The Role of Skills in Compensation Benchmarking: A Practical Guide

benchmarking salary compensation skills

By Yao Tang - Business Development

The goal of effective benchmarking is to ensure that an organisation's compensation structures align with the skill levels and expertise of their employees as well as promote internal fairness and competitiveness in the external job market.

In our last article we looked at the significance of acknowledging in-demand talent, or employees and candidates who possess so-called “hot skills”. In this article we’ll be taking a closer look at the role of skills at a broader level, to find out their relevance in the benchmarking process.

The role of skills in determining compensation

A basic framework for approaching skills in compensation benchmarking should consider the following steps:

  1. Identify key skills: determine the essential skills and competencies needed for each job role.
  2. Define skill levels: establish a clear framework for categorizing skill levels, such as beginner, intermediate, and expert.
  3. Job role mapping: match specific skills to corresponding job roles to create a comprehensive skill-job matrix.
  4. Gather compensation data: collect data on existing compensation packages for employees in each role.
  5. Skill-based compensation analysis: analyse how compensation aligns with skill levels to identify disparities and opportunities.
  6. Internal assessment: evaluate if the current compensation structure adequately rewards employees for their skill levels.
  7. Adjusting compensation: make necessary adjustments to compensation packages to ensure they reflect skill-based benchmarks.
  8. Competitor analysis: compare your organization's skill-based compensation with competitors to stay competitive in the talent market.
  9. Regular review: continuously monitor and update compensation packages to adapt to changing skill demands and market trends.
  10. Communication: effectively communicate compensation changes to employees to promote transparency and understanding.

While many of the above steps are the bread and butter of any efficient HR department, there are key steps that will also require external input. Finding a reliable and effective benchmarking provider is essential when it comes to establishing the market value of specific roles, related skills, and the rates paid by competitors in the market.

Skill-based benchmarking

What emerges from our experience in regards to how special competencies are translated into compensation models, is that specific skills or qualifications are a) not always reflected in a higher salary b) only rarely separately remunerated on a skill-by-skill basis.

Exceptions may be found when it comes to specific “hot skills”, often in the IT-realm, which may reflect in a higher salary or extra salary payment (though often only when this IT skill is actively deployed).  Even in these cases, there is not a direct connection between remuneration and specific skills, as:

a)       Unique & in-demand (i.e. scarce) skills at time of hire/promotion can over time become more ubiquitous in the market amongst more incumbents (and therefore would not require unique compensation).

b)      Additional compensation afforded a consultant for a unique/in-demand skill is difficult to retract once said skill becomes more ubiquitous.

c)       The exact number of skills acquired by an incumbent does not automatically align with the execution of some/all of those skills while the consultant is part of a consulting project, i.e. resulting in overpaying for unused skills.

What we can confirm from observation, is that specific skills are often a deciding factor in staffing the consulting position itself (as opposed to added remuneration). Skills are important in as much as they are linked to a particular role, but additional skills can also imbue an advantage to achieve greater success in the hiring process, and thus incur a more likely/faster career progression to the next career level(s).

Here at Vencon Research we approach our remuneration benchmarking analysis on a “type of consulting/advisory work” (i.e. line of business) basis, with the inherent understanding that incumbents are expected to have a wide variety of skills in order to be hired and perform their duties effectively. We follow a meticulous process of aligning a firm with the most suitable competitors, precisely matching job roles (while taking into account required skills), conducting business-oriented mapping, and incorporating appropriate compensation elements. This meticulous approach ensures that each of our clients receives the utmost granularity and individuality, optimizing their compensation strategy.

In this sense skills are essential determinants in defining job roles for accurate matching against competitors in the benchmarking process. However, with the exception of some "hot skills" they are not usually assessed as a value component of compensation themselves.

For more information on this topic or on how you may successfully respond to the issues raised in this article, please contact Vencon Research – as always, we are happy to assist you.