Top 10 Skills Every Compensation Manager Needs

Compensation managers have a tough job. Making decisions about how much to compensate employees for their efforts often involves ‘dancing’ between profitability and fairness. The fact that this work takes a great deal of research, industry knowledge, and tactfulness in the corporate environment means that only the best compensation managers will survive.

In order to achieve top results as a compensation manager, it’s important that one has the right skills to get the job done well. Consider what it takes to excel as the compensation and benefits manager at your organization with the list below.


  1. Resourcefulness
    Working as a compensation manager often means using a number of resources. You may find yourself conducting salary surveys, researching job types, allocating tasks to certain job roles, and working with the management team to develop stronger compensation programs. It’s not surprising that being highly resourceful is key to success as a compensation manager, because without accurate and ongoing information this gets overwhelming.
  2. Communication
    A compensation manager is also asked to communicate well, using many different formats. Writing is one of the top skills a compensation manager uses often. Delivering compensation documents, presentations, and working with Human Resource teams to update policies happens often. Work on writing clearly and succinctly about compensation offered by the company.
  3. Negotiation
    When a compensation manager walks into executive level meetings to promote pay raises or benefit changes, he or she better be a strong negotiator. Using salary surveys that are based on the most current compensation from competing companies can help in this process. Being able to negotiate for more attractive compensation will help your organization to become a preferred employer, thus gaining top-level talent that enables more innovation and growth.
  4. Analytical
    What does a compensation manager do with all that data gathered from salary surveys, reports, and other information? He or she must be able to use strong analytical skills to decide what it means to the business objectives. Analytical skills often help compensation managers spot trends, conduct succession planning sessions, and push for compensation changes in targeted areas.
  5. Delegator
    Oftentimes, a compensation manager has a team of junior compensation managers on board. Therefore, being able to delegate some tasks to those who have the best skills to handle them is a big part of the job.
  6. Business-wise
    A compensation manager needs to see the bigger picture in terms of the types of compensation and benefits that should be offered to employees. This means talking regularly with the recruitment team, the human resource team, and the supervisory team to see what drives performance. Without this vision, the compensation plan can fail to meet overall needs. 
  7. Expertise
    Having at least five to ten years in an industry can go a long way towards helping a compensation manager to be successful. But this goes a step further. A skilled compensation manager will be looking for ways to beat the competition with creative compensation and benefit offerings that reel in a stronger workforce.
  8. Technical
    Along with being resourceful, the top compensation managers turn to technology to achieve their goals. Using computerized salary surveys, signing up for industry alerts, and accessing compensation tools are all made possible by cloud-based technology solutions.
  9. Organizer
    Being a compensation manager takes a lot of work and effort, but none of this will be enough if one is also not highly organized. Compensation managers can tap into technology tools to set up an organized system for tracking compensation and benefit data and putting reminders out there for meetings with key decision makers.
  10. Equalizer
    When it all comes down to it, the best compensation managers see themselves as the “equalizer” for their organizations. That is, they focus on keeping things fair for employees and for the company in order to stay profitable. They work with leaders to ensure that they are meeting the needs of employees while they focus on the future growth and success of the company.

In order to stay on top of a job as a compensation manager, take the time to recognize how the above skills come into play. Work on strengthening any that are lacking, read through best practices found here, and be the best compensation manager you can be.

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