Salary Surveys in the United States: Only for Corps
As the New York Times article mentions at nytimes.com, salary surveys in the United States are a pretty new phenomenon. For decades, employees had very little info on what people in their profession were earning, unless they overheard some gossip at the water cooler or accidentally stumbled upon the company’s salaries. Before sites like Payscale, most employees had little info to justify a raise with; they either guessed or hoped for a national pay raise increase from lawmakers in Washington D.C.
On the flip side, salary surveys were (and still are) done regularly for corporations, but the chances of employees or job candidates gaining access to this info was pretty slim… even today. Iain Fitzpatrick, the general manager of the reward information service division of Hay Group told the New York Times, “We wouldn’t give it to you. The last thing we want is for a client to say, ‘We just had a conversation with an employee who was quoting Hay data.' ”
Online Salary Surveys: For the Public
Fortunately for employees and job seekers, online salary surveys such as Payscale help even the playing field; with salary info in hand, more folks know how to ask for a raise. Many of them posted interesting responses (to the New York Times story on Jessica Morrison and Payscale.com) on lifehacker.com:
A poster named "Neilbert" said:
I negotiated a 41% raise by showing that what I did was significantly more than the official job description, and that my new pay rate was the correct figure for my job. So, yes, a salary survey was incredibly helpful.
I organized a salary survey in my field several years ago, and used it as part of an argument for getting a relatively substantial raise. I've also shared the survey data with others who had similar successes in getting raises based on their salaries compared to averages in the field with similar experience, qualifications, and responsibilities.
It helps. I used it along with outstanding performance and the fact that a peer left for 50% more money for 33% raise. If you can show that you are good and there is demand, the survey is a good thing to have in hand.
My wife took a salary survey to a boss and got a raise out of it. My boss used a salary survey to explain why they paid me so little until I pointed out that they were labeling me a PC tech while the work I was doing was under system administrator. According to that survey, I should (have been) making the sysadmin salary which was double what I was making then.
So he quickly put the salary survey away and finished my review. I then went home and put in an application at the contracting company who published that survey and was hired for a sys admin job and started making double what I had been making.
I'm well-compensated according to my company... and... the surveys I've sought out personally: they're right. It's comforting to get confirmation on what they're telling me. It gives me more faith in them.
While anecdotes are not proof that this is changing the way people talk about pay with their employers, at least some people using online salary surveys to change the salary negotiation dynamic.
Need some comfort regarding your salary? Take our salary survey.
Dr. Al Lee