Tag: compensation


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.


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.

Pay Management using Skills-based Approach

To effectively manage salaries, organizations need a compensation policy that will guide them during the scale design exercise. A compensation policy outlines the organization’s approach to selecting and refining their relevant comparator sample, determining their target market position, identifying which benefits to assess and include in their pay package, as well as determining the frequency of salary scale reviews. There is a misconception that salary survey data alone, can give organizations what they need to manage compensation. But in Birches Group, we believe that having a strong compensation policy, coupled with good survey data, will steer organizations in the right direction toward the answers that they need. Without a compensation policy, it will be difficult for organizations to know where to start, or what to do with the survey data that they have.

When establishing your compensation policy, a few things need to be considered, beginning with identifying one or more surveys of high quality as your source of market data. Be sure you fully understand each survey’s methodology and approach so you can easily aggregate the results in your market comparison.

Once you have your salary survey data, the next step to designing your salary scale is to establish a refined comparator sample comprised of employers important or comparable to you. While having a robust salary survey may sound ideal in providing an extensive range of data, not all survey participants will be relevant. Your compensation policy should clearly identify the number of comparator organizations to be selected and the criteria they must meet to be included in your market comparison.

Building a Compensation Policy, Examples of Criteria to Consider:

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

Choosing the right target comparators is key to be able to narrow down the bigger survey data to a group of more significant employers that share qualities parallel with your organization. Additionally, organizations need to keep in mind that participants in a survey can change each year, with new ones added and old ones dropped. The key is having consistent criteria that ensure, even with a changing survey sample, your selected comparator group is consistent and still sufficient to meet your requirements.

Once you have selected your target comparators or target market, you will need to identify your target market percentile or target market position. Selecting your target percentile would depend on how competitive you want to be against your chosen market, while also taking your organization’s budget into consideration. Your organization’s compensation policy should define the ideal market position it requires to reach the talent it needs to recruit and retain. Further, the compensation policy should also identify if all levels in the organization will have the same market position or will be tailored to each level.

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

In our article, It Starts with Jobs, we explained that there are four labor markets, not just one. In Birches Group’s Community™ approach, these are called the four job clusters. Different grade levels in the labor market are grouped into these four job clusters and movement from cluster to cluster can be very distinct, where jobs at higher grade levels often move much quicker than jobs at the lower levels. It is important for employers, when comparing their salaries to the external market, to recognize this when deciding which grade levels to adjust as it allows for a more refined approach that is targeted to the organization’s needs, rather than simply applying an across-the-board adjustment.

Now that you have identified your target market comparators and target market position, your compensation policy should also outline the benefits that will be included in your compensation package. If you are looking to introduce benefits into your compensation package or change your existing benefits package, you’ll need to consider the following:

Some Things to Consider if You’re Looking to Introduce Benefits into Your Compensation Package:

  • Locally Mandated Benefits – The first place to start is by checking if there are any benefits, whether cash or in-kind, that are prescribed by law. Different countries have different mandatory benefits; some may have mandatory bonuses or allowances, while others may have mandatory contributions toward pension or medical coverage.
  • Market Practice – When assessing your benefits package, it also helps to know the common practice in the local market. While some practices may not be mandatory, if they are provided by most employers in the market, it may be a competitive requirement to follow the market. Your survey sources should be able to provide detailed information on all types of benefits.
  • Benefits that Promote Desirable Behaviors – Some employers use benefits to promote desirable behavior among their staff. For example, a performance bonus to reward achievement and encourage good performance, and seniority bonus or subsidized loans to promote retention.

Finally, your compensation policy should also identify how frequently your salaries will be reviewed. In Birches Group, we recommend that organizations review their salaries and benefits every year to ensure that their salary scale is adaptable to changing operational realities in terms of budget and resources, and evolving team structures, as well as ensure that their scales are aligned to their target market position and is able to adapt to changing market trends.  

It is important for organizations to have well-articulated pay policies in place that will not only guide how they develop their salary structure and manage compensation, but also provide the framework for forming strategies around recruitment and retention of their staff, proving this to be a valuable HR tool. Birches Group is ready to assist in establishing the appropriate compensation policy that can address your organization’s 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.

Salary Scales

A salary structure is essential in every organization. It is the single most important document in human resources. Build a salary scale and have a salary scale, why bother? It tells you everything you need to know about an organization:

  • How the organization positions itself in the market
  • The value the organization places on its jobs
  • How relationships across jobs are managed
  • Possible career progressions
  • And where the organization stands on equity and transparency

For an organization to work efficiently and achieve team cohesion, a well-balanced salary scale is crucial as it drives all other critical HR programs — everything from recruitment, staff retention, promotion, and ultimately career development.

Many organizations fail to realize the value of a salary scale. More than just pay ranges, a salary scale, when used correctly, can guide an organization to efficiently execute all its different HR functions and strategies, from managing compensation to managing its people.

Beginning with compensation, though, the fundamental purpose of a salary scale is to provide a framework for managing salaries. Setting competitive hiring rates that facilitate recruitment, establishing pay ranges that show value for experience, and defining the differences in pay from one job level to the next — all these need to be managed carefully to ensure that organizations are attracting and retaining the talent they need while maintaining team cohesion.

Of course, salary scales’ use extends beyond compensation. Learning and development milestones can be defined by the underlying job structure used to build the salary scale, which enables effective career pathing. Salary scales can also facilitate the mechanisms to reward employee development through recognition of skills growth. Finally, a well-designed salary scale demonstrates and promotes fairness and equity within the organization.

To develop salary scales to meet the unique requirements of your organization, you need to start by establishing your job structure, defining your compensation philosophy, and developing your scale design methodology.

This is the first of our blog series on “Building Your Salary Scale.” In our next post, we will be discussing how you can begin to develop your organization’s compensation philosophy and the different elements that need to be considered. Birches Group can help design a salary structure that meets your organization’s needs. 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.


Birches Group and The HR Partners held a Webinar on March 2, 2016 on the subject of “Managing Compensation in Developing Economies.”  If you were unable to join us, or just want to listen to the content again, you can watch a video of the full webinar below.

Date:  Wednesday, March 2, 2016
Time:  9:00 (New York) / 12:00 (São Paulo) / 14:00 (London) / 16:00 (Johannesburg) / 18:00 (Dubai)

Watch the Webinar Recording:

Download the Presentation

Download the Questions and Answers


The salary scale is the single most important document in human resources. It tells you everything you need to know about an organization:


• How the organization positions itself in the market
• The value the organization places on its jobs
• How relationships across jobs are managed
• Possible career progressions
• Where the organization stands on equity and transparency


For an organization to work efficiently and achieve team cohesion, a well-balanced salary scale is crucial as it drives all other critical HR programs — everything from recruitment, staff retention, promotion, and ultimately career development.


Designing a salary scale requires skill and expertise, balancing the internal considerations and team dynamics with the external market. It’s an art form, not just math.


In human resources, salary benchmarking serves many critical needs. It helps organizations assess the competitiveness of their total compensation versus the market, and is an important step in managing your human resources program. When organizations look to introduce new positions, salary benchmarking ensures a good understanding of the prevailing market conditions.

Here’s a short checklist – five steps – to follow for your next benchmarking exercise:

  1. Start with a High-Quality Survey

To do any benchmarking, you need market data, and that market data comes in the form of a survey.  The foundation to any market survey is its job matching approach. The job matching exercise ensures that jobs of similar levels of complexity are benchmarked against each other to establish common value across the market. 

It’s important to understand the methodology for job matching used by the survey provider and how the process is managed.  Are clients responsible for job matching, or does the consultant take the lead?

In Birches Group’s Community™ Market surveys, our survey specialists perform the job matching on behalf of every client, ensuring consistency and high-quality.

We use a job matching methodology that is simple, clear, and consistent, based on our Community™ Jobs evaluation approach.  Community™ Jobs considers three factors – PurposeEngagement, and Delivery.

Purpose enables us to examine each role within the organization and determine its primary objectives and how it supports the overall mission of the organization. Engagement identifies how each job interacts and collaborates with internal and external stakeholders to carry out its function. Delivery examines how each role plans, organizes and delivers work to fulfill the organization’s mission.

These three factors are present in any job, at any level. And together, they allow us to understand how an organization conducts business across all levels of work, starting with defining the purpose of its jobs, determining their level of engagement, and examining how each of its roles organizes and delivers service.

2. Focus on Grade Data

Many salary surveys take pride in the number of specific jobs captured in their surveys, but this is really a questionable practice.  Most organizations use generic pay bands and set pay ranges for all jobs at a particular level across all occupations.  Jobs with the same internal grade are paid in the same pay range, so the differences measured in the survey between different jobs are based not on job characteristics at all, but personal ones, like performance or tenure. Job data is also easily affected by the number of incumbents matched to a particular role, giving an illusion of precise differences based on volatile data of questionable value. The differences reported in the survey by job are misleading

When benchmarking your salaries, we believe that organizations should focus on grade data. Grade data is based on the job level and the associated ranges, and not the actual people sitting in those jobs. It’s a more reliable analysis because grade data captures all jobs with the same contribution level to an organization.  Grade data is a more stable representation of actual market movement versus incumbent salaries, which is highly variable.

3. Know Your Target Market

Before making your assessment, it is important that you select the survey comparators that are relevant to your organization. Out of the bigger survey sample, you will need to choose a smaller group of comparators relevant for your organization.

Market surveys can have twenty to over a hundred participants, or even more. But it does not necessarily mean that you compete with each one of them. If you are unsure where to begin with your selection, the criteria below are great places to start:

  • Organizations working in the same/similar sectors;
  • Those which you have lost staff to/hired staff from;
  • and Organizations in the same geographic area. 

You should also consider comparator organizations which share a similar Employee Value Proposition (EVP). Each company’s EVP is different, but look for organizations that have similar mission, approaches to career development, or pay and benefits philosophies similar to your own organization.

4. Identify Your Market Position

Once you have narrowed down the selection to your chosen comparators, the next step is to identify which level or percentile of the sample you want to target. But before making that decision, you will need to go back to your company’s EVP. Your EVP for total rewards should state your organization’s objective for competitive market position. 

Organizations typically state their target market position as a percentile of the targeted comparator group.  A position versus the 50th percentile or median of the market is common; going higher or lower is OK, too – it depends on what talent market you are trying to reach.

Being competitive is not always just about salaries. Allowances and benefits – monetary and non-monetary – can also be used to attract and retain talent. In our own experience, we have encountered companies that choose to position their salaries a bit lower in the market range but offer additional benefits on top of market practice. Again, depending on your company’s EVP, its all about striking that balance.

5. Always Use Fresh Data

If you are responsible for managing your company’s compensation and benefits, one concern that you might have is making sure that you are working with the most updated market information. Companies that have solid compensation policies will still struggle to maintain their competitiveness in the market if they are working with outdated information.

In Birches Group, we recognize that not all organizations update salaries at the same time every year or apply the same frequency between salary reviews. We know that organizations choose to participate in salary surveys when it makes sense for them. Our surveys are evergreen, with the opportunity to participate when it makes the most sense for you, and multiple publication dates.

Our Community™ Market salary surveys are updated three times a year, every AprilJuly, and October. This ensures that we always have the freshest data in our surveys and that any change to your compensation and benefits can easily be captured anytime during the year. Our evergreen approach also allows us to grow our survey sample throughout the year, providing our participants with the most robust data possible.

Birches Group provides labor market information for over 150 countries around the world. Our compensation and benefits surveys cover a full range of professional and support levels, providing information that ensures a client’s pay practices are aligned with the market conditions of leading employers in each country. 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.

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