Tag: compensation


Birches Group monitors labor markets that are making headlines worldwide and wants to share news and updates on the current conditions in these markets.

The White House released in August 2022 the US strategy toward Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Its renewed policy supports four main objectives, including advancing pandemic recovery and economic opportunity.

A priority and opportunity

SSA is of growing importance on the world stage. Comprising 49 countries, the region is a geopolitical priority and an emerging economic opportunity. SSA countries hold roughly 25% of United Nations General Assembly seats. Moreover, the region is integrating into the world’s largest free trade area.

The US Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration describes SSA as presenting real opportunity, with indicators such as:

  • A combined market population of over 1.2 billion people (that is expected to double by 2050),
  • A gross domestic product of more than US$1.5 trillion, and
  • Home to some of the fastest-growing economies in the world.

The World Bank reports that economic activity in the area is set to expand by 3.6% in 2022, 3.9% in 2023, and 4.2% in 2024. Additionally, its young population makes SSA an attractive investment destination. Massive demographic shifts in this part of the world provide tremendous opportunities to create jobs, boost incomes, and reduce poverty, especially in a global environment of slowing growth.

China and its growing influence in the region

The world is well aware of Africa’s importance, encouraging countries to expand their political, economic, and security engagement with African states. In the past 20 years, new actors, such as China, have been shifting dynamics across SSA. And Chinese influence in the region is real and significant.

In 2001, China received less than 3% of the region’s exports, compared to nearly 19% for the US. In 2009, China overtook the US as SSA’s largest trading partner. Almost 20 years later, China has emerged as the region’s single greatest export partner, holding an 11% share of exports in 2019, while the US share dropped to 5%. China’s Belt and Road Initiative has invested in SSA through transportation, power, water supply, and other infrastructure projects. China has also provided loans, investments, and aid.

The US reframes its Sub-Saharan Africa partnership

The US is responding to growing foreign activity and influence in SSA and is engaging a region undergoing significant transformation. “It would be a strategic mistake for the US to abandon its engagement with SSA altogether—especially as US adversaries and competitors are relentlessly increasing their investment in the region…” said Daniel Runde, Director of the Project on Prosperity and Development, and Sundar Ramanujam, Research Associate of the Project on Prosperity and Development at the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS).

Biden’s policy differs from those of previous administrations because it focuses on overhauling its relationship with SSA from donor-recipient to genuine partnership. “Biden’s team extols Africa’s strengths and is proposing US-Africa partnerships on a range of issues,” said Mark Bellamy, Senior Advisor of the Africa Program at CSIS.

Further, Devex reports that the strategy has generally been well-received and is seen as sending a strong message about US engagement in the region. “It’s a strategy that reflects the region’s complexity—its diversity, its power, and its influence—and one that focuses on what we will do with African nations and peoples, not for African nations and peoples,” said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken as he announced the strategy.

It’s also an effort to make regional engagement authentic and not just a battleground to compete with China and Russia. “Too often, African nations have been treated as instruments of other nations’ progress rather than the authors of their own,” added Blinken in his announcement.

Why this matters to employers

With the intent of the US to reestablish ties and reinvest in SSA, employers with a presence in the region can anticipate a significant shift in the labor market in years to come. Monitoring the labor market as early as possible is critical for your organization to seize economic opportunities and remain competitive. Keeping an eye on market shifts enables your organization to plan and make informed decisions about hiring, pay management, employee benefits, and more.

How we can help

We at Birches Group survey leading employers in over 150 countries with a consistent methodology designed for dynamic, emerging markets across SSA. We survey labor markets of varying sizes, focusing on employers that set trends. Get updated and relevant data on every country in SSA. Speak with our consultants today to understand our data and how you can use it for your organization.

References:


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. 

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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.

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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.


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 

Birches Group has been keeping an eye on economic conditions in Ghana and wants to provide updates on recent developments in the West African nation. 

One of West Africa’s more prosperous countries has been rocked by a cost-of-living crisis. Inflation in Ghana reached 29.8% in June 2022, the highest level in two decades. The Guardian reports that food prices have risen by 30.7% since last year, and energy costs have sharply climbed. Transportation costs have also gone up. 

Our August 1 Market Monitor further indicates that the Ghana cedi has seen an exchange rate movement of 34% against the US dollar, Euro, British Pound, and West African CFA Franc in the past six months. As inflation persisted and broadened, hundreds took to the streets of the capital Accra to protest the deteriorating economy. 

President Nana Akufo-Addo has stressed that the economic challenges the country is facing are the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine. The government is seeking a support package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which visited Ghana in July. In a July 13 statement, the IMF said that such adverse developments “have contributed to slowing economic growth, accumulation of unpaid bills, a large exchange rate depreciation, and a surge in inflation.” 

What the labor market indicates 

The Ghanaian labor market exhibits rapidly evolving market conditions. 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 latest Market Monitor, Ghana is classified as Level Three, where there are rapidly evolving market conditions, movement of more than 40% in the last 12 months, and multiple reviews and revisions are typical amongst comparators. While the surge of inflation has been swift in the country, labor market data has not moved as fast.  

Based on our salary survey analysis, no labor market movement was observed in July 2021.  

The chart above shows labor market movement in Ghana against reported inflation rates from July 2021 to July 2022 based on Birches Group’s multi-sector salary survey. As seen in the chart, labor market movement significantly increased in 2022, but inflation rates have always been much higher and moved at a faster rate from 2021. We believe this is because inflation or the cost of living is not directly proportional to the cost of labor. 

Next steps for employers 

When labor market conditions become volatile, such as in Ghana, organizations should establish policies and procedures to keep pay programs functioning and maintain business continuity. Through a Special Measures Policy, organizations need to determine the appropriate triggers based on labor market conditions that demand an update in salaries and benefits. Organizations must also decide how they plan to implement the next steps for their staff. Employees need to know that they can count on their employer to assist them amid the burgeoning crisis. 

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 

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.


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.


Organizations typically provide a range of pay for each job. And what these pay ranges represent is the value an organization places on experience within a grade level. Traditionally, pay ranges are divided into steps or increments awarded on a fixed calendar schedule. When an employee moves up a step, this usually indicates satisfactory performance was achieved. But what often happens is that organizations move staff through the steps simply because another year has passed.

While the general belief is that over time, with experience, the value of work carried out by an employee should increase, we know this isn’t always the case. Organizations can have staff who have been in their roles for ten years but only show minimal progression or improvement in their quality of work. Other times, an employee can be in a job for less than two years, but they learn fast and deliver timely and quality outputs proving an increase in tenure does not always equal an increase in the value of work.

The question managers and supervisors should ask is, “How can we measure experience without relying on time or tenure as a proxy?” “And if we continue to award pay increases each year to staff, how can we determine that the knowledge of our staff also grows at the same pace?”

The lack of an approach to move staff through the pay range continues to be a challenge for many organizations. And while the alternative approach to steps applied by many organizations is to use merit increases as a basis to manage pay movement, we know that this approach is just as flawed.

In our article, Pay for Performance is HR’s Biggest Epic Fail, the problem with using performance as the basis for pay movement is that it rewards an employee’s one-time achievement through a salary increase even if we know that their performance may not be the same the following year. Further, the rubric designed to determine increase differentials among staff is often so minimal that it has no impact and does little for employee retention.

We all know performance management can be tedious and difficult. But we all also know that they are important. So, what’s the alternative? In Birches Group, we have a different approach, and it is simpler than you think!

WHY SHOULD YOU ASSESS YOUR EMPLOYEES’ SKILLS?

We believe that pay movement should be linked to skills growth and knowledge. It is known that as one learns and develops further into their roles, they acquire more experience and skills that allow them to deliver faster, better-quality work. And because skills are accumulated and cannot be unlearned, there is a sustained value to the organization making it a more reliable basis for salary increases.

But beyond pay management, assessing the skills of your staff will also greatly support your organization’s strategies around capacity building and career development. Knowing the skill level of your entire workforce enables managers to identify and create the necessary initiatives that will help close existing skills gaps and facilitate the movement of staff, either deeper into their grade or promotion to the next higher level.

In our next articles, we will go deeper into our approach to measuring skills and how it can support many of your talent management programs from pay movement, learning and development, and recruitment and career planning. 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.

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