What You Need to Know About Compensation Surveys
Used correctly, good surveys are helpful tools for setting fair and reasonable compensation.
What You Need to Know About Compensation Surveys

In the July/August 2018 edition of Church Law & Tax Report, Bob Cartwright, a seasoned compensation and human resources consultant, gives steps any church can use to create fair and consistent compensation packages. The following excerpt from Cartwright’s article explores the benefits of using compensation surveys as tools to help set and evaluate each employee’s compensation packages—along with a few cautions when looking for useable surveys.

Compensation surveys typically contain data about wages, incentives, variable pay, and often healthcare and benefits information, such as paid time off, sick leave, flexible work schedules, and other operational and administrative types of information.

Surveys typically compare jobs and employee wages and benefits by church, company, or organization size, according to job descriptions and position levels (entry, intermediate, and senior) and wages and total cash compensation paid in different geographic locations. They also contain valuable information that can be used for building compensation structures, to determine the organization’s competitive position in the local community, and to determine whether current church employees are receiving fair, reasonable, and competitive wages. Salary survey data can also be used by church leadership to plan for growth and for recruiting new, high-performing talent.

Here are the benefits of purchasing and utilizing a good compensation survey:

  • The assortment of data can be useful to your church leadership in discerning fair, equitable, and reasonable compensation packages for church employees.
  • Data for jobs/positions found with similarly situated employers include same size, location or region, revenues/budget size, and education and experience. Such compensation data can aid in benchmarking and in establishing a compensation plan specific for the positions held in your church.
  • Periodic reviews of your church’s current compensation plans can be helped by benchmarking jobs and comparing the latest survey information to your church’s jobs and compensation structure.
  • Standard, proven methods of data gathering and statistical analysis are used to determine how much other churches, nonprofits, or for-profits pay for a specific job. A number of organizations conduct salary surveys, including human resource and compensation survey businesses, compensation consulting firms, industry associations, educational institutions, state and federal governments, and custom-generated surveys.

However, before relying on salary surveys, church leaders need to understand the strengths as well as potential weaknesses of the surveys they consider using. Here are some cautions and concerns to note:

  • Consider the time it will take staff to research and evaluate valid and reliable surveys that can be used by your church.
  • After purchasing a survey, a church will need to put much effort into collecting its own data for making proper comparisons and determining benchmarks. There is also the problem of properly interpreting and applying survey data—which can be a significant problem for small staffs with little experience in reading and interpreting survey data.
  • Compensation survey report data is often collected for a specific time frame and may become dated quickly. Therefore, it is important to choose a compensation survey that’s relatively new so as to ensure its relevancy. (Because of the time-sensitive information, surveys are often identified by the month, quarter, or year in which the data was collected.)
  • Don’t immediately trust salary survey information—especially if you stumbled upon it during an online search. Surveys should be developed by a recognized professional HR resource or a compensation resource known for accurate and valid salary and benefits data. If that’s not the case, don’t trust it.

To ensure valid and accurate results, use at least two or more compensation survey data sources when comparing your jobs and setting your compensation structure. ChurchSalary is one viable option because it combines data collected for 18 different positions from churches nationwide and also incorporates information related to cost of living as well as comparisons with comparable roles from the for-profit and nonprofit sectors.

Bob Cartwright is president and CEO at Intelligent Compensation—a compensation, performance, talent management, and human resources consulting firm. Cartwright is a senior professional in human resources and holds the certifications of SPHR and SHRM-SCP.

This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is published with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations."

Due to the nature of the U.S. legal system, laws and regulations constantly change. The editors encourage readers to carefully search the site for all content related to the topic of interest and consult qualified local counsel to verify the status of specific statutes, laws, regulations, and precedential court holdings.

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