5 Ways to Make Compensation Reports Work for You

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Unless you are the Compensation Specialist in your HR Department, chances are you aren’t exactly thrilled when a compensation project comes across your desk. In the abstract, the idea of paging through hundreds of pages of compensation data tables or searching through complex (expensive) compensation databases can seem like an arduous and fruitless task.
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Highly Compensated Employee Exemption: The Other FLSA Exemption

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If you are like most employers in Northeast Ohio, as soon as the FLSA Final Rule was published back in May, your first step was to take a look at those employees on your payroll that make less than $47,476.

Embarking on this fact finding mission is a great place to start, but while employers are scanning their payroll records, there are two other dollar figures that are also worth a quick look to ensure full compliance with the Final Rule come December 1, 2016.

Although far less common than the Standard Salary Level change for Executive, Administrative, and Professional employees (EAP), employers will also need to assess the exempt status of any employees that fall under the “Highly Compensated Employee” (HCE) exemption.

How do I know if I have a “Highly Compensated Employee” (HCE)?

Currently, the dollar amount for the HCE is set at $100,000 annually, but under the new regulations this figure is increasing to $134,004 annually. However, as with the Standard Exemption, compensation alone does not determine the appropriate classification for an employee. The primary difference between the EAP exemption and the HCE exemption, apart from the salary cap, is the duties test itself.

For the HCE’s a “minimal duties” test is applied, which states—per the DOL’s own fact sheet on HCEs—that the minimum duties test is met if, “the employee customarily and regularly performs at least one of the exempt duties or responsibilities of an exempt executive, administrative, or professional employee”.

While you may have many employees that meet the salary threshold, you may not have any employees that need to be categorized as HCEs. Instead, based on the job duties assigned to most of your employees making over the HCE salary threshold, these employees probably meet more than enough of the duties test to qualify as exempt under the EAP exemption. Again, given the six-figure salary number, in these cases, these individuals are probably more appropriately classified as “Executive” and therefore already fall under the EAP exemption.

What does the new Final Rule change for my HCEs?

Changes to employee classification resulting from the new compensation assessment for HCEs are likely mostly administrative in nature, but should still be reviewed in order to remain compliant. The only major change is the increased figure of $134,004. Also, keep in mind that these employees will also need to meet the new Standard Exemption level of $913 weekly in base salary (this can be in the form of either a set salary or fee per the regulations).

The requirement to meet the Standard Exemption level is no different, but the dollar amount itself has increased to fit the Final Rule. The rest, a minimum of $86,528 to be exact, would then come in the form of commissions and other nondiscretionary compensation/bonuses (also the same rule as before).

In addition, the HCE threshold will automatically update every three years to a level that meets the 90th percentile of annual earnings of full-time salaried workers nationally.

So who does this really impact?

Per initial estimates the changes to the HCE exemption will impact about 36,000 employees (in contrast an estimated 4.6 million workers will be impacted by the change to the Standard Exemption Salary increase) Again, the key numbers to look at here are any employees that fall between $100,000 and $134,004 annually.

As an example, if an exempt employee is currently making $120,000 annually and upon review of their job duties, does NOT fully meet the duties test for EAP employees, (and the employer chose not to increase their compensation to meet the new $134,004 threshold or restructure the makeup of their total compensation package to get to this number—there are lots of options!) then this individual’s status would need to change to non-exempt.

Disclaimer: ERC does not provide qualified legal opinions. Information obtained through the site and services should not be relied upon or considered a substitute for legal advice. The information ERC provides is for general employer use and not necessarily for individual application. ERC recommends that you consult legal counsel for workplace matters.

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Why Having a Compensation Strategy is a Must

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Why Having a Compensation Strategy is a Must

How much should you pay your employees? Why should you have a compensation strategy? And when was the last time you reviewed your strategy? 

Sue Bailey spends a lot of time thinking about all of these questions. As ERC's Senior Consultant for compensation, benefits and everything in between, Bailey has developed a deep foundation in Human Resources that has been honed over the past 30 years.
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8 Steps in a Compensation Project

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Compensation initiatives are often on many employers’ agendas, so we’ve summarized eight (8) steps in a basic compensation project.

1. Participate in or purchase salary and wage surveys.

It all starts with having pay data, which is the basis for all compensation systems and projects. Compensation surveys contain information on competitive wages and salaries for various jobs and report data regarding what other employers pay for given positions. Participating in these surveys (which generally requires reporting your employees’ salary and wage information) typically helps organizations save money on receiving the data.  A good rule of thumb is obtaining at least three survey or compensation data sources. Local resources are ideal, especially if your organization recruits locally. For example, ERC’s Salary & Wage Surveys are a common resource used by many Northeast Ohio employers to benchmark local pay rates.

2. Identify matches for your organization’s jobs.

Once you obtain salary survey information, the next step is identifying the positions in the surveys that match the jobs in your organization. This is generally not done by job title alone. Instead, employers look for jobs with position descriptions that match at least 70% of the duties summarized. For some unique positions, it may be difficult to find an exact match. In these cases, organizations typically blend or weight salary data from multiple jobs to create a salary figure that best represents the job.

3. Select and gather data.

After your organization has selected the positions that match, you’ll need to determine what percentile or metric from the survey you would like to use to compare your jobs. Organizations commonly select this based on their pay philosophy for different positions. Employers may wish to pay some positions above market rates (percentiles above the median) because talent is scarce or the job is critical to their organization’s strategy or mission. Other positions may be paid below market rates (percentiles below the median) if they lack importance or are easily recruited. The widespread majority of organizations aim to pay most of their employees at market (the median). You can also use the average; however, the median is less susceptible to higher or lower values, and therefore more reliable.

4. Analyze the data.

In order to analyze the salary information, organizations should age the data to a common point in time by an aging factor – such as an average yearly increase (obtained in a compensation survey).  After aging the data, the percentile information gathered from each of the survey sources can be weighted based on factors such as industry data, local or national information, quality of survey, and strength of job match. Typically, a weighted average is calculated based on these weightings of the survey sources and the percentile information. This weighted average is usually referred to as the “market average.” Although, there are certainly other metrics of market competitiveness your organization could use.

5. Calculate a market average.

For each job you are analyzing, it’s important to determine where the job stands relative to the market. This is easily done by dividing what your organization currently pays for the position (the current salary or wage) by the market average. Figures over 1.0 indicate that the job is paid more than the market average; while figures below 1.0 show that the job is paid less than the market average. While other metrics exist, this tends to be the easiest to calculate for employers.

6. Create a pay structure.

 

7. Address inconsistencies.

After your organization has collected and analyzed the market data and/or developed any pay structures it deems important to its compensation administration, the next step is to address differences or inconsistencies, particularly in terms of differences in market averages/midpoints and rates your organization is paying for positions and external market rates. These questions often involve considering organizational culture, structure, what it can afford to pay, and what it wants to pay for certain positions.

8. Make adjustment decisions.

After these questions are addressed, your organization will need to determine whether it wants to adjust salaries and wages to be more in line with the market (if differences exist). These are typically termed “market adjustments.” Other pay adjustments your organization may provide include cost-of-living or across the board adjustments (the same adjustment being provided to all employees), or merit increases, which are commonly based on performance achieved and varied in terms of amount received (typically a percentage of base salary).

There’s no question that compensation initiatives can be challenging projects and typically include more complexity and analysis than these eight steps suggest. Keep in mind that ERC has many resources, including valid local and national pay data and experienced guidance, available to help you in navigating these projects with ease and success.

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