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Every working person has wondered at some point, "Am I getting paid enough?"
It’s a natural enough question. The bigger the employer organization, the more likely they are to use formal salary grids that may have little correlation to the jobs being performed, much less any reasonable connection with the impact of individual employees. If you’re a superstar in your group, is the corporate salary grid flexible enough to pay you appropriately for the results you’re achieving, rather than the pay grade you’re in?
It’s not likely. Compensation grids aren’t built to be flexible – just the opposite. They’re designed to bring an employee into a new job at a ‘starter’ level and slowly move him or her up the pay steps. The salary chart that governs your compensation progress in most organizations is disconnected from both the external talent marketplace and the business results attributable to an individual’s contributions.
The disparity between a working person’s compensation progress as s/he stays in the same job and a more mobile employee’s trajectory moving from place to place is so apparent that we have a name for it: salary compression. Doesn’t that sound cozy?
Salary compression means that you would have been better off compensation-wise if you’d jumped from job to job rather than sticking it out where you are. When you remain in place and serve your employer like a loyal team member, your paycheck suffers.
That’s a harsh reality to deal with, but the worst possible reaction to the realization that your annual pay may be wildly out of whack is to ignore it. Forewarned is forearmed, and it’s a good idea for every working person to tune in at least annually to make sure that your paycheck is keeping pace with the value of your resume.
At Human Workplace we look at compensation from three altitudes: Ground, Hilltop and Cloud.
At the Ground level, we ask the question “What do people earn performing jobs similar to yours?” This is an easy answer to get using websites like Salary and Payscale. You’ll be prompted to enter a bunch of personal details but if you persevere you’ll be rewarded with a report that tells you what other people are getting paid to do jobs like the one you’re in now, or the one you’re looking for.
The Ground-level annual salary check-in is important to make sure your pay level is on a par with other people who have similar skills. The limitation of the Ground-level salary comparison is that it can only tell you what people get paid for doing jobs like the job you have or are looking for. Why should your earning power be limited to a particular job function? You have lots more to offer than what any one job title requires. Certainly you have abilities that employers may value far beyond what a given job title (and thus, a particular column in the salary chart) commands.
To get a higher-altitude view of your earning potential, forget about your skills and experiences for a moment and focus on the Hilltop view. To do that, ask yourself “What business pain do I solve?” Once you’re clear on that answer conceptually — realizing, for instance, that you help unknown brands find national prominence or you get stuck-in-development projects through the chute and out to market – your next question is “What does that business pain cost organizations?” Get a bead on that, and you’ll have the intelligence and impetus you need to negotiate a package that may surpass the prescribed job-title-driven salary niche.
The third element in your comprehensive Comp Self-Check is the Cloud level view. At the highest altitude, you’ll ask “What is my earning potential as an entrepreneur, consulting with organizations or starting my own business?” Now your paycheck is limited only by your own vision and mojo. If you haven’t worked for yourself before, 2014 is the perfect time to launch a business alongside your full-time job, or cultivate a second revenue stream using a Two-Lane Highway strategy.
If you’re thinking “I don’t have time to research and then quibble over a few thousand dollars,” here is a tip. A few thousand dollars’ gap between your actual pay and your talent-market value not only compounds over time, but also brands you as someone who doesn’t know what his or her talents are worth. Learning to gauge, present and stand for the value of your contribution is an essential new-millennium muscle every working person needs to grow.