New Retirement Plan Requirements: 4 Things Employers Must Do

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The Department of Labor's final rules under the Employee Retirement Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) start became effective July of 2012. These rules are intended to enhance the transparency of fees and other compensation with service providers. They will help employers and their employees better understand how much their retirement plan truly costs and the value/level of service they are receiving from their vendor/service provider.

Many employers are unaware of their responsibilities as ERISA fiduciaries. Most are neither trained nor skilled to interpret vendor reports, monitor service levels or fees, and ask the probing questions necessary to fulfill their fiduciary duties. Employers may need to retain professional advisors to implement a strategy of compliance and procedural prudence to manage their plans.

Dave Kulchar, Executive Vice President and Director of Retirement Plan Services at Oswald Financial, Inc. explains that there are two phases in the implementation of these rules. He says, "Phase one requires service providers to disclose all costs to plan sponsors beginning on July 1st. Phase two requires plan sponsors to deliver this information to plan participants, effective August 1st."

The new requirements often are explained in a complex manner that are difficult for organizations to understand so we've simplified them to summarize 4 of the most critical action steps you need to take to comply with these new requirements.

1. Make sure you receive the necessary disclosures.

Employers must make sure that they have received all of the required disclosure information from their covered service providers (auditors, record keepers, custodians, actuaries, advisors etc.).  If the required information is not received by July 1, 2012, then the employer has an obligation to request the information in writing. Without the required information in hand, any fees paid to those service providers may be considered prohibited transactions under ERISA and employers can be held liable for civil penalties or excise taxes.

2. Evaluate and benchmark fees from your vendors.

The new rules of 2012 require covered service providers of ERISA-covered defined benefit and defined contribution plans to provide employers with the information necessary for them to evaluate whether fees paid to service providers are reasonable when compared to those paid by other similar plans and determine if any conflicts of interest may impact a service provider's performance under a service arrangement. Information that must be disclosed includes:

  • A description of all services to be provided to the plan
  • All compensation it expects to receive, including direct and indirect compensations
  • The manner in which compensation will be received by the service provider
  • A description of whether the services provided are fiduciary services or services under the Investment Advisors Act of 1940
  • Information about conflicts of interest

This information will be necessary to evaluate and benchmark their fees against other service providers in the market to determine whether they are reasonable or not, and to understand if the fees are in line with those paid by similar plans. Organizations will need to make sure that they aren't paying unreasonably high fees for their retirement plan's services and document their analysis and review.

Why is benchmarking necessary? As plan fiduciaries, employers must evaluate their providers regularly in terms of their cost and competence to avoid liability, even if they are satisfied with their provider and aren't considering a change. In addition, employers should be wary of simply choosing the least costly service providers and evaluate their competence and level of service to protect themselves from potential liability. 

3. Communicate fees to employees.

Effective August 1, 2012, employers need to communicate and report these disclosed fees to employees participating in the retirement plan. Under these rules, employers are also required to provide ongoing disclosure to plan participants on quarterly statements going forward. It is important to note that this communication is the responsibility of plan sponsors - not plan service providers.

These disclosures must include an explanation of fees and expenses charged or deducted from participants' accounts as well as general information about the plan's structure and operation. "In some cases, employers will need to combine all of the information disclosed by various service providers and vendors in order to communicate it to employees," Kulchar explains.

In terms of how fees should be communicated, Kulchar advises, "Employers must communicate disclosed fees on paper unless they meet the necessary qualifications to disclose them online, which in many situations may be difficult to meet. Also, there is no set format and communications can look different, but fees must be expressed in a flat dollar figure and percentage."

4. Anticipate and answer employee questions.

Employers need to anticipate and answer employee questions about the reports that they distribute on fees. They should be prepared for employees to request assistance in understanding the information being disclosed to them about the fees. Employers should also expect that employees will inquire about why they hired particular service providers and be in a position to justify and explain the fees and expenses that must be disclosed on a comprehensive basis for the first time. They may even consider providing a list of FAQs to employees when this information is disclosed.

"Currently, 72% of employees don't think they are paying anything for their retirement plan. As a result, employers should be prepared to receive and answer questions like 'Is this new?,' 'How long have we being paying this?,' 'Is this competitive?,' 'What's being charged?,' and 'Is this reasonable?,'" says Kulchar.

Although the 2012 legislation changes on retirement plans create new duties and responsibilities for employers, they provide an opportunity for employers to better understand the true costs of their plans and fees paid to providers and help employees better understand their plans as well.

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

ERC members save thousands on various retirement plan services offered through Preferred Partner, Oswald Financial. These services include waived fees on comprehensive retirement plan reviews and plan design consulting, discounts on Oswald's financial paperless 401(K).

Salaries in Healthcare Sector Reflect Demand

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Here in Northeast Ohio the prominence of our healthcare industry is often touted as one of the region’s greatest strengths. In terms of sheer volume, health care represents a significant proportion of the workforce- approximately 16% according to the 2012 Current Employment Statistics survey for non-agricultural jobs in the Cleveland-Elyria-mentor Metropolitan Statistic Area (MSA).

However, for those 155,400 individuals employed in healthcare/social assistance, being part of the workforce for this booming industry does not always translate into higher levels of compensation. In fact, using data from several ERC Compensation Surveys to perform an occupation specific analysis for 40 job categories placed two occupational subcategories within the healthcare industry, i.e. Patient/Client Services and Social Work, among the 10 lowest paying job categories in Northeast Ohio. Conversely, Clinical Healthcare Practitioners and Nurses came in as two of the 10 highest paying job categories in the region according to this 2012 data. 

Nursing, coming in as the fourth highest paid occupation in the analysis, is one of only a few positions that pay above the national median salary reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As noted in a recent article from Crain’s Cleveland Business, registered nurses in particular can expect to remain in high demand across local healthcare systems. Clearly this demand for specialized, skilled talent is a key factor driving up rates of compensation within Nursing and among Clinical Healthcare Practitioners more generally.

At the opposite end of the spectrum the Patient/Client Services category includes a wide variety of jobs in healthcare, but with two important items in common, fairly low education and skill requirements and often highly repetitive job duties. A notable exception to this generalization that lower skills equate to lower pay, is in the field of Social Work. According to the 2011 ERC Non-Profit Benefits Survey, one way organizations often look to counteract this low market valuation of Health and Human Services positions such as Social Workers is to offer a unique array of other non-cash benefits that serve to enhance the total rewards package employees in these positions receive.

Additional Resources

ERC Non-Profit Compensation & Benefits Surveys
ERC, in partnership with United Way of Greater Cleveland, has created compensation and benefits surveys to help non-profits in Northeast Ohio gauge their compensation and benefits practices. Through this exclusive partnership, United Way Agencies that participate in these surveys will receive the survey results for no cost. Participate in our Compensation and Benefit Surveys by clicking here.

*The average median base salary figure for each occupation was calculated using data excerpts from the following surveys conducted by ERC: 2012 ERC Salary Survey, 2012 ERC Wage Survey and 2011 ERC Non-Profit Compensation Survey. Please note that the salary figure reported for each occupational category is an average of median salaries across applicable job titles from entry level up through management level positions.

More Northeast Ohio Employers Projecting Salary Increases for 2012

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Data from the 2012 ERC Pay Adjustment & Incentive Practices Survey indicates that the increases being projected by Northeast Ohio employers are representative of a larger national trend of compensation practices. Of the 114 participating organizations, 89% are projecting salary and wage increases for 2012, a record high level since 2009 when only 45% of survey participants projected increases. This improvement falls just short of improvements found in national data reported by SHRM in an article from 2011.
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12 Answers to Common 'Paid Time Off' Questions

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12 Answers to Common Paid Time Off Questions

Paid time off policies (PTO), managing absenteeism, and administering summer holidays like July 4th are always common issues for employers during the summer months. Here are 12 answers to common questions about PTO and summer holidays to help your organization navigate these challenges and create a competitive PTO plan.

1. Are employers required to provide paid federal holidays or PTO?

No employer is required to pay for time off on holidays, but there are many holidays that employers choose to observe and pay employees. Similarly, there is no requirement that employers must provide PTO, but it's generally an HR essential to attract and retain good employees.

2. What is the average number of paid holidays provided?

The average number of paid holidays offered by employers is 9-10. Usually organizations provide at least 5 paid holidays, however we've seen organizations provide as many as 15. Additionally, nearly 40% of employers offer at least one floating holiday each year, according to our most recent Paid Holiday Survey.

3. Should we credit paid holidays that occur over a vacation?

Generally-speaking, yes. It's a good practice to credit PTO if a paid holiday occurs over a vacation. For example, if employees take July 2nd through July 6th off work and July 4th is a paid holiday observed by your organization, this day would be credited back to the employee's vacation or PTO bank.

4. How should we handle employees who take off unscheduled days before or after holidays?

A main way that employers deal with this problem is to state in their attendance or paid time off policy that patterned absences such as before or after holidays or weekends are considered unexcused absences and may be subject to discipline. Employers can also require time off to be approved. The best way to prevent this from happening is to cover it in your policy and enforce it consistently.

5. What are some reasons for considering PTO plans versus vacation and sick time?

PTO plans lump all time off into one bucket, versus separate buckets of time off for different types of leave like vacation, sick leave, and personal time (and typically excluding holidays, bereavement leave, jury duty, etc.). PTO plans allow employees to use days off for any reason and as a result tend to make the administrative process of managing and tracking time off easier. The focus of PTO is not on managing the reasons for the absence, but rather giving employees the freedom to use their time as they see fit. More employers are moving to PTO plans for these reasons.

6. How many PTO days do organizations typically give?

The standard across most benefits surveys is providing 10 vacation days after at least 1 year of service, 15 vacation days after 5 years of service, 18 vacation days after 10 years of service, and 20 vacation days after 15 years of service. Maximum amounts of vacation days are typically between 20-25 days, but vary greatly by employer. If sick and personal days are also included (such as in PTO plans) the number of days provided typically increases by 3-5 days at each interval. Vacation or PTO time is generally based on anniversary hire date or calendar year.

7. Should we consider unlimited vacation time?

Unlimited vacation time is becoming more popular, particularly among progressive employers and for salaried/exempt employees. There are many perks of unlimited vacation time if your culture is conducive to it. Not only does it eliminate the need to track time off and administer cumbersome details, but it gives employees more freedom to take personal time off and is an attractive benefit.

On the flip side, unlimited vacation time typically is difficult to administer with hourly workers and doesn't work effectively if your organization does not have the right employees on deck to responsibly handle this freedom or a culture that values results over hours worked. It also can make it difficult to monitor the reasons for employees' absences which can trigger your responsibilities under certain laws like ADA and FMLA.

8. How much time-off should new-hires receive?

New-hires typically receive between 5-10 days of vacation. In some companies, particularly those administering PTO plans which include sick and personal days, 10-15 days is more common. Allowing accrual and use of PTO to begin within the first 30 days of employment for new-hires versus after the traditional 90 day period is becoming a more common trend among employers.

9. What should we consider when developing a PTO donation program?

PTO donation programs which allow employees to voluntarily transfer PTO hours to qualified employees experiencing either their own medical hardship or one in their immediate family, are becoming popular. When developing these programs, employers should:

  • determine who is eligible to receive PTO donations - define specific circumstances, length of time expected to be absent, etc.
  • create an application to determine eligibility and a donation form indicating how many hours donating employees will provide
  • work out administrative details - such as how and when paid time off will be transferred and who is responsible for taxes incurred

10. How many PTO carry-over days should we allow?

The majority of employers have a use-it or lose-it policy where unused time off is forfeited at the end the end of the year, but many allow carry-over of unused time for future use. While allowing modest carry-over of vacation time from year to year is somewhat common, allowing too much accrued leave could potentially be a financial burden if it compounds over several years and you must pay out this leave when the employee terminates employment with the organization. It also may result in an extended leave because time is combined from one year to the next.

As a result, if carry-over days are allowed, it may be worthwhile to specify if days must be taken by a certain date, how many days can be carried over from year to year, and a maximum allowable time off period (i.e. 2 weeks).

11. Should employees be able to cash out their unused time?

Sometimes employers allow employees to "cash in" their accrued vacation hours at their full value or at a lesser cash value (such as 50% or 70%, if allowed according to state law). There are, however, extra payouts associated with this option and employers must determine if the payment will be calculated based on the employee's current base pay and/or base pay after pay enhancement, etc. This option is by no means common, but is a nice perk to offer employees as part of your PTO plan.

12. Do we need to pay out vacation time upon termination?

Finally, employers often inquire about if they need to pay out vacation time after an employee has been terminated. Accrued vacation or paid time off is normally paid to employees who leave the company voluntarily or involuntarily. Termination payments, however, are governed by state law. Here is Ohio's stance on payout of paid time off upon termination.

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Northeast Ohio CEO’s Total Compensation Among Top In Nation

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According to the results of the 2012 National Executive Compensation Survey, CEOs here in Northeast Ohio receive the fourth highest total compensation package as compared to 20 other geographic regions reported in the survey. Coming in at $308,500, Northeast Ohio CEOs rounds out a strong showing for the Midwest, with the Columbus/Cincinnati breakout and Detroit Metro area in the first and third spots respectively in terms of total compensation for CEOs in their regions.

Base salary accounts for approximately 75% of the total compensation package in Northeast Ohio, a rate which suggests that area CEO’s receive a larger portion of their compensation in the form of variable pay than in the vast majority of other regions reported in the national sample. By focusing on variable pay, such as bonuses and other short term incentives, employers are able to more closely tie executive pay to performance. Establishing a clear connection between the value a CEO adds to the company and the compensation they receive in return is a critical step forward and a growing trend in executive pay, both for the sake of internal equity as well as to ensure compliance with external regulations.

Of the 47 executive positions survey across the national sample, increases to base pay remain stable- right at 3% for 2012. When calculated only including those organizations who projected increases, this number is a slightly higher figure, but one that continues to hover around the 4% mark for these executive type positions.

Additional Resources

2012 EAA National Executive Compensation Survey
The 2012 EAA National Executive Compensation Survey, published in May of 2012, reports compensation, benefits, and pay practice data provided by 2,235 participating organizations throughout the country and 108 organizations in Northeast Ohio for 11,948 executives in 47 positions. Breakouts of data are included across five variables: sales volume, organizational size, industry, organization type, and geographic location – including Northeast Ohio. Download the survey here.

2012 ERC Performance Management Practices Survey
This survey collects information from Northeast Ohio organizations on performance management practices in the workplace, specifically related to performance reviews, performance criteria, role of the supervisor in managing performance and other performance management issues. Click here to view the survey.

Salaries for IT Professionals in Northeast Ohio

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The table below offers a glimpse into the IT salary growth seen in the Northeast Ohio region from 2010-2012 as reported by the ERC Salary Surveys. Among the highest paying jobs reported by the 2012 Survey, a Systems Analyst Lead saw a steady salary increase of only about 3% annually since 2010. However, as a higher level position, this position pays well above the national median- reported at $77,740 by the Spring 2012 edition of Occupational Outlook Quarterly. In contrast, System/Software Engineers have expereinced a net salary growth rate of 9% over the same time period, but still falls over $10,000 short of the national median for Software Developers, reported at $90,530.

Network Administrator and Web Developer median salaries from the 2012 Salary Survey are similarly low when compared to national data. Interestingly, these slightly lower salaries are reported for positions with the strongest job outlook projections, a trend suggesting that filling these positions with top talent may require employers to increase their salary offerings to prospective job candidates in Northeast Ohio.

In terms of educational requirements, the vast majority of IT positions require a minimum of a Bachelor’s Degree. The notable exceptions are job titles within the U.S Department of Labor’s “Computer Support Specialist” category. The PC Specialist position falls into this category and as such offers a notably lower median salary than the other IT positions reported in the survey.

For more information, including trends and forecasts, visit our Salary For IT site.

Employers Eager to Hire Interns and Recent Graduates

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The results of the 2012 Intern & Recent Grad Pay Rates & Practices Survey, conducted by ERC and NOCHE, showed that an overwhelming majority (83%) of 117 participating Northeast Ohio employers were either maintaining or increasing their internship programs, while almost two-thirds (64%) were in the process of hiring or planning to hire new graduates for positions in their organizations. These organizations look for candidates with relevant majors in their field, high levels of professionalism, strong interpersonal and communication skills, and past work or internship/co-op experience.

Recruitment Trends

Despite a strong online recruiting presence, organizations are primarily using job boards/websites focused on interns or recent graduates to pursue candidates, social media remains low on the list of recruitment methods at for both interns and recent graduates. Interestingly, 2012's survey does mark a small increase in social media recruitment for recent graduates from the preceding years, up 9% from 20% in 2011. However, when compared to more traditional recruitment methods such as job postings on college career center websites or relationships with professors, social media recruitment methods appear to remain a largely untapped recruitment resource. This trend suggests that for tech savvy Millenials searching for an internship or first job, LinkedIn or Facebook may not be the most effective platform through which to reach potential employers.

Benefits of Interns & Recent Graduates

While the overall lack of interest in social media recruiting is consistent with trends in the world of Human Resources, it sits in stark contrast to one of the top emerging benefits of hiring interns and recent graduates, i.e. familiarity with the latest technological advances. Both groups continue to be seen as a key element for injecting organizations with fresh, innovative ideas, particularly in the realm of technology.

Employers commonly express a high level of confidence in the expertise of interns and recent graduates as employees. By coupling this high skill level with a strong financial incentive to hire from within these groups, pursuing interns and recent graduates as future employees is largely viewed as a positive investment in an organization’s future. 

The 2012 survey also reports average starting salaries for recent graduates, which vary significantly depending on the type of degree. Similar to the 2011 data, an engineering degree showed the highest average starting salary for a Bachelors degree.

Average starting salaries for college degrees

Degree Obtained

Average Starting Salary

Masters, Business Administration

$62,500

Bachelors, Engineering

$51,455

Bachelors, Computer Science

$50,000

Bachelors, Finance

$45,750

Bachelors, Information Technology

$44,000

Bachelors, Chemistry

$39,833

Associates, Information Technologies

$37,000

Bachelors, Accounting

$36,912

Bachelors, Business Administration

$35,880

Bachelors, Marketing

$34,687

Associates, Business/Marketing

$31,093

View the Intern & Recent Graduate Pay Rates & Practices Survey

This survey reports data from Northeast Ohio employers about their internship and recent graduate employment and pay practices.

View the Results

ERC Releases Wage and Salary Data for Northeast Ohio

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ERC, Northeast Ohio’s leading publisher of local workplace information and salary data, has released the results of its 2012 annual wage and salary surveys. These surveys serve as a critical compensation benchmarking resource for employers across Northeast Ohio that are looking to stay competitive in the region by attracting and retaining top talent.

The 2012 ERC Salary Survey reports annual salaries for 8,508 individual employees in 241 professional and management positions from 196 Northeast Ohio organizations. The 2012 ERC Wage Survey reports hourly pay information for 8,127 individual employees in 80 hourly production, maintenance and service positions from 149 Northeast Ohio employers.

“To effectively compete for talent, it’s important for employers to benchmark their pay rates and practices,” states ERC’s director of research and membership. “These surveys provide Northeast Ohio employers with comprehensive local data that helps inform their decisions regarding wages and salaries.”

The 2012 results suggest fairly stable pay rates overall, and continue to reflect the same stagnant growth pattern that has become the norm for the region in recent years.

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

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.