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How to set salaries that keep your top staff satisfied

By Sandra Lavoy


Other than during the initial job offer and perhaps an occasional pay increase, most managers don’t typically always have their staff’s salaries top of mind.

But that’s not the case for employees, of course, who typically know exactly how much they’re making – or want to make.

Are they happy with their wages, or are there rumbles of discontent?

Robert Half recently surveyed more than 550 professionals across Canada to answer that very question. A slim majority of respondents (51 per cent) said they’re being fairly paid in their current job – but a sizable 47 per cent feel they’re underpaid. Also, some of the latter group might be top performers – employees who would be very difficult to replace if they left your company.

If you believe salary information doesn’t get around, think again. Although companies with an open salary policy are in the minority, websites like Glassdoor broadcast how much certain companies pay their employees – and your people are likely going there to compare. Those who end up feeling underpaid and, thus, undervalued – may not stick around for long.

Benchmarking salaries for HR professionals in your city and industry can go a long way toward keeping your turnover rate low. What’s more, word gets around about companies that pay at or above market rates, which makes recruitment that much easier. This is especially relevant for HR specialists hiring skilled workers in accounting and finance, IT, construction, manufacturing and healthcare.


Salary benchmarking – the easy way

There’s no need to survey peers in other organizations to find out what they pay their employees – if they’d even tell you. Luckily, the 2019 Robert Half Salary Guides have done the legwork. Using data based on thousands of actual placements by specialized recruiters across Canada, the guides provide detailed salary figures and ranges in the fields of accounting and finance, administrative support, legal, technology and creative services. These user-friendly publications allow you to easily see where your company’s salaries sit on the spectrum – and how competitive they are when stacked up against others in the field.

Location also has a large influence on compensation rates. The Salary Guides list national averages, but the local variances provide the data to adjust wages for a particular city. The online Salary Calculator does the math for customizing salaries by city.


The power of benefits, perks and incentives

Very few full-time jobs today provide just salary and nothing else. An organization’s compensation packages likely include a basket of benefits and more – but how do they compare with what other employers offer? Companies need to be able to compete on this front, as well as salary, to keep their best people. Look at what companies tend to offer, then compare that to what employees really want. Those in-demand extras, such as RRSP and telecommuting options, are where compensation packages can really stand out. A strong bonus structure can also inspire employees to amp up their job performance – and encourage great candidates to join your firm.

The Salary Guides help here, too, also covering benefits (assistance with basic needs), perks (special extras, usually not monetary) and incentives (motivational awards, typically monetary) most offered by companies today.


Soliciting staff feedback

One-on-one surveys of employees can also provide useful insights into how satisfied or dissatisfied they are with the compensation they’re receiving. Past Robert Half research has found that some workers would rather find another job than ask for a raise. This means organizations may not even know if staff are unhappy with their salary.

One way to find out is encouraging managers to bring up the topic during a regular check-in meeting or performance review. They could ask, “Do you feel like you’re being fairly compensated for the work you do?” or “On a scale of one to 10, how satisfied are you with your current salary?” If they would like to make more money, but don’t quite have the skills or experience to justify higher compensation, the manager could talk with them about in-house training opportunities or professional development options.

You could also send out a questionnaire – preferably with anonymous responses allowed – to get honest employee feedback on their compensation.

Feeling that management appreciates their talents and contributions is a major driver of workplace happiness. That sits heavily with salary, so make sure personnel are adequately compensated for all they do to keep your company strong and competitive.

Sandra Lavoy is a regional manager for Robert Half.




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