Not long ago, compensation professionals like me thumbed our noses at sites like salary.com, salaryexpert.com, payscale.com, and monster.com. We lived in fear that employees would discover these sites and use them to undermine the credibility of the company's formal pay program. Naturally, employees flocked to these sites and today large numbers rely on such data to validate the competitiveness of their pay.
Now that free salary data is an unavoidable reality, we must develop a strategy for dealing with it. The trick is not to shun these sites but to embrace the good ones, discourage the bad ones, and educate employees to tell the difference. Done properly, the salary information uncovered by employees on these sites will validate your company's compensation program, not undermine it.
The table below compares five popular salary sites on numerous important factors:
- Sites that publish data purchased from reputable compensation firms (i.e., Hay, Watson Wyatt, Towers Perrin, etc.). To my knowledge, salary.com is the only one that does this. (NOTE: Salary.com feeds their data to numerous other sites including monster.com.)
- Sites that use data generated from government agencies (i.e., Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration, and State employment agencies). Salaryexpert.com is one of these.
- Sites that publish data collected on their site directly from the general public (payscale.com and glassdoor.com use this approach).
Up until recently, I have been recommending to my clients that they use only one of the following two sources of salary data:
- Surveys purchased directly from reputable consulting firms i.e., Hay, Watson Wyatt, Towers Perrin, etc.). or,
- Sponsor their own custom survey when they wish to secure data from a highly targeted group of companies in their industry.
In the future, I plan to urge clients to use salary.com instead of Option #1. It is cheaper, easier to use, and highly reliable. Sponsoring their own survey (Option #2) is still the most valid approach, but it is also the most expensive.
In the future, when employees approach you with issues or concerns about their pay stemming from information acquired on the web, if salary.com (or sites whose data is fed from salary.com) is their source, it is worth considering. At this time, I recommend they steer clear of all other sites.