Tag: compensation management


Birches Group has been monitoring the volatile economic conditions in Sri Lanka and wants to provide updates on the current labor market conditions happening in the South Asian nation. 

The past few months have not been easy for Sri Lanka, and the condition has only worsened. The country has been facing economic, political, and social crises due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, rising foreign debt, and a depreciating rupee. According to a news report from BBC, the country’s inflation rate is now at 54.6% as of June 2022. Our August 1 Market Monitor shows that the exchange rate movement against the US dollar, Euro, British pound, and West African CFA franc in the past six months is at 79%. Moreover, after protests forced President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to flee to the Maldives and Singapore, Sri Lanka is in a state of emergency. 

Losing skilled talent 

These are challenging times for employers and staff in the South Asian island nation. It has been noted that there is an increasing number of skilled and educated Sri Lankans—from IT experts to hospitality and marketing professionals—who want to work overseas, where they can maximize the rupee’s devaluation and survive hyperinflation. According to Manusha Nanayakkara, the minister of labor and foreign employment, almost 168,000 Sri Lankans have registered to work abroad. Many intend to work in the Middle East, particularly in Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). An independent survey conducted in November 2021 by the country’s Institute for Health Policy reveals that 1 in 4 Sri Lankans wanted to emigrate if they had the opportunity. This ratio has increased to 1 in 3 in July 2022.  

Compensation in Sri Lanka and the Middle East 

Our July 2022 multi-sector survey indicates that compensation ranges in Middle Eastern labor markets are significantly higher than in Sri Lanka. Our survey results show that the average annual salary ranges for support staff at Birches Group Level 6 in Sri Lanka receive a minimum of US$ 5,810 and a maximum of US$9,896, while a senior professional at Birches Group Level 10 receives a minimum of US$ 14,246 and a maximum of US$ 23,517. In Kuwait, support staff at Birches Group Level 6 would be paid approximately seven times more, between U$ 48,054 and US$ 76,418, while a senior professional at Birches Group Level 10 would receive between US$ 108,420 and US$ 153,708. As the chart above indicates, the figures are even higher in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. 

Next steps for employers 

Birches Group’s Market Monitor categorizes labor market conditions according to levels of volatility, with Level One as the lowest (reporting standard market conditions and market movement between 0–20%) and Level Six as the highest (where the country has reported labor market collapse, departure of most comparators from the market, and absence of reliable data on currency and inflation). In our most recent Market Monitor, Sri Lanka is now at Level Four, where labor market conditions reflect sudden, unexpected social or economic events, currency devaluation of 50% or more in six months or less, and there is disjointed and unclear comparator response. When the labor market becomes volatile, such as what we are seeing in Sri Lanka, organizations should place policies and procedures to keep pay programs functioning and to maintain business continuity. 

To avoid losing skilled employees leading to brain drain, organizations in Sri Lanka must address the situation by establishing a Special Measures Policy. Through the Special Measures policy, employers can define the appropriate triggers within labor market conditions that warrant a change or update in salaries and benefits. These triggers, in turn, outline what organizations will do to help cushion the impact of hyperinflation on their people.   

How can we help 

We at Birches Group have extensive expertise in developing Special Measures Policies for organizations across different markets and sectors. Contact us today to find out how we can create one for you. 

References: 

  • 1 August Market Monitor Report 

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.


Now that your salary scale and benefits package is ready, the final step is implementing your new scale and communicating the changes to your teams. Equipped with your analysis and overall cost implications against your budget, you will now need to secure the necessary approval from management.

When seeking approval, begin by presenting any existing issues with the current salary scale and the challenges your salaries are facing against the external market. Take management through your process when you built your new salary scale, making sure to highlight:

  • The chosen salary survey you used as a basis
  • Your chosen set of target comparators that met your criteria
  • The difference of your existing salaries against your target market position
  • The steps you have taken to address the current issues and build future capacity
  • The overall cost

Finally, you also need to present to management your implementation plan and the timeframe that it will require, so they can assess the entire impact of the new scale.

Once approval has been granted, the next step is communicating the changes to staff. This is a crucial process because you will need to equip your managers with the right information for them to relay later to each of their teams or units. When discussing the changes with your staff, keep these in mind:

  • Discuss the work that went into building the salary scale and be clear on the company policy that supports the steps you have taken. This will ensure that your managers will be ready to answer any questions or reactions their staff may have.
  • Be clear about your implementation plan, what staff can expect, and when. This way, you can manage everyone’s expectations and hopefully have them feel excited about the changes that are soon to take place.

With the steps we have shared on implementing your new scale, we hope this has provided you with the insight you need to get started in designing your own pay structure. Birches Group is always ready to help organizations create a salary scale that will work for them. Contact us to learn more.


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.


Now that you’ve created your salary scale and examined your benefits package; the next step is adjusting your scale. Refining your scale will be a trial and error process until you get as close to your target as possible. There are several factors that will affect the impact of your scale, both externally and internally, so it is crucial to keep these in mind every step of the way.

When we think about external factors that affect the impact of your salary scale, factors such as average market movement, your budget, the number of incumbents per grade level in your organization, as well as the overall cost all need to be considered. When you start allocating adjustments for each grade level in your scale, using the average market movement and your budget, you can start adjusting your scale’s minimums and maximums, while keeping the number of incumbents per grade level in mind. Once you have gotten as close to your target market position as possible, check if your adjustments are all within budget. If not, keep adjusting and tweak where necessary.

While adjusting your pay ranges, you also want to keep in mind the issues that your existing salary scale has and how your changes will best address them. Are your hiring rates competitive at the job levels where you need more capacity? Do any of your existing staff fall below your current hiring rates? Similarly, do you have staff that are currently paid beyond the maximum salaries of their grade level? Do you make use of your salary ranges per grade level or do you find many of your staff clustered in certain points in each grade? Remember, adjusting your salary scale is not simply about updating salaries following market movement. It is also about making corrections where you know there are inefficiencies in the current pay structure.

Just as important as reaching your target market position and being competitive externally, is your team’s internal cohesion. Once you have reached your desired salary scale results, give it another look to see if everything makes sense. Pay close attention to your internal parameters, such as the progression from one grade level to the next, and see if the overlaps are reasonable. Examine your spans – the difference between your minimum and maximum salaries – as well and see if they align with the nature of each job level within your organization. Also, you will need to see how each of the adjustments you made will affect staff at every grade level. Checking for fair internal cohesion will ensure strong staff engagement to which they can tailor their development and build their careers over time.

Designing and refining salary scales is both a technical exercise and a sensitive one. As managers in human resources, we must realize that without an efficient salary structure in place, along with a solid job structure, achieving a strong engaged workforce will always be a challenge. And while we know that the salaries we set will not always make everyone happy – someone will always want higher pay, someone will challenge your chosen set of target comparators, and perhaps ask why they cannot have more benefits – what is important is making sure that the policies that went behind designing the salary scale is clear and communicated to staff. To learn more about how Birches Group can help you design a salary scale fit for your organization’s needs, contact us today.


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.


Analyzing your benefits package is a step that can’t be missed. In many labor markets around the world, benefits are an essential part of total compensation. Particularly in developing markets, some benefits are mandatory, others may be cultural, and some given to address certain realities on the ground. Whether you are a local organization or an international one, it is essential to have a policy that aligns with your market’s local conditions.

Additionally, benefits are also an important part of a company’s Employment Value Proposition (EVP). Determining which benefits your company provides, the frequency it is provided, and grade levels eligible to receive them can be used a strategy to attract and retain talent, showcase company culture, and be seen as an employer of choice.

Once you have aligned your total compensation against the market, designing your benefits package will begin by ‘backing out’ your benefits to arrive at just base salary. From there, you can assess which benefits to keep and maintain, and which ones to change.

When examining your benefits package, here are three things we suggest you keep in mind:

  • What benefits are considered mandatory in your market? – different countries have different mandatory benefits. Some countries have mandatory bonuses on top of base salary, others may have mandatory housing or transportation allowances, while others have government-mandated health and pension contributions. As an employer, you will need to follow what is prescribed by law, especially if you are an international organization.
  • What benefits are common practice in your market? – knowing which benefits are commonly provided by most employers in your market can also help when designing your benefits package. Of course, it is not necessary to follow every single benefit provided. But those that are given by majority of the companies could be considered and examined further against your budget and policy.
  • What benefits are considered tax-advantageous to your staff? – depending on your market, some benefits can be considered taxable and others non-taxable. When thinking about benefits, employers can provide contributions or cash benefits that do not trigger a tax deduction from staff or maximize its non-taxable portion as much as possible.

Further, when designing your benefits package, employers also need to think about the grade levels that each benefit will apply to. Unless it is mandatory, not all benefits need to be provided to all grade levels and in the same manner. There are some benefits that are given to certain grade levels due to the nature of their jobs. Incentive-based benefits and representational benefits are more common for roles in managerial levels, while cash allowances and transportation benefits are more commonly provided to general and process-based grade levels.

Benefits can also be used by employers to encourage desirable behaviors from their staff. A classic example is using performance bonuses to reward achievement and a job well done at the end of the performance year. Another is the use of loans, seniority allowances, or even company-sponsored savings plans to promote staff retention. Sometimes, companies also hold activities that foster workplace culture among their employees, from team lunches, happy hour, to corporate social responsibility events. In our many years of conducting salary surveys and collecting data from employers in over 150 countries, we have certainly seen a lot of creativity from employers when using benefits that highlight their unique company culture.

When analyzing your benefits, we must remember that, in the end, benefits are cheaper than salaries. Base salary, bonuses, and allowances all come from the same internal budget, so every dollar that goes into providing more benefits will take away from the budget for other components of your staff’s employment package, such as pension and salary increases.

Birches Group can help your organization design a benefits package that aligns with your policy while meeting local conditions. Contact us to 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.


Measuring your market position is a critical step in building your salary scale. Once your target comparators have been narrowed down and the target percentile has been identified, analyzing your salaries against your chosen external market to arrive at recommendations that will frame your overall pay structure is when strategies around recruitment and retention begin.

There are several ways to go about measuring market position. Here are some steps that you can consider:

  • Focus on Salary Ranges – salary ranges provide a more stable and realistic view of the labor market, rather than using incumbent salaries as a reference. We know that incumbent salaries are person-based, and rates can vary significantly depending on who is sitting in those roles. When building a salary scale, salaries need to be based on the nature of the job and the value the organization is willing to pay for it with reference to similar job levels in the external market. Further, incumbent salaries are extremely volatile especially in developing markets. Using salary ranges provides context and is based on actual market movement, as well as serving as ‘bookends’ that can take away outliers in your analysis.
  • Assessing Your Market Position – when measuring market position, a common approach is to average all benchmark jobs in the same grade level in your organization, while also considering the number of incumbents associated with each data point as the weighted average. Using the recommended salary survey in your compensation policy, you can then begin to measure your market position for each grade level using your findings and assess them against the external market.
  • Less Emphasis on Occupational Variance – over the years, too much importance in terms of pay has been placed on certain occupations simply because they are considered ‘hot jobs.’ But the truth is, occupational variance, when measuring market position, is not as meaningful as you think. When assessing pay, adjustments are applied to the salary scale, which is generic, and not to specific occupations. Moreover, market data results would sometimes report higher pay for certain industries giving an illusion that those functions are paid higher than other jobs of similar levels in the market. But what that higher number simply means is that there are more data points reported for those specific roles, therefore pulling the overall average compared to other jobs with less data points reported.
  • Do Not Forget the Four Job Clusters – in our previous article, It Starts with Jobs, we discussed that the labor market does not move at the same pace for all grade levels. This is especially true in developing markets. In our Community approach, we believe that the labor market has four job clustersGeneral, Process, Design, and Leadership – each one moving at different paces depending on the availability of talent in each unique market. In highly dynamic markets, it is common for grade levels found under the Leadership cluster to move much quicker than grade levels under the General, Process, and Design clusters. Due to the specific skills required and level of contribution expected from the Leadership cluster, jobs at these grade levels are usually harder to recruit therefore resulting to significantly higher differences in pay. On the other hand, jobs under the General, Process, and Design clusters are more widely available which explains the more gradual pay movement. Since this is the reality in most labor markets, it follows that setting pay should not just be one number but instead, requires a more tailored approach depending on the organization’s needs and objectives.

With the steps that we have recommended when measuring your position against the market, we must not forget that internal cohesion between grade levels is just as important when building your salary scale. Being able to balance external competitiveness while maintaining fair pay relativities internally is what organizations need for an effective and well-designed pay structure. Birches Group is ready to help your organization design a salary scale that meets your needs. Contact us to learn more.


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.