applicants to finally fill the vacancy. But what ends up happening is that candidates are often asked questions that have little or nothing to do with the job, ultimately leading to a bad hire.

How can organizations get around this? Interviewers must be armed with questions integrated into the job’s skills profile and following the development approach, which indicates how a skill level may be mastered.

Birches Group’s Community™ Skills Recruitment tool provides interviewers with questions linked to the selected skills profile—from Basic to Proficient to Skilled—using a competency-based model. The questions encourage the candidate to relate a real-life experience or event that illustrates their capacity to respond to a given situation.

With standardized interview questions for every skill stage at each grade level, interviews finally become job-based, structured, and consistent.

Lack of corporate standards for assessing candidates

In assessing candidates, managers or the hiring panel have never been provided standards they could use to objectively base their assessments. Often, they tend to fall back on the usual years of experience, personal preferences, and even gut feeling. Not having clear criteria for assessing candidates and instead relying on personal judgment or salary history usually lead to hiring mistakes.

Following the structured interview questions provided by our Community™ Skills Recruitment tool, an assessment can be made by scoring the candidate’s responses to the appropriate skill level for each question. Depending on the level of knowledge and experience the candidate demonstrates, the interviewer can select from either the Basic or Proficient stage. But when a candidate’s responses appear to reflect a depth of knowledge or highly refined experience, this can warrant the interviewer to select the Skilled stage on their scorecard.

Once the job interview is complete, a scoresheet with the progressions of questions and skills ratings is presented, guiding subsequent discussions on the candidate’s assessment.

A consistent set of questions linking the skill level to the job grade ensures a neutral assessment of each candidate’s qualifications without examining their salary history.

Lack of a fair and equitable approach to setting starting pay

Many organizations do not have a clear approach to determining fair and appropriate starting salaries beyond their hiring rates when setting starting pay. When there is a desperate need to fill a vacancy, managers often end up negotiating starting salaries beyond what the organization is prepared to offer. When starting salaries are determined on a case-to-case basis, the organization is left with staff paid at different rates despite having the same work and skill level. This opens managers and HR to problems like mismatched expectations, which can cause employee resentment.

Organizations need to ensure that their hiring practices are fair and equitable. If candidates are assessed based on their skill level, the same approach can be applied when setting starting pay. The Community™ Skills Recruitment tool provides a framework for managers to easily determine starting salaries based on the candidate’s confirmed skill level.

Organizations can array the salary range for each grade level against our five Community™ Skills stages. When setting starting pay for a successful candidate, our Community™ Skills Recruitment tool automatically calculates the appropriate starting salary based on the candidate’s skills scorecard during their job interview.

When the skills profile is integrated into designing the job, structuring the interview questions, assessing candidates, and determining starting pay, organizations now have a consistent, fair, and equitable approach to the recruitment process. Biases, particularly age, gender, and race, no longer become a factor, while experience can be assessed more accurately.

A final note

Organizations face many issues when it comes to screening and hiring candidates. The most frustrating is not knowing what the applicants are truly capable of. To avoid the four problems earlier discussed, organizations must rework their approach to recruitment. They need to establish standards for assessing talent. Instead of looking at tenure, degree, or salary history, organizations must engage in skills-based recruitment that links back to the job level. By taking this approach, organizations can bring consistency, standards, and equity to one of the most unstructured but crucial HR functions.

Contact us to learn more about Birches Group’s Community™ Skills Recruitment tool and schedule your demo today.


Carla is a part-time copywriter in our marketing team in Manila. Before shifting to freelance writing in 2020, she worked as a marketing and communications specialist at the offices of EY and Grant Thornton. She has written about HR and career development for Kalibrr. 

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


The labor market is constantly changing and evolving. It changes to reflect demands and pressures from different sectors, industries, and locations. New jobs emerge, old ones disappear, and wages fluctuate—sometimes due to external forces and local or regional economic factors. Organizations must stay on top of trends and monitor the labor market to remain competitive. Those that don’t keep up risk being left behind and failing to meet the needs of their people.  

One way for organizations to stay ahead is to monitor the labor market. Doing so helps human resources (HR) teams understand how their organization is affected by market movement. Reviewing and interpreting labor market data allows HR teams to address critical questions such as: 

  • How can we determine how much the market pays for similar roles? 
  • How can we competitively position ourselves against our target peers? 
  • How can we become an employer of choice in the local labor market? 

Keeping an eye on the labor market enables organizations to make informed decisions about hiring, pay management, employee benefits, retention strategies, and more.  

This blog post will explore why organizations should track the labor market and how to do so effectively. When the organization knows what is coming, it can plan and ensure it is well-positioned when the opportunity to grow strikes. 

Establishing market composition and position 

Using labor market data can help organizations clearly and consistently establish their competitive strategy, notably their: 

  • Target composition, or which group of employers are similar and more relevant to the organization. Consider organizations from the same sector, employers you lose your staff to, and organizations you often hire staff from.  
  • Target position, or how competitive an organization wants to be. Identify the ideal percentile (e.g., 50th, 75th) of the labor market the organization wishes to attract.  

Determining its target composition and position enables an organization to understand where it stands against key employers in the market. It also guides the organization on what it needs to do to lag, match, or stay ahead of relevant comparators. Organizations must consider their compensation policies and budget to establish their target composition and position. 

Setting benefits 

Labor market data also gives up-to-date insights into benefits widely provided in each country. In addition to salaries, benefits come in the form of cash (allowances and bonuses), in-kind benefits (company bus, gift baskets, company products, etc.), and non-salary benefits (retirement plans, healthcare coverage, family benefits, and leave provisions). 

As the organization reviews compensation and benefits surveys, it can easily identify mandatory, cultural, and market practice benefits, as well as benefits that address local hardships. And while salaries often attract key talent to an organization, benefits make up a significant part of the compensation package in developing markets. By providing the proper compensation and benefits, the organization can remain competitive and retain talent.  

Identifying HR gaps and making the necessary adjustments 

Identifying the gaps in HR practices is another way organizations can benefit from monitoring labor market information. Some of the few questions that organizations will want to address are: 

  • Do our hiring rates remain competitive? 
  • Are we able to retain the talent we need? 
  • Are our employee benefits competitive in the market? 

When the organization encounters talent management issues—such as challenges in attracting the right talent or holding on to staff—it may be time to make adjustments to the compensation package. 

If the organization is looking for data scientists—but hasn’t found suitable candidates—it may be time to rethink the starting salaries to ensure they are comparable to other organizations hiring for a similar job. Or perhaps the organization starts to lose staff after some time. It may need to reassess policies on pay movement, benefits packages, or career advancement to entice staff to stay longer.  

Understanding the impact of the data

Organizations need to go beyond the labor market data. They must understand how changing HR policies and practices in reaction to emerging trends, shifts, and volatility affects staff. So, the question that needs to be addressed is: Do the organization’s policies and initiatives reflect labor market changes and demands? 

A recent example would be the shift from working at a traditional office to working remotely or in a hybrid format. After years of being accustomed to working from home (in response to the COVID-19 pandemic), employees now expect flexible work arrangements—so much that they are willing to leave the organization if it does not offer the option. 

Another example is managing dispersed teams. With many employees now preferring to relocate to places that are sometimes far from the office, how will adjustments to compensation and benefits affect staff based in different areas? Should organizations still base salaries on city rates or adjust them based on where the staff chooses to relocate?

Thus, organizations need to use labor market data and its implications to help inform their policies. Other key questions that organizations need to answer when looking at labor market data include: 

  • Is our compensation program reaching the talent we need? 
  • How can we maintain our relevance in the labor market? 
  • Are there opportunities for improvement? 
  • Will changing our policies and practices help or hurt us? 
  • What are the implications of these changes on staff? 

Managing compensation even through uncertainty 

Now more than ever, organizations need to closely monitor the market. With inflation rising in countries across the globe, employees need to know that their employer has a plan to help them get through turbulent times.  

Organizations can best manage economic turmoil by monitoring the labor market coupled with a special measures policy. When volatility happens, chances are employees are going to ask HR how the organization will help their families manage their day-to-day expenses. When market conditions warrant adjustments to compensation, this is easily defensible when you have the market data to support it.   

When unpredictable events such as economic volatility, natural calamities, armed conflict, and periods of unrest affect the regular dynamics of the labor market, organizations must keep participating and monitoring labor market movement. By doing so, the organization can determine proper triggers, based on data, that would justify changes to compensation and benefits, as well as the frequency to which adjustments are made.  

Bottom line: Know where you stand 

The labor market continues to shift. It may be difficult for organizations to keep up as the market relies on changes from other sectors of the economy and events from around the world. As such, it is critical to keep track of the ever-changing landscape. This ensures that organizations adapt and adjust policies and measures to meet new demands, positioning themselves for success.  

To do this, organizations need up-to-date data about the labor market to know what conditions are like in their area. Tracking the labor market through salary surveys can offer helpful insight into emerging trends that could impact the organization. Monitoring will help employers understand current conditions to make informed decisions about jobs, the market, and skills and performance. In the end, keeping one’s eyes on the labor market helps organizations stay competitive.  

Does your organization need labor market data, especially on developing markets? We at Birches Group offer the most comprehensive salary survey coverage, with data on over 150 countries. We survey markets of varying sizes and focus on leading employers that set trends. Get in touch with our consultants to get started. 


Carla is a part-time copywriter in our marketing team in Manila. Before shifting to freelance writing in 2020, she worked as a marketing and communications specialist at the offices of EY and Grant Thornton. She has written about HR and career development for Kalibrr. 

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


Establishing fairness in pay involves careful and thoughtful decision-making that is not as straightforward as simply assigning the same salary to all employees in the same position. Staff development is never uniform. Employees develop at different paces, with some gaining skills and experience around specific areas of the job faster than others. To ensure fairness and equity through pay, employers need to carefully assess the unique skills and knowledge of each employee, while providing clarity in approach.

Clarity in Pay Through Transparency

Historically, disclosing one’s salary has always been considered private and taboo. Salaries have always been an emotional and sensitive subject, as it is typically associated with one’s value to the company.  According to this LinkedIn article, one of the reasons for keeping wages and salary ranges private is that companies want to keep the status quo. They are afraid to upset employees which can inevitably happen when pay gaps in the organization are exposed. But the reality is that every organization will have pay gaps, and a major step in eliminating those gaps is through transparency.

In recent years, both lawmakers and leading companies have been addressing gender and race-related pay gaps through laws and compensation policies. In 2006, Denmark introduced legislation that required companies to disclose wage statistics between men and women with the same job if the company has more than 10 men and women working in the same position. In this study done by Professor Morten Bennedsen from the Economic Institute at the University of Copenhagen and INSEAD Business School in France, the law appears to have decreased the pay gap between men and women by 13%. In Canada, public sector employers are required to disclose salaries and benefits of employees that are paid $100,000 or more in a year which led to a 30% drop in the gender pay gap according to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research .

In Birches Group, we too, believe and practice transparency in pay which is demonstrated through a couple of ways. First, the company’s salary scale is published to all staff. All employees are allowed to see the salary ranges not only for their grade level, but also others. Simply making our salary scale public allows everyone in the organization to see predictable movement within each grade level, the difference between one grade level to the next, and possible career progression for each role.

Second, our compensation policies on setting pay, variable pay movement, and milestones to determine promotion readiness are made clear as part of the company’s onboarding process and refresher trainings are regularly provided to all staff. When organizations make it clear how employees are paid and how they can chart their careers, staff feel more empowered to take equal ownership of the level and pace of their development, positively contributing to employee retention, while holding the organization accountable to provide clarity to their employees on how they are assessed and recognized.

Fairness and Equity in Pay by Measuring Staff’s Skills & Knowledge

Managing pay increases has always been a complicated process. People want to be paid according on their level of experience, but traditional approaches have never allowed managers to clearly measure experience apart from time (through time-based “steps” in the salary scale) or performance (through merit pay).

Using time-based steps or increments was never effective in recognizing one’s experience. As long as an employee completes another year with their employer, they get one or two steps in their pay regardless of whether they do their job or not. Merit pay, on the other hand, allows for variable pay movement based on the employee’s performance ratings from the preceding year. While this approach was designed to award pay increases to employees with good outputs and results, using performance ratings is not reliable because it doesn’t guarantee the same results the following year. When performance is used to drive pay increases, the organization is essentially rewarding an employee’s one-time achievement with a salary increase forever.

To truly establish equity in the workplace, we at Birches Group, believe pay movement should be based on the level of skills and knowledge the employee brings to the company. Over time, as an employee acquires and demonstrates new levels of skills and knowledge, their capacity to perform their job becomes better, making it a more effective and objective way to drive pay increases.

A big challenge to employers has always been how to measure one’s experience – “How do I know, what you know?” Birches Group has come up with a framework and an assessment tool that can explicitly measure your employees’ skills and knowledge. Using our Community™ Jobs approach as the underlying foundation, Community™ Skills consists of a progression of five skills stages across six indicators which is used to measure the continuous growth of an employee within their job.

Through Community™ Skills, pay management policies can be developed and aligned to use skills and knowledge growth to drive variable pay movement. Community™ Skills can also be used to demonstrate equity and fairness through deliberate developmental assignments for staff, as well as providing an objective criterion for succession planning and promotion decisions.

Pay equity and transparency in the workplace doesn’t happen overnight. Companies must take active steps to ensure clarity around pay management policies, as well as standards on how employees are assessed and developed. Birches Group has extensive experience developing compensation policies for organizations across different sectors and markets. Our Community™ Skills tool can help organizations assess the capacities in their workforce, facilitate pay movement, as well as guide learning and development assignments. Contact us to learn how we can improve your talent management programs today.


Kai works in our Marketing Team in Manila. She creates online content around Community™ concepts and assists in developing promotional campaigns answering why Community™ should be each organization’s preferred solution, focusing on its simplicity and integrated approach. She has had years of experience in social media content creation handling different brands over the years.

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


When companies need to set or review salaries, they normally use local market data as their external reference. But what do you do when there is no local market data available? This is common in smaller countries where there are not as many established employers and little to no survey providers are present. As HR consultants, we have received many inquiries on this matter and have seen companies resort to using salary data from nearby countries in the region as their proxy.

While it is understandable that in this case, companies would think that salary data closest to them in terms of proximity could be a valid alternative because perhaps countries within the same region would share similar characteristics, this is certainly not the case. We conduct salary surveys in over 150 countries, three times a year and would argue that while the country next door would have many similar jobs as your own, salary rates and pay packages are considerably different.

In Birches Group, we believe that local staff salaries should always be based on local market data. Here’s why:

The cost of labor in every country varies significantly, even if they all belong to the same region. Local conditions and availability of talent are what drive salary movement in any country. Talent that could be widely available in one market, may be very limited in another. So, when smaller markets reference their salaries against larger markets, especially if they are regional locations where wages are usually three to four times higher, those salaries would be overstated if put into the local context.

Using the example above, this is a chart that illustrates the equivalent pay range for a BG-10, a Seasoned Professional, in each of the Southeast Asian labor markets. If you are an employer in Laos and lack salary data for a BG-10 level, it would not be advisable to reference the equivalent salary range in Thailand just because you share a border with them. Similarly, if you were to apply Thailand pay ranges locally in Myanmar, not only are you significantly overpaying, but this would also be challenging to defend and maintain moving forward.

Market practice on compensation and benefits is different for every country. For some markets, certain allowances or benefits are mandated by local law, while other markets do not share the same requirement. In other countries, employers provide benefits to address local hardships, such as a company shuttle provided to staff to address the lack of public transport. But if you look at other countries in the same region, this may not be the case. Also, some countries have benefits that are cultural in nature making it unique to their market, while others could have something else. If you reference pay practices from other countries, you risk ignoring the unique conditions of your own market. See this example below:

The chart above illustrates total compensation pay packages for a BG-10 Seasoned Professional in ten countries in east and southern Africa. If you look closely, each component of total compensation varies for every country. Using the example above on pay practices, if you are an employer in Tanzania for example, the pay mix at the BG-10 level is comprised of not only cash benefits on top of base salary but in-kind benefits as well. But choosing to use salary data from Kenya because they are close and they are a regional hub, the pay mix toward total compensation is not the same. If you apply this in the local Tanzanian context, you are missing market practices on in-kind benefits compared to other employers in the local market.

So What Should You Do?

If your organization is in a small market in need of salary survey data, we recommend working with a survey provider whose methodology is designed for developing markets. Survey providers are equipped to launch local salary surveys that can bring employers the market data they need to inform their pay management policies accordingly.

Birches Group’s Community Market Compensation and Benefits Surveys are designed with developing markets in mind. And because developing markets are dynamic, our surveys cover all elements toward total compensation to give our clients the full context of the local labor market. Contact us to access the market data you need or to learn more about our subscription options.


Want to know if your existing compensation practices have the elements of a good compensation program or if there are areas that could use some improvement? Take our quick Compensation Program Assessment Quiz


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.


What is the Great Resignation? Avoiding the Great Resignation, can companies or organizations do it? The trend of mass resignation can’t entirely be attributed to the pandemic, and some might even argue it isn’t a true phenomenon. But one cannot deny the number of recent resignations mostly stemming from employee dissatisfaction.

Because of the sudden shift in the work dynamic brought by the pandemic, employees have started thinking about what they truly value. Many questioned whether they were okay with companies returning to the way things were. Others questioned if there was a ‘normal’ to return to after the last two years. But for many of these employees, there was no going back. Let’s look at some of the reasons people resigned:

  1. Lack of Autonomy – Employees want the freedom to work in a way that suits them. They want to make decisions without their managers or supervisors looking over their shoulders. Being micromanaged doesn’t communicate trust and can be highly demotivating. It also takes away the sense of accomplishment the employee can get from putting in hard work.
  • Burnout – Staff are physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted. They work long hours, and the work doesn’t give them any sense of accomplishment. Employees often struggle to find their purpose in the organization and focus on putting in the hours. Add a long commute and external stressors, and it’s a perfect recipe for burnout.
  • Inadequate Compensation and Benefits – Many cite low pay or lacking benefits as reasons for resigning. While having a competitive salary is always attractive, many now look for flexible work hours, output-based work systems, paid leaves, and work-from-home options. According to an article by LinkedIn on remote work, employers that offer remote or flexible work are better positioned to attract talent in a post-pandemic world. Work flexibility has become a top priority for employees when considering a new job.

Avoiding Employee Dissatisfaction and Being Part of the Great Resignation

Organizations can avoid employee dissatisfaction and being part of the Great Resignation through a purpose-driven organizational framework. We at Birches Group believe that organizations of all sizes and industries can improve employee satisfaction using a simple integrated method that starts with the job description.

Most organizations do not grasp the integral role that job descriptions play and how it facilitates several core HR functions. Clear, consistent, and purpose-driven job descriptions allow employees to shift from time-based work to one focused on purpose and outputs. When employees understand their work, they don’t need to be micromanaged by their supervisors. Employees can be empowered to make their own decisions and be trusted to do the job.

While it doesn’t seem like the obvious solution, clear, consistent, and purpose-driven job descriptions impact every aspect of human resources and workforce management. By taking this first step, organizations have the flexibility to structure their work model into a hybrid where employees can work from home when they need to and come to work to collaborate. At the same time, this addresses burnout. Working from home allows employees the freedom to work in a way that works for them and their lifestyle. Organizations can measure the work of their people through their outputs and focus on their staff’s skills development. Looking over the employee’s shoulders is no longer necessary. Gone are the days when employees need to clock in and out to prove they are working efficiently.

Because the importance of job descriptions is often overlooked, very few managers and HR practitioners are trained on how to write good job descriptions. Job descriptions should be more than just a checklist of things to do. A list focuses on process and individual tasks. In contrast, a good job description focuses on the role’s purpose and output.

Create Clear, Consistent, and Purpose-driven Job Descriptions in Three Easy Steps

As part of Birches Group’s larger Community™ approach and platform, our Job Design tool provides organizations clarity and ease in describing work. A good job description can be written in three steps:

Step 1: The Mission Statement – The mission statement is crucial, connecting the role to the organization’s larger mission and emphasizing why the job matters. It gives context to the role by describing the unit it belongs to, the broad function of the unit, and the position of the role in supporting the unit and its organizational objectives.

Step 2: The Functional Statements – The functional statements describe the intended functions and focus of the role. Organized using our three Community™ factors—PurposeEngagement, and Deliverywe offer guide questions and a lexicon of verbs, so each statement aligns with the appropriate grade level.

Step 3: The Skills and Qualifications Profile – The profile describes the level of generic expertise required for the role. This expertise can be specialized knowledge, experience in related fields, and language requirements that could facilitate the recruitment process for the role.

Through these three simple steps, our Community™ Job Design tool provides organizations a way to craft clear and consistent job descriptions that can easily be adapted according to the role’s job level and unit.

Good job descriptions help organizations address employee satisfaction and engagement issues because every employee wants to know their work matters. Through this first step, organizations pave the way to build an integrated, comprehensive model of work where employees know their contributions are valued.

To learn more about our Community™ Job Design tool and how it can help you create clear, consistent, and purpose-driven job descriptions, contact us.


Kai works in our Marketing Team in Manila. She creates online content around Community™ concepts and assists in developing promotional campaigns answering why Community™ should be each organization’s preferred solution, focusing on its simplicity and integrated approach. She has had years of experience in social media content creation handling different brands over the years.

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


In Birches Group, we apply a total compensation approach when analyzing salary survey data.  While we understand that many employers are primarily interested about how their base salaries compare against other comparators, we should not forget that benefits also play an important role in many markets, particularly in developing countries.

For many years, Birches Group has been conducting salary surveys in over 150 countries around the world. Our experience working with high growth markets has shown us that when employers center their decisions on base salary alone, they are essentially discounting the value benefits have in that market and its possible impact on staff recruitment and retention.

If you are working with developing market data, here are three reasons why total compensation is the best approach:

  • Pay Packages Can be Varied – Every organization has its own pay policy. This policy then guides how organizations design their pay packages. Depending on how competitive they want their salaries to be, the types of benefits they can include, and their target peer group, you can imagine how varied pay packages can be in just one single country. In some markets, benefits could be government mandated, some could be cultural, and others could address local market conditions. If all these benefits are provided by majority of your target comparators, then it would not be enough to compete on base salaries alone.
  • Market Practice – As mentioned, some benefits are considered statutory, while others are cultural in nature. It is the responsibility of the employer to know what the local market practice is and tailor their pay policy around this. Not only do you have to abide by what the law states, but also some benefits are given for historical reasons. Concentrating on just cash could make you fall short in the point of view of your staff.
  • Being Competitive – Not all organizations compete the same way. Some companies like to have competitive base salaries but not provide many benefits, while others may not have competitive base salaries but offer very attractive benefits. The only way HR can properly determine competitiveness is through a total compensation view. We believe that it is important for employers to have a “healthy” mix of base salary, cash, and in-kind benefits at every level, where pay packages are competitively aligned to your market but still following internal policy.

Birches Group surveys are designed with developing markets in mind. Our survey reflects employer practice for a wide variety of allowances and benefits, both cash and in-kind, demonstrating nuances commonly found in these markets. And because developing markets are dynamic, every country is updated on an ongoing basis three times a year, in April, July, and October. Contact us to access the survey data that you need.


Want to know if your existing compensation practices have the elements of a good compensation program or if there are areas that could use some improvement? Take our quick Compensation Program Assessment Quiz


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.


Salary surveys are an important HR tool. They are necessary for organizations to properly manage and maintain compensation every year. However, survey approaches can differ greatly from one provider to the next, particularly in the information they collect, their approach to job matching, and their treatment and presentation of employer data.

When deciding which survey data to use, it is essential for HR practitioners to familiarize themselves with the kind of information that each survey provides, the methodology behind the analysis, and the limitations that come with every approach. Here are some things to keep in mind to help organizations steer clear of typical salary survey missteps:

  • Limits When Working with Job Data – in our article, “Measuring Market Position”, we explained that too much emphasis has been placed on certain occupations just because they are considered ‘hot jobs.’ But occupational variance is not as significant as you think, especially when looking at salary surveys, because when you update your salary scale, you essentially update your grade levels – and grade levels are generic, not based on occupations. When looking at survey data, job data can be a useful additional reference if you want to look deeper into the market data. But it is important to note that job data is not what impacts your salary scale, but grade level data.
  • Limits When Working with Incumbent Data – we have mentioned in a few of our past articles how incredibly misleading incumbent data can be when used as a survey data reference. Many employers believe that if a salary survey reports actual incumbent salaries, the market data is somehow perceived as more ‘accurate’. In Birches Group, we believe that salary range data, not incumbent data, provides a more stable and realistic view of the labor market. Incumbent salaries are person-based, highly dependent on the qualities of the individual sitting in that position. When working with incumbent salaries, it is common to find outliers that significantly skew the overall market data because their individual salaries are influenced by other factors separate from the job. But when salary ranges become the reference, this provides a more accurate picture of market movement and serves as bookends that prevent outliers in the analysis.
  • Limitations When Working with Just Base Salary – some employers, when looking at survey data, tend to rest their analysis just on base salary information. The problem with this approach is that in majority of labor markets around the world, base salary is only one component of an employee’s actual compensation. To be considered as an employer of choice, you will need to look at the full package, and that includes benefits – cash and in-kind – as well as market practices on non-salary benefits such as pension, medical, etc. In some markets, benefits have a big impact when it comes to recruitment and retention. In other countries, some benefits are mandatory, some cultural, while others address local hardships.

Birches Group’s conducts compensation and benefits surveys in over 150 countries around the world. Our multi-sector approach is designed for high growth, developing markets where leading employers determine local market trends and practices. We capture data from a total compensation perspective because in many of these markets, base salary is only part of the picture. Additionally, because developing markets are volatile, our surveys make use of salary range data to provide our participants a more accurate movement of the market that is linked to the purpose of the job, not the incumbent. Lastly, our surveys are updated three times a year, every April, July, and October which guarantees our clients fresh data every time. Contact us to learn more about our Community™ Compensation and Benefits Survey in your country.


Want to know if your existing compensation practices have the elements of a good compensation program or if there are areas that could use some improvement? Take our quick Compensation Program Assessment Quiz


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.


In our previous articles, we have shared the powerful and versatile capabilities of the newest solution from our Community™ integrated approach and platform, Community™ Skills. In this article, we will go over the five steps needed to implement Community™ Skills in your organization. This innovative tool allows organizations to manage and build their capacity by measuring the skills of their workforce, tailor learning and development plans around explicit measures at every grade level and skill stage and be able to objectively recognize skills growth through pay movement, prepare for their staff’s promotion, and so much more.

So, perhaps you’re thinking, “Sounds great! But how exactly do I implement this? Where do I even begin?” “Does it really only take five steps to implement Community™ Skills in my organization?” Because there are several HR functions that will need to be aligned to the Community™ Skills approach, this undertaking will take a bit of effort. But we, at Birches Group, have gone through this process ourselves, and here are some of the steps that we have taken to get everyone on board:

  • Align your organization’s job evaluation and pay structure to Community™ – To implement any Community™ solution in your organization, we must start with your jobs. Through Community™ Jobs, we will evaluate and align your job structure to our fourteen Birches Group job levels which will be the same levels used once you carry out your Community™ Skills assessments. Once your job levels have been aligned, our five Skills stages can then be arrayed against the pay range at each grade and the corresponding pay increments can be tailored to follow your organization’s policy on pay movement and frequency of skills assessment rounds.
  • Community™ Skills training with managers – Now that you’ve aligned your jobs and pay structure to the fourteen Birches Group job levels and five Skills stages, managers will need to be trained on the concepts behind the Community™ Skills approach and a briefing for them to use the tool. Birches Group is on hand to organize this for any organization to ensure that there is a shared understanding of the principles of each skill stage and the six indicators among all supervisors.
  • Conducting your first Community™ Skills assessment round – Once all managers have been trained on the methodology and platform, HR is now ready to conduct the first skills assessment round. Managers will assess each of their staff according to their evaluated job level and all results will be collated and stored in our Community™ system. Birches Group can assist in generating individual and overall reports. HR can then calibrate the results to ensure alignment in the assessments before presenting recommendations to management.
  • Tailoring learning and development plans – Simultaneously, managers can also begin tailoring individual learning and development plans for each of their staff. Each development plan should focus its activities to help the employee advance to the next skill stage or grade level, their assignments and metrics should align with each of the six indicators, and the timeframe in between assessments should also be determined.
  • Communicating assessment results to staff – once assessment recommendations have been approved and respective movements in pay have been taken into consideration, it is time for managers to communicate the results to their staff. At this stage, it is crucial for managers to be clear about how each employee was assessed, the impact on their salaries, and their follow-up development plans. At the same time, employees can also take equal ownership and provide suggestions to supplement or refine their development plans further. This way, assignments and metrics can be more attainable for staff in between assessment rounds.

The first round of skills assessments for any organization will, indeed, be a period of adjustment. HR has a role to play in making sure that the process that went into the assessments, creating the development plans, identifying promotion readiness, and pay movement are all being communicated clearly to staff. But with the structure and transparency our Community™ Skills tool provides, staff discussions around these critical talent management activities can now be done with ease. We hope that enumerating these five steps to implement Community™ Skills gives a clear pathway on how to get started. Contact us to see a demo of our Community™ Skills tool and how your organization can get started.


Want to know if your existing compensation practices have the elements of a good compensation program or if there are areas that could use some improvement? Take our quick Compensation Program Assessment Quiz to know your score!


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.


Birches Group’s Community™ Skills is a groundbreaking solution that radically changes the way organizations manage human resources. Like the well-known Swiss Army knife, Community™ Skills is so versatile that it can support different human resources activities using one simple and integrated approach.

In a previous overview of our Community™ Skills solution, we described how our methodology, with its five Skills stages and six indicators, can easily be adapted to an organization’s pay ranges and facilitate pay movement based on actual skills growth of staff, measure the capacity of its entire workforce, and help managers tailor learning and development assignments to enable movement of staff deeper into their grade or to the next skills stage.

Because Community™ Skills links the pay movement of staff with their growth in skills and experience, this approach can also be readily incorporated into other areas of HR from recruitment to succession planning. Here are other ways where Community™ Skills can support your HR program:

  • Establishing Fair and Equitable Hiring Practices

During recruitment, Community™ Skills makes it possible for managers to target the right candidate they need by allowing them to define the appropriate skill level required for a role. From the five Skills stages, managers can select from the first three skill levels, Basic, Proficient, or Skilled, depending on the level of skill they need. And because assessments are purely based on the candidate’s skill level, setting starting salaries during the recruitment process becomes simpler, more objective, and easily justifiable.

  • Aligning Skills to Pay

With the five stages of knowledge mapped across the different points in the salary range, Community™ Skills makes it possible for organizations to fully utilize their salary ranges and manage pay clearly and objectively. As staff build skills, they move across the stages driving movement in pay within their salary grade. Personal biases such as gender, race, etc. will have no impact on the increase that an employee receives.

Community Skills- The HR Swiss Army Knife

The illustration above can be applied to most grade levels.

Staff development can be tailored at every job level to be able to push out more of the work that is essential to the organization’s success.

  • Tailoring Learning and Development Assignments for Employee Growth

Through Community™ Skills, tailoring learning and development plans become a collaborative effort between the manager and staff. Because each skill stage is explicitly defined, employees can equally take ownership of their progress by providing feedback or suggestions that will tailor their initiatives to advance their skills growth.

  • Prepare for Career Pathing

Skills ratings inform managers about promotion readiness, providing objective criteria for succession and promotion decisions.

Never has there been any other solution that can address so many HR needs with just one approach. Community™ Skills not only seamlessly connects what used to be separate HR functions, but also links each of them in a way that any organization can adapt and design their respective strategies around. Contact us to learn how Community™ Skills can work for your organization.


Want to know if your existing compensation practices have the elements of a good compensation program or if there are areas that could use some improvement? Take our quick Compensation Program Assessment Quiz


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.


Through our Community™ Skills model, organizations can finally recognize and explicitly measure an employees’ growth in skills, knowledge, and experience – their abilities to perform their job.

In Birches Group, we believe that when organizations are able to explicitly measure their employee’s accumulation of knowledge and experience, this can serve as the foundation to ensure transparency and equity for other critical talent management functions such as managing pay movement, recruitment, learning and development, succession planning, and more.

The problem is, many organizations have always applied separate approaches and tools in managing each of these critical HR activities. This is an issue because none of these approaches align with each other or even share the same standards…but not anymore.

In Birches Group, we’ve developed a better approach, and it’s simpler than you think!

Community™ Skills

The Birches Group solution for measuring knowledge and experience is Community™ Skills. Community™ Skills measures the stages of skills and knowledge linked to the Birches Group Community™ job levels.  We have developed explicit measures for each job level using the same factors and indicators that form the basis for our job evaluation methodology.

The Same Three Community™ Factors

Community™ Skills is part of our larger integrated HR management approach and platform, Community™, wherein the same three factors – Purpose, Engagement, and Delivery – are also used to assess each employee across the same fourteen Birches Group levels. A description of each of the three factors can be found in our previous Community™ article, “Just Three Things: How Purpose, Engagement, & Delivery Can be Used to Understand Your Organization and Support Your HR Programs” and how these three factors serve as the common standard of measure across all our Community™ solutions.

The Six Indicators

Each Community™ factor is then divided into two indicators. The factors and indicators are job-based and can be applied to any kind of role in any occupation in a generic manner.

For Purpose:

  • Conceptual Knowledge – What is the conceptual focus and complexity in the design of solutions? For rules-based transactions, what is the complexity of the data or information handled?

  • Applied Knowledge  – What is the breadth of managerial or project/program oversight? What is the extent of supervisory or process management as part of a larger functional service?

On Engagement:

  • Internal – What is the collaborative role within the functional team? What is the depth and breadth of information provided to the team?

  • External – What is the advisory role with other functional teams or external clients? What is the depth and breadth of information provided to other functional teams or external clients?

And for Delivery:

  • Timeliness – Efficiency: How are resources deployed against project/program needs and cycles? How are process schedules maintained to strengthen service responsiveness?

  • Quality – Effectiveness: What is the measurable impact of interventions or the functional unit? How are quality metrics maintained throughout service execution.

The Five Skills Stages

Community™ Skills uses the job levels established within an organization as the basis for defining progressive Skills Stages, which can be used to measure the continuous growth of an employee within their job. In short, it provides an explicit measure of “experience” rather than relying on time as a proxy. In our Skills tool, we have identified five Skills Stages at each grade level:

  • The Basic stage reflects the minimal acceptable understanding of the job.  Employees in this stage are capable of addressing simple issues in standard operational settings.
  • The Proficient stage reflects the level of understanding of work where more complex issues can be addressed and the employee can adapt to most operational settings, including more complex ones.
  • The Skilled stage is achieved with a complete conceptual understanding of the job and the ability to be effective in all types of operational settings.
  • The Advanced stage shows the level of knowledge that enables a high degree of independence in the job and reflects a broad understanding of concepts which overlap with the next higher grade level.
  • The Master stage indicates the highest level of understanding of the job and overlaps significantly with the next higher grade level. The level of understanding found at the master stage also allows for advising on process and systems improvements and the mentoring of others, which in turn results in better outputs and stronger capacity.

These Skills Stages were developed using the Birches Group Community™ Jobs approach as the underlying foundation.

With six Indicators and five Skills Stages, there are a total of thirty (30) milestones to measure skills and knowledge per grade.

Using these thirty milestones, a Skills assessment can be recorded over time. Staff may progress through the stages at different rates across the different indicators as this reflects the natural competencies of people relative to areas where they have skill, and how quickly or slowly their Skills grow.

As managers and supervisors observe the Skills growth of their staff, critical HR functions such as pay adjustments and determining the readiness of staff for the next grade or assignment becomes clear, transparent, and objective.

Community™ Skills makes it possible for managers to measure skills, knowledge, and experience through explicit stages and indicators making this one of the most innovative HR tools yet. Contact us to learn how Community™ Skills can work for you.


Want to know if your existing compensation practices have the elements of a good compensation program or if there are areas that could use some improvement? Take our quick Compensation Program Assessment Quiz to know your score!


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.