Why Do We Survey and Report Salary Ranges?

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Jan 30, 2012

A debate with a would-be client last week reminded me of a particular pet peeve, so I thought I’d trot it out here for discussion. (The would-be client is probably moving on to find herself a less combative consultant, but that’s a story for another post…)

Many salary surveys routinely collect and report salary range minimums, midpoints, and maximums. My question is: How is this information useful?

Even if you know how representative those ranges are of the overall set of pay practices (some surveys tell you the number/percent of companies reporting ranges, many don’t), you have no way of knowing:

  • Which companies reporting salaries for the position also reported ranges (is it the higher paying ones or the lower paying ones?),
  • Is it the degree to which those ranges reflect actual underlying salary practices at the companies that reported them; or.
  • How well-designed or up-to-date those reported ranges actually are?

Even worse than the fact that they deliver little to no helpful information – to my mind – is the fact that they seem to invite mispractice, particularly among survey users who don’t have much training or expertise in compensation. How many users simply lift the average salary range minimums, midpoints, and maximums from the survey for each position and implement them as their own? Quite a few, I am here to report.

Weigh in please, readers. Is there something useful that can be gleaned from survey salary range data? Or should we raise a call for its abolishment, before it leads more people astray?

Your thoughts?

Ann Bares will talk about A Look at How We Reward the Work of  Today — and Tomorrow at TLNT’s Transform conference in Austin, TX Feb. 26-28, 2012. Click here for more information on attending this event. 

This was originally published on Ann Bares’ Compensation Force blog.

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