EMA Senior Care is getting smarter about comp with PayScale

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Laleh Hassibi, PayScale

EMA Senior Care a long-term care organization with approximately 850 employees. EMA is located exclusively in Maryland, with six locations across the state. PayScale interviewed Jim Donovan, Director of Total Rewards, to discover how PayScale Insight is helping them drive their business objectives.

How was EMA determining compensation before PayScale?
“I’ve only been at EMA about one year. The compensation function is fairly new to EMA. Previously, there was never a thought process behind the sources of data we used, or how we were going out to benchmark our positions.”

“When I was brought on board, the expectation from our CEO was to create a compensation structure, and understand how we could improve where we spend our compensation dollars. It was important to our leadership team that we chose valid sources of data to make the best decisions possible since in the past we had worked with older data and anecdotal information. Before I arrived, EMA had purchased ERI data and paper-based surveys. They didn’t necessarily target our organization or have accurate data. ERI was a starting point. It doesn’t come close to what PayScale has been able to do for us. It doesn’t allow us to zoom in on credentials, certifications, or degrees. Taking our RN position, for example. PayScale allows us to look at variations of RNs, and even create our own variation based on our unique criteria for the job. Being able to drill down by education and certifications is something we needed to do. PayScale is the only system that gives us this capability.” 

What about customer support?
“I have been incredibly impressed by the support I’ve received from the PayScale team. I know whenever I call, I will get an immediate response. With other vendors, they don’t have staff with the same level of compensation expertise as PayScale. For example, when I called another vendor to ask for guidance on regional data, they weren’t able to provide much help. When I called PayScale, my Implementation Specialist took the time to re-define my labor markets and had a real-time discussion on how to make the best use of PayScale’s location data for EMA. We came up with a strategy that is going to work for us moving forward.”

“Customer service has been a grand slam from stem to stern. Our Account Executive was helpful and supportive in explaining our options. When I had to go to senior leadership, we had the material we needed to present our case to purchase PayScale.”

“Our Implementation Specialist, Jenni Gore, is just awesome. She was supportive and helpful every step of the way. When I told her my goal to complete implementation was 45 days, she worked with my schedule to make it happen.”

What do you like best about PayScale?

  • Outstanding support. “They make it feel like a partnership, not a customer/vendor relationship.”
  • The unique data set. “You can plug in unique factors to substantiate compensation decisions. PayScale enables an HR/comp department to turn around data for the zaniest of requests from a leadership team.”
  • We have confidence in our data. “With PayScale, I have a tremendous sense of confidence by being able to drill down data by a variety of factors that aren’t available with any other provider. For example, we have a leadership position that falls between a supervisor and assistant director. We wanted to change the role. The belief was since it was a higher-level position it would pay at minimum 100k. PayScale helped us quantify that it is a higher paying job, but is not a job with a starting pay of 100k. The essence of the job hasn’t changed, and those were the factors we were measuring.”
  • Analytical reports. “The Executive Summary Reports give a great thumbnail sketch of the health of our compensation strategy. I can immediately view which compensation factors are affecting our organization vs. viewing the complete 8-10 page report. In the healthcare sector, there are many titles that are not necessarily reflective of the job that is being done. With a summary report, I can show our leadership team the factors of the job that affect pay, and ignore the title. This gives them a tangible, valid piece of data to substantiate a decision to change pay.” 

Key business benefits?
“Always want to be confident in the data, get data in the moment. We want to demonstrate that there’s equity across our organization, and that we’re able to be competitive to attract/retain top talent. One issue now is that each location had its own compensation philosophy. One was paying at the 50th percentile, but another location was at the 65th percentile only 7 miles away. Yet another was at the 30th percentile and below. PayScale Insight has allowed us to target for balance and attract top talent. We’re going to start targeting our green-circled employees so we can be sure to retain our current talent, help bring balance, and be pro-active. Then we can easily say here’s our philosophy/strategy to communicate across all locations. There was too much variance before. Now we’ve adjusted our target percentile and shifted our ranges so more of our staff fit within our range. We have one facility that’s paying a receptionist $8-9/hour, whereas PayScale shows $11.50 as a midpoint. That’s one group we need to bring into alignment. We have a goal to slightly lead the market.”

“When I arrived, I saw glaring demonstrations of red/green circled employees. PayScale did the heavy lifting to prove large distribution in outliers, and not enough in the middle. This was shocking to our leaders, and they didn’t realize this was the case. It was helpful for them to see as a benchmark. It helped build my case to move toward a more equitable compensation system.”

“We were able to quickly validate our initial thoughts. It was a great resource once we started examining the market. What we had designed was reflective of the market.”

How do you intend to use PayScale in the future?

  • “We plan to benchmark our jobs every year, and keep a pulse on the ‘hot jobs’ that are brought to our attention.”
  • “We haven’t scratched the surface when it comes to the tremendous analytical capabilities of PayScale Insight. Looking at distribution graphs and compa-ratios have been very useful to share with leadership team. The data is great.”
  • “I’m most excited to see the Flight Risk Report. We have many employees that are underpaid, and many that are overpaid. We have a sense that our overpaid people are not the top performers, and that we need to focus on bringing our underpaid high performers up to speed. Compensation hadn’t been tied to performance in the past and PayScale Insight will allow us to do this.”

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