How to Pay a Fair Salary: 5 Principles

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It probably seems like some of your employees are never satisfied with their salaries and that fair pay is always an issue needing to be addressed with either job applicants or current employees. If your organization and its managers haven’t heard the following questions and complaints from your current or prospective workforce, consider yourself among the lucky few...

  • “I do the work of 2 people, why aren’t I paid more?”
  • “If I’m doing a great job, why aren’t I getting a bigger pay adjustment than 2%?”
  • "Can you pay me 'x' for the job given my credentials?"
  • “The company had a record year last year and we didn’t receive a bonus or raise.”
  • “I haven’t gotten a pay raise in 3 years.”
  • “I’m working harder than ever with fewer resources and my pay doesn’t reflect my contributions.”
  • “Why don’t we get cost-of-living increases?”
  • “Why is she paid more than me when she does less work and performs worse?”
  • “The company down the street pays more for this job.”
  • “I found data on the internet which says that I should be paid 'x' for my position.”

These salary questions are tough and complicated for employers. They don’t have easy answers. Plus, with the wide availability of pay information on the internet, employees can quickly become skeptical of your pay practices if they don’t match or seem fair to what they see, hear and read online.

What’s an employer to do? Try to keep salaries as fair as possible and ward off perceptions of inequity as best they can, keeping in mind the needs of the business and market. Below are 5 widely accepted comp principles that employers have successfully used to keep pay fair and complaints to a minimum.

Principle 1: Play to the market.

The best way to stay on track with compensation is to know what your immediate, local competitors are paying and how they pay. Conduct thorough market analyses. Look at details like county and industry comparisons. Consider years of experience and education factors. Explore how other employers pay – do they offer variable pay, merit increases, pay premiums or bonuses in addition to base pay? These factors can lead to substantial differences in total pay.

Principle 2: Make internal comparisons.

What are you paying a premium for at your organization? Are certain skills, behaviors or job attributes more valuable than others to your business? Should they be paid a premium as a result? Who is most important to your company? Comparing the value of positions in the organization can help make sure that employees are paid fairly in relationship to their contributions to the business. Just make sure employees know what skills and attributes are valued.

Principle 3: Directly tie pay to performance.

One of the biggest criticisms employees have about their pay is when underperformers are paid as much as them and when working hard and performing well doesn’t necessarily bring a higher pay raise. It can be frustrating to your highest performers when better performance doesn’t equal better pay. That's why it's critical to accurately measure performance regularly and reward it with pay increases or variable pay.

Principle 4: Share the wealth.

If your organization is having record financial years, employees will eventually notice and become disenchanted if they aren't able to share in the wealth and success they helped create. The majority of employers share their business' financial success with their employees in some way, such as bonuses, profit-sharing and merit increases. Their pay should be tied to your organizational results. If pay can't be adjusted, consider other rewards to recognize employees.

Principle 5: Provide a living wage.

This means compensating employees in a way that allows them to meet their basic needs. When there is a consistent problem or complaint of not being able live on a certain amount of compensation, consider exploring your pay practices and how they meet your talent’s needs. If a segment of your workforce can't survive on what they are being paid, then it may be time to re-evaluate your pay practices, even if the market differs. Take care of your own.

Fair and competitive salaries are absolutely essential for attracting, motivating and retaining employees. When unfair pay is a main issue in a segment of your organization, use these five principles and adjust your pay practices accordingly.

View ERC's Wage & Salary Adjustment Survey Results

The survey reports data from Northeast Ohio organizations regarding their actual and projected wage and salary adjustments.

View the Results

7 Things You Might Not Know About Salary Survey Data

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7 Things You Might Not Know About Salary Survey Data

Being a well-versed salary survey user is an important part of managing employee compensation at your organization. After all, salary surveys are the leading source for setting pay rates.

What data should you use, and what data shouldn't you use? Why is some data lower and some data higher? Should you do a custom survey for better data? If you can't find a given job in a survey, is it okay to use internet or recruiting firm data? How many sources should you use? Here are the answers to these questions and more that we routinely get asked by employers—7 things you may not know about salary survey data.

1. Government data is conservative.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics is a great, reliable resource for salary benchmarking, but compensation analysts find it to be conservative when compared to other compensation data sources. This is because of the time frame in which it is captured, the types of organizations surveyed, and variables covered.

2. Custom salary surveys are less reliable.

Conducting a custom survey for a niche job is commonly believed to be more targeted and accurate than a larger salary survey, however these surveys tend to have lower sample sizes than expected and are not replicated regularly. Custom surveys can be good options for niche jobs and industries, but be aware of their limitations. They certainly aren't always the best option.

3. Internet comp data is generally invalid.

Not only are internet resources for comp data indefensible, but their sources can’t be verified. Research has found that these sources are highly inaccurate and comp experts raise serious questions about the data's validity. Be wary of any data found on the internet that does not publish participant names, demographics, effective dates of data, and sample sizes.

4. Use recruiting firm and job board data with caution.

Data published by recruiting firms and individual employee data (such as from job boards) tend to not be as reliable sources of information as others since they often report inflated pay rates. This information is not a good indicator of how much a job is actually paid.

5. Choosing the right survey makes a difference.

All compensation surveys cater to a certain audience. Make sure that audience fits your's. If a survey contains very large employers on a national scope that you don't compete with, it's probably not a good survey to choose for benchmarking. The wrong survey source can lead to higher or lower data, so always look at the participant list and demographics.

6. Salary data sources are shrinking.

The number of third-parties offering salary data is shrinking which means that employers have fewer sources to select from for their compensation data, though the strong ones still remain. As a result, it’s critically important that organizations support and participate in compensation surveys they value so that valid and reliable information continues to be available.

7. The magic number is “3.”

Ever wonder how many sources you need to make a good pay decision? Some sources say 2, some say 5. Comp experts agree that reliable pay decisions should result from 3 separate sources of salary survey information. Choose three surveys that make the most sense for your analyses.

To make good pay decisions, you need quality data and multiple sources of it. Reliable salary data is tough to come by these days, so be careful about what you use.

Do’s and Don’ts of Employment Background Checks

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The "Do's"

DO: Obtain Applicant Consent. The first step in pre employment screening is to obtain applicant consent. This isn’t just good advice—it’s also the law, as outlined by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). You must make applicants aware that they will be subject to a background check, and the candidate/employee must sign a written consent form before you conduct the screen.

DO: Make Sure the Background Check Relates to the Job. Establish a clear link between the items you’re screening for in the background check and the job duties. Understand what you “need to know” and what could potentially violate an individual’s privacy rights or cause unfair discrimination.

DO: Apply Your Criteria Consistently. Another way to help keep your company within legal grounds and promote fair hiring is to make sure you apply your policy in a consistent manner. For example, for a particular job category such as “Help Desk Support”  make sure you use the same type of background check on everyone in that job category and that you use the same criteria for assessing the results. You can vary your background checks to make sure they are relevant for the job – but do not vary them within the same job.

DO: Notify Your Applicant of Any Records Found. Before you take any action on the results of a background screen in hiring, promoting, or suspending an employee, make sure you’re aware of the Adverse Action requirements. These requirements are mandated by the FCRA and are very specific about how to notify an applicant of an adverse decision you’ve made concerning the results of their background check.

DO: Consider the Use of Employee Monitoring After Hire: Just because an applicant has cleared a background check, don’t assume that you will know if and when that person might get into trouble once they are in your employ. Monitoring your current employees to make sure you know if an arrest occurs is a growing best practice.

DO: Establish and Publish Your Background Screening Policy. Make clear—in writing—your background screening policy. Detail what types of screens you conduct, and the information for which you’re screening. Make sure you include federal, state and local laws in your guidelines. Additionally, make it clear how you’ll apply your background screening results.

The "Don'ts"

DON’T: Create a Blanket Policy. Fair employment laws require that you only make hiring decisions based on job-related capabilities. Therefore, avoid bright line “no criminal record” policies. Often, old and non-serious convictions have little or no bearing on a person’s ability to fulfill the job obligations.

DON’T: Rely Solely on National Criminal Database Searches. With today’s mobile workforce, it’s wise to conduct criminal searches on a national level to see if there are any criminal activities beyond where your applicant works or worked. But, always back up your national search with a local-level search to verify the results. Otherwise, you’ll risk making decisions on old or potentially inaccurate information.

DON’T: Forget to Screen Your Subcontractors & Temporary Workers. Everyone who works for your company should undergo a background screen. This includes contractors and vendors who are working for you. There is a large body of legal precedent that suggests you can be held liable for anyone who is paid by you; whether they are an employee or a subcontractor.

Percentage of Companies that do Background Checks

Eighty percent of U.S. companies ran criminal checks on job applicants in 2011, compared to about 50 percent of companies in 1996, according to a 2012 report from the Society for Human Resource Management.

What the New EEOC Guidance Means for You

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The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) 2012 guidance on background checks suggests that employers need to exercise more due diligence in their hiring practices. Its guidance on background check practices underscores the importance of five key practices in the hiring process.

1. Hiring policies should not exclude people from employment based on status.

Policies that automatically exclude people from employment based on only certain criteria (such as criminal status, age, disability, etc.) could pose liability. Employers should refrain from developing narrow policies of this nature to avoid potential legal issues.

2. Employers need to monitor adverse impact.

Hiring practices that result in adverse impact for a protected group are unlawful. If a hiring practice or selection method is adversely impacting a protected group, employers should not use it. This is true of any method used to base a hiring decision such as ability/personality assessments, drug tests, background checks, credit checks, etc.

3. Employers must hire based on the essential functions of the job.

The EEOC’s guidance suggests that employers must make hiring decisions based on whether candidates can do the essential job functions. Employers must identify those essential requirements in the hiring process and determine if a criminal record (for example) prevents a candidate from performing those functions.

4. Hiring criteria has to be job-related.

One of the most consistent trends in guidance provided by the government (and EEOC) on hiring practices is to keep all hiring decisions based on job-related criteria. If the criteria that employers are using to evaluate job candidates are not job-related, it will likely not hold up in court. For example, if an applicant's criminal offense is unrelated to the job, then you may not be able to exclude an applicant.

5. Employers must train decision-makers about employment discrimination.

The EEOC’s guidance emphasizes the importance of employers training both HR practitioners and managers on employment discrimination. Any individual who makes hiring decisions should understand employment law as it relates to recruitment and hiring.

While the EEOC only specifically addressed criminal background checks in its guidance, employers should be cautious with using any hiring practices, criteria and/or policies that are questionable against the guidelines provided.

Please note that by providing you with research information that may be contained in this article, ERC is not providing a qualified legal opinion. As such, research information that ERC provides to its members should not be relied upon or considered a substitute for legal advice. The information that we provide is for general employer use and not necessarily for individual application.

Additional Resources

Save on Background Check Services!ERC’s Preferred Partner Corporate Screening Services, Inc. offers ERC members discounts averaging over 20% off standard background screening products. 

Behavioral Interviewing
This workshop gives participants the skills they need to effectively plan for and conduct an effective behavioral-based interview. It also guides participants through effectively evaluating candidates so they can hire the best candidate. Emphasis will be placed on the selection process, including legal issues facing interviewers.

3 Steps Toward a Complete LinkedIn Profile

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Signing up for a LinkedIn Profile requires only a few simple pieces of information. However, the more complete your profile is, the more opportunities will likely open up for you.

According to LinkedIn, a "100% complete profile" includes the following items:

  • Industry and postal code
  • A current position with description
  • Two more positions
  • Education
  • At least 5 skills
  • Profile photo
  • At least 50 connections
  • A summary

In this article, we'll discuss 3 of these items that will be valuable additions toward a more complete profile.

Add at least three positions with descriptions

Likely one of the first things you'll do is add your current position. If you've gotten that far, you're off to a great start. But having a more complete employment history provide several benefits for you:

  • Connect with past co-workers - Adding employment history with past employers will allow you to reconnect with past co-workers, potentially opening the door for networking opportunities, partnerships with your current employer or simply reconnecting with an old friend.
  • Demonstrate experience - By adding multiple work experiences, you're demonstrating your experience with different employers in different positions with different job roles. You may also be able to show career progression as you move from one position to another.

Add previous education

Just as adding employment history gives you the ability to re-connect with past colleagues, adding education history allows you to reconnect with former classmates. It also shows relevant education as it pertains to your job or career.

  • Add relevant coursework - Be sure to add your concentration/major if you're adding a post-secondary education, but also include any relevant coursework to assemble a thorough education history.
  • Add activities and societies - This is another easy way to connect with people of similar backgrounds. You may find that you have a closer connection with some of your existing business relationships through past activities or societies.

Add a summary

A summary acts as your personal branding boilerplate. If you were in an elevator with your dream employer (which may be your current employer) and had to summarize your career, experience and expertise on the way up, what would you say? Luckily here, you have more than an elevator ride's amount of time to craft your summary.

  • Think in keywords - What are they keywords that you want people to associate you with? If you're a job seeker, you might use terms like "action-oriented" or "goals-driven." If you're looking to connect with other professionals in your industry, write in terms of tasks or responsibilities.
  • Share relevant extracurriculars - Are you affiliated with an industry association? Do you volunteer with a prominent group that may boost your credentials? Be sure to add that here.
  • Be concise - This isn't the place to write your life story. Try to use short sentences, bulleted lists and no more than a paragraph or two.

An Important Enrollment

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By Pat Perry

Next week, the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation is providing a one month open enrollment for employers relative to selecting a Managed Care Organization (MCO). MCOs are a key player for many organizations in keeping their workers’ comp costs in control through proactive case management and a solid transitional work program. Employers pleased with their MCO do not need to take any action. Employers seeking a new MCO can do so at no cost and it only takes about 5 minutes.

There is plenty of information about MCOs at the Bureau’s web site and more data about Ohio MCOs will become abundant starting next week. If you do not know your company’s MCO, you can simply click here to find the MCO assigned to your organization.

Over the next several weeks, ERC will be providing information about the MCO selection process and other critical data to provide organizations facts upon which to make an informed decision. As this open enrollment only occurs every two years, this decision is extremely important.

Since the MCO Open Enrollment period starts April 30 and ends May 25, we will continue to provide you with information throughout to assist you in your choice of a MCO.

14 Tips to Drive Revenue in HR

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14 Tips to Drive Revenue in HR

HR may not always be able to directly contribute to the bottom line, but there are a number of impactful ways that it can help drive revenue. Here is a list of 14 things your HR department can do to drive revenue at your organization.

  1. Win over talent from your competitors. Win over the best talent with better compensation, benefits, opportunities, and a more attractive workplace.
  2. Retain your top producers. Figure out what will make top performers stay and create a strategy to keep them at your organization.
  3. Pay for performance. Create an incentive program directly tied to profitability. Whether that's a bonus program or profit sharing program, it should produce performance gains.
  4. Be selective. Be choosy with your benefits offerings. Select benefits that matter most to your top talent. You may administer 20 different benefits when just 5 are used and valued.
  5. Incorporate drivers of revenue into performance management. Understand the drivers of revenue in your organization and make sure those are measured in the performance evaluation process.
  6. Train smarter. Conduct a training needs assessment to prioritize and identify critical training needs across the organization. Use high quality training methods that lead to behavior change.
  7. Track ROI. Link wellness to health insurance usage; training to performance improvement; engagement to profitability gains. Showing ROI helps build a business case for HR and reinforces its value.
  8. Improve medical and leave management. Administering employee leave more efficiently and choosing an effective Managed Care Organization (MCO) are ways that you can help employees get back to work in less time and reduce the drain of medical leave and workers compensation costs.
  9. Measure what matters. Measure HR cost factors (i.e. compensation cost, benefits cost) and revenue per employee. Know what your top HR costs are and how those compare to other organizations.
  10. Implement time-saving systems. Digitize HR data and record retention. Make it easy for employees and managers to access and use the information you collect so that they can focus on producing results.
  11. Identify obstacles to revenue generation. Lead performance improvement efforts, suggestion and feedback programs, and other means to help identify opportunities to increase revenue.
  12. Plan your workforce. Understand your organization's areas of growth and ensure that you are stacking those areas with top talent. Workplace planning prioritizes hiring needs.
  13. Reduce legal fees. By choosing inexpensive legal resources and assistance, obtaining legal knowledge, and keeping your organization compliant, you can significantly reduce legal fees.
  14. Save on staffing. Hiring is arguably one of your most expensive HR areas. Reduce your cost per hire by taking advantage of staffing service discounts and using creative, inexpensive sourcing methods.

HR departments that drive revenue and results in their organizations take advantage of opportunities to save their organizations money wherever possible, identify opportunities to build up their top revenue producers, and simply manage HR smarter and more efficiently.

HR Project Support: Job Descriptions and Onsite HR Audit

The Best Solution to Managing Salary Costs

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Like most employers, you’ve probably been faced with the challenge of how to manage rising salary increase budgets, reward high performers, and sustain your organization’s financial health by meeting and exceeding margins achieved in past years. How do you manage these critically important yet competing demands? The best solution is to develop a variable pay program.

Variable pay: A solution to base pay management

Variable pay is one of the best solutions to confronting the problem of base salary increases. It is much less expensive to manage than annual base pay merit increases, doesn’t compound salaries over time, and can deliver meaningful rewards and additional compensation to employees without long-term hits to your margins.

Generally, it takes approximately $5 of variable pay to deliver the same financial effect of a one dollar salary increase. Additionally, base compensation costs account for about 20-25% of your revenue, whereas variable pay costs account for about 3-4% of your revenue (on average). As a result, variable pay can be a huge savings for any employer.

Executing variable pay: Paying for performance

Fundamental to variable pay is the issue of pay for performance. Variable pay requires differentiating pay by some factor, usually individual and/or company performance.

This means differentiating pay by performance and allocating all (or most) of your organization’s pay rewards to your highest performers and reducing rewards for your average or bottom performers. It also means that additional pay is entirely dependent on how your organization performs, which can ensure that your organization’s financials remain healthy and that financial performance targets are met year over year.

The trouble with pay for performance is in the execution. For it to work, you need a culture that rewards high performance; standard performance management systems which give employees the insights, tools, support, and clarity they need to reach their goals and managers the tools to evaluate and objectively compare performance; as well as meaningful payouts.

Here are proven best-practices for executing variable pay when it comes to managing these issues related to culture, performance, and payouts:

Culture

  • Types of variable pay offered match the culture. For example, strong emphasis on teamwork = team-oriented variable pay.
  • Leaders support a performance-oriented workplace and encourage rewarding “A-players.”
  • Tenure, attendance, and other non-performance related factors are not considered when making decisions about pay, rewards, or promotions.
  • Pay for performance is widespread. Everyone has the opportunity to earn more pay based on their performance – not just execs, managers, and sales staff.

Performance management

  • Goals are clear and achievable. Employees understand how to accomplish their targets.
  • A manageable number of targets are given – ideally 1 to 3 important goals.
  • Accurate measures of performance are intact and not subject to extraneous factors.
  • Performance is regularly tracked, monitored, and well-documented.
  • Performance is well-managed. Employees are coaching, re-directed, and assisted in reaching targets.

Payout

  • Payouts are substantial enough to be perceived as beneficial, motivating rewards.
  • Differentiation of pay and/or rewards is enough to be meaningful for high performers. Strive for 2 times the average payout to reward your highest performers.
  • Tiers for payouts are set to reward employees for meeting minimum goals as well as stretch goals.
  • Minimum and maximum thresholds for targets and payouts are provided.

Variable pay programs are promising and highly effective. If your organization is challenged in sustaining its annual merit increase program and controlling base pay costs, variable pay can be an advantageous solution. Just keep these best practices in mind before designing a variable pay program to ensure that the program is successful and delivers results.

Additional Resources

Performance Management Services ERC can support performance management initiatives through performance management system development, performance review form development, competency development, consulting on performance management issues, performance management/goal-setting training for employees and supervisors, and more. 

3 Reasons You Need to be on LinkedIn

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We've all been there. You're at a meeting or a networking event and you meet another professional. Within the next couple days you search for that person through Google or directly through LinkedIn to learn more about them and possibly even connect. And odds are if you don't do that, the other person does.

Social networks have become engrained in the fabric of contemporary networking, and LinkedIn is the network of choice for the business crowd. Having a LinkedIn profile is a necessity for every working professional. Here's why:

1. Control of Your "Personal Brand"

Businesspeople are expected to be on LinkedIn, and a lack of a profile can be an indication of an out-of-date or inaccessible professional. Your profile acts an extension of your business card, showcasing who you are, where you work and what your expertise is.

Quick tip: Don't use Facebook for business networking.*
*unless you feel 100% comfortable with your peers seeing that picture of you from the Bahamas two years ago

Here are three things you can do right away to make sure you're controlling your personal brand on LinkedIn:

  • Get a profile - This is a no-brainer. If you're not on LinkedIn, plan to set up a profile. LinkedIn offers several great tutorials on how to do this.
  • The basics - If you do nothing else, add your contact information and your current employer. This will drastically increase the ability for other people to find you on LinkedIn.
  • Keep adding - Once you've completed the basics:
    • add former employers (to connect with past colleagues)
    • add education (to connect with former classmates)
    • add a summary of your job and expertise (so people can learn more about you).

2. Organize Relationships

Increasing the size of your professional network, whether offline or online, should be an important component of any business professional's career. Having an extensive network comes in handy not only in career transition and advancement, but can be a great resource for sharing ideas and seeking support for issues related to your specific job function.

  • Staying in touch - Remember that person you met at the networking event mentioned above? Build that relationship by connecting with them on LinkedIn.
  • Staying current - LinkedIn provides you with constant updates about people you're connected to, including job transitions, promotions, shared content and more.
  • Staying in the loop - LinkedIn makes it incredibly easy to pose questions to your network and receive nearly instant feedback, making it a powerful tool for getting answers to your job-specific questions.

3. Finding Information & Answers

While LinkedIn is primarily a networking tool, it's become a great research tool for crowdsourcing ideas and information among similar groups of people. Here's how:

  • Your own audience - LinkedIn gives you the ability to ask your own audience a question and receive answers quickly, either through your status message or through a group discussion board.
  • The power of the Group - If you're not using Groups in LinkedIn, you're missing out on an opportunity to listen in on many of the discussions that your peers are having right now. Join a group or two to start, and simply read some of the discussion topics. You're bound to gain something insightful within the first week.