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How PayScale prepares you for market salary survey participation season

Topics: Comp Strategy

In order to attract and retain top talent, sophisticated compensation professionals rely on employer data beyond the salary history of their own company. Where do they get this data? Not from free internet searches. Although internet searches on salary can give you a rough approximation of what a position is worth, the information is high level and usually based on keyword searches that serve up a close approximation based on job titles, which aren’t always accurate. In addition, free internet salary data doesn’t adjust compensation for all compensable factors, such as geography, specific skills, or company size. The salary ranges suggested also don’t tie to your business’s compensation strategy, which might dictate that you pay in a higher percentile for some positions that are critical, but less for other positions based on what you need to grow as a company and your compensation budget. In other words, to really be competitive in a tight labor market, you need reliable salary market data garnered from what actual employers are paying actual employees for actual positions — ideally for your same industry, location, and company size. This data isn’t available for free on the internet, but it’s a demonstrably better foundation upon which to conduct compensation planning and make salary adjustments for employees, especially top performers. Where does this data come from? Typically, it comes from two places: verified crowdsourced data from employees taking online salary surveys and global HR consulting or research/advisory firms who query thousands of companies just like yours to share their salary data in what is called a market salary survey. In the case of the latter, after employer salary data has been gathered, it is then made available in a compensation report for purchase by all participants as well as other employers who need the information to inform decision making. Here are two examples of salary surveys:

You can also purchase market salary surveys that look at a more granular pool of employer salary data, such as industry-specific surveys, regional specific surveys, or occupational specific surveys focused on particular jobs such as healthcare practitioners or information technology positions.

Salary Survey Participation Season for Mercer

PayScale has a partnership with Mercer that allows PayScale customers to integrate purchased Mercer salary market data directly through PayScale’s compensation management software as well as processes that streamline the salary survey participation process. February through May is the salary survey participation season for Mercer. This is the time of year that PayScale customers who are currently utilizing or want to utilize Mercer’s salary survey data in addition to their own company data and crowdsourced data can participate in the survey process in order to receive the research report at a discount when it is released at the end of summer or early fall. The popular US MDB: Mercer Benchmark Database survey opens February 3, 2020 and closes April 3, 2020. Mercer also offers other salary surveys, with participation dates staggered throughout the spring.  For example, other compensation surveys currently open are the US Contact Center and Customer Service survey, which looks at compensation and benefits for customer service professionals in the front line of communication with customers. There are also industry-specific surveys open, such as the US IHP – Health Plan Compensation Survey, which looks at compensation in the healthcare sector, including base pay, incentive, total cash compensation, and total direct compensation for positions in healthcare organizations. Finally, there are policy and practice surveys that dig into some of the particulars in managing compensation, such as car benefit polices or digital talent intelligence. A complete list of Mercer market salary surveys with their opening and deadlines can be viewed on Mercer’s Participation Station.

Why You Should Participate in market Salary Survey Season

If you are a PayScale customer wondering whether it is worth participating in market salary survey season, the answer is yes, absolutely. One reason that you should participate is that the more organizations who do, the stronger and more accurate the salary market data will be for everyone who uses it to inform their compensation strategy and business planning. It is also a compensation best practice to have multiple sources of salary market data, which you can get holistically through PayScale’s compensation software solution suite. If you are a customer of PayScale who has purchased Mercer salary market data through PayScale, you need to participate as a stipulation of your contract. Requirements for other third-party salary survey vendors will depend on the agreements with those specific vendors, but generally speaking, it’s less expensive to participate in market salary surveys than to not participate if you are going to end up purchasing the data in the report. Salary survey data providers have a scaled system for pricing their research. Non-participants pay more for salary survey data than participants, usually two or three times as much.  This is necessary to ensure participation from more organizations, which is what makes the data valuable. As an example, according to Mercer, 2020 pricing for the US MDB: Mercer Benchmark Database survey is as follows:

Learn More About Our Compensation Software



  • 2020 US MBD Excluding Manufacturing and Operations — USD 9,350
  • 2020 US MBD Including Manufacturing and Operations — USD 10,250


  • 2020 US MBD Excluding Manufacturing and Operations — USD 18,700
  • 2020 US MBD Including Manufacturing and Operations — USD 20,500

Now that you understand the benefits of participating in third-party market salary surveys during survey participation season, the next hurdle to get through it making sure you have time to get it done.

What Do You Have to Do to Participate?

For the most part, participating in salary market season means getting your data submitted to the research partner by the due date. Again, as an example, the US MDB: Mercer Benchmark Data survey opened February 3rd and closes April 3rd  for 2020. However, the deadline sometimes gets extended to ensure as many participants as possible, so if time slips by and you aren’t ready, don’t despair. You may get a grace period. The schedule is important to note because market salary survey participation isn’t a small effort. At least, it’s not a small effort if you are not a PayScale customer. Without a survey management tool (like that which is available with PayScale MarketPay), the survey participation can be a long, manual process that eats up a good part of your work week and can take many weeks to finish with all the other things you have to do. To participate, you have to do some other things first. There are prerequisites to getting started that can be just as time consuming as the survey participation itself.  For example, you first have to get of your jobs priced and your employee data refreshed. There is usually an “effective date” date required for this (and it’s not six months ago) so you should plan on doing it as close as possible to survey participation season. There are also parts of the survey that require custom answers. Too often, by the time customers have been notified that salary survey participation is coming and have completed the above, the deadline to participate has passed. Then, when it’s time for the data to be published in a report, the customer not only misses out on not getting their own data into the survey but also must pay the higher fee for not being a participant.

PayScale Makes Salary Survey Participation Easy

Fortunately, PayScale makes the salary survey participation process easy. Our service teams can help you by exporting a pre-configured report that you can paste into the template provided by your third-party salary survey vendor of choice. We are familiar with the template structures of most market salary survey research firms and the reports we provide include their incumbent and job matching data, which is usually the most time-consuming part of filling out the survey. If you are a PayScale MarketPay customer, you can self-service this report right from the tool, and if you use Mercer for your salary survey data through PayScale, you can manage the whole process in an online portal with instant validation. It is even possible to automate parts of the process through integration with employee data in your HRIS system. Finally, if you are a participant in PayScale’s Company Sourced Salary Data survey, you don’t need to do anything for participation as we already have the data we need from your account. In summary, if you are preparing for salary survey market season and are a PayScale customer, there are a number of ways that we can assist you to make the process as smooth and painless as possible.

  • Templates – We can provide a pre-configured report exported from your data and mapped to the specific requirements of the third-party’s spreadsheet.
  • Preview – We can export a snapshot of your employee data to ensure that jobs are appropriately bench-marked so that when you export the whole thing, you can be reasonably assured that it is accurate.
  • Migration – If you are moving job data from previous years into a new year, we can help you move your priced jobs to the newest survey results when they are published
  • Self Service – If you are a Market Pay customer, you can pull a report yourself from the self-service portal.
  • Resources – Our customer service teams have seen it all and can connect you with compensation experts and support specialists to see you through the process

After the survey participation season is over, the data is aggregated and analyzed. The reports usually come out in late summer or fall, between August and October.  PayScale customers who purchased Mercer as part of their compensation management software solution suite will automatically get the report when it is released. Want to learn more about PayScale’s compensation management solutions? Contact us for a demo.      

Amy Stewart
Sr. Content Marketing Manager at PayScale
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