What HR Executives Earn: Will This End the “Seat at the Table” Argument?

From the HR blog at TLNT
From the HR blog at TLNT

Here’s some interesting information to think about the next time you get into one of those arguments about whether or not HR has a seat at the table: when it comes to salaries, HR executives seem to be faring pretty well.

Salary information for top HR executives — people with titles like Executive Vice President for HR, Chief People Officer, and Vice President for Human Resources — is usually hard to come by. That’s because the proxy statements for publicly-traded companies usually only list the Top 5 highest paid executives, and usually, an organization’s top HR executive doesn’t make the cut.

But Equilar, a company that benchmarks and tracks executive compensation, board compensation, equity grants and award policies and compensation practices, recently completed its Top 25 HR executive survey “in which leading companies self-reported on pay for 530 human resources executives.”

Median compensation: $873,149

Here are some of Equilar’s findings on the individually reported earnings of top HR executives in fiscal year 2009, with some firms listing more than one leading HR professional:

  • The median total compensation for HR professionals reported in Equilar’s 2010 Top 25 Survey was $873,149.
  • Human Resources executives that were first in an organization’s HR hierarchy received a median total compensation of $933,299, while those who were second in the HR hierarchy received a median total compensation of $533,673.
  • There is a direct relationship between number of years an HR professional has been with a company and how much he or she gets paid. Human Resources executives with less than three years’ tenure had a median pay of $802,411, while those with more than 10 years of tenure had a median pay of $860,673.
  • Despite relatively low median revenue, companies in the technology, media, and telecommunications industry paid their HR executives more than any other industry. In contrast, HR executives in the financial and insurance industry received less pay than their peers, even though their median revenue was the second highest.
  • According to Equilar’s 2010 Top 25 Survey, 65.8 percent of HR professionals were eligible to receive perquisites. Perquisite eligibility shows a direct correlation with company revenue, except at the largest companies. This is likely due to increasing public scrutiny of executive perquisites at the largest public companies.
  • Though they earn the highest median pay, Human Resources executives working in technology, media, or telecommunications companies are less likely than their peers in other industries to receive perquisites.

An end to the seat at the table argument?

This is interesting information because accurate, comprehensive compensation information for senior American HR professionals is so hard to come by. Do a Google search and you’ll find that it is much easier to find out what HR generalists or HR staffers in the U.K. get paid than any kind of breakout on compensation for senior HR executives in the U.S.

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WorldatWork, the not-for-profit organization that provides “education, conferences and research focused on global human resources issues including compensation, benefits, work-life and integrated total rewards to attract, motivate and retain a talented workforce,” first wrote about this Equilar HR compensation survey, so a big hat tip to them for flagging me to it.

I’m not a compensation expert, but it suggests to me that at least from a pay and perquisites point of view, top HR executives DO have that seat at the table you hear so many people griping about. I’ve requested a full copy of the Top 25 HR survey from Equilar — and you can too by going here — and perhaps there is additional information there that adds to the executive findings they detail here.

A seat at the table? A lot of smart HR thinkers want to bury that old argument once and for all. Surveys like this on from Equilar just might help do it.

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of TLNT.com. A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at johnhollon@ere.net, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.

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