The Value of Robust Salary Benchmarking Data

Note:  This article was originally published on the People In Aid website.  It was written by Ben Emmens, Director of HR Services at People In Aid.

A report on the NGO Local Pay workshop, 15 November 2011, Nairobi, Kenya.

I was privileged to be in a workshop in Nairobi on 15 November, with colleagues and close to 50 participants from 40 organisations based in Kenya and East Africa. The purpose, to discuss benchmarking pay and benefits, along with global reward issues, and to build capacity, community and confidence.

We heard of many significant issues for those working on reward issues, including the challenge of:

  • Communicating issues around pay, benefits and broader reward, including where the organisations is positioned in the market compared to peers
  • Managing compensation in an economy with a persistently high inflation (close to 18%)
  • Managing the transition (in terms of compensation) from staff in national roles to international roles
  • Being flexible with compensation when organizational structures and policies can often be rigid or inflexible
  • Shifting the culture and understanding of reward as more than cash (dollars, shillings) to one where reward is seen more holistically (total reward)
  • Managing the many variables (pay increments, cost of living increases) when salary costs are linked to budgets that are fixed for specified time periods (e.g., 3 years)
  • Being consistent with reward policy across different countries and regions, especially when the NGO is part of a federated structure and other affiliates or members of that ‘federate structure’ lead on pay and projects in other locations.

In the face of these challenges, what became clear was the enormous value of robust pay benchmarking data. Oxfam GB shared a case study of how they had used data to influence senior management decisions relating to budgets and salaries, and how the data enabled HR professionals to play a role of strategic partnership and respond credibly to the wider organizational context of scarce resources, reduced growth in unrestricted income and cost savings / efficiency programmes.

At People In Aid, we are proud to partner with InsideNGO and the Birches Group to deliver affordable, relevant and robust salary surveys in more than 60 countries. With the economic turbulence set to continue, placing ever greater pressure on organisations to manage pay budgets and increases prudently and transparently, I am convinced that it is as important as it has ever been to invest a very modest amount in an annual local pay survey (country subscriptions available from as little as $595 or $525 for preferred partners). As Oxfam and many others can attest, a decent survey more than pays for itself in a very short amount of time, and in the hands of competent HR and reward professionals, it can deliver a healthy return on investment.

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