Mastering repeat survey participation

January 18, 2019

Most HR professionals know about compensation survey data and how it can enhance their employee management efforts. Many also know that by participating in these surveys, they can further maximize the value of the results they get. That’s because whenever HR professionals participate in a survey, they go through the enlightening process of analyzing their company’s structure and jobs in order to match them to positions found within the survey, increasing their understanding of how their workforces and remuneration structures compare to the market.

But what many people don’t know is just how easy it is to participate in these compensation surveys, especially after the first year. After all, for many clients, it’s that first year that’s the most cumbersome simply because it’s a new learning experience, and it takes time to understand how the organization’s jobs stack up against the vendor survey positions. Naturally, every year after that should get progressively easier, assuming you don’t switch between vendors (which is a very inefficient way to do your salary benchmarking). Indeed, with repeat participation, you’re sure to find a host of efficiencies and benefits, but you’ll also want to be aware of the things that may change on an annual basis if you want to truly get the most out of your efforts. Here’s everything you need to know about repeat participation.

Benefits of Repeat Participation

  • You’ll receive pre-populated survey submission materials. As a repeat participant, most survey data vendors will provide you with pre-populated data fields, saving you the hassle and time associated with starting from scratch. With Mercer, pre-populated submission materials are typically provided to repeat participants, and they are a great timesaving vehicle, especially if a new or different employee is compiling and submitting the data. With the new survey, simply verify the constant contents of the submission materials, changes from prior year (such as new survey jobs), and understand any changes in your organization, then, make changes wherever they’re necessary, match new jobs, and submit.
  • You’ll get streamlined job matching. Even though repeat participation allows for more familiar job matching, clients should never rely solely on job titles to guide their efforts, even if it’s their second, third, or fourth year of participation. Because of annual changes, clients must also analyze the content of the job — that is, its description — to ensure that it really matches up to their own jobs. Many organizations store Mercer job codes in their system so they can easily access each year. In addition, Mercer is aiming to standardize and consolidate a vast portion of its data in the upcoming year with Mercer Job Library, an intuitive new framework that will make repeat participation even easier. Though survey participants will certainly appreciate the consistency in job titles/descriptions across all markets, employment levels, and industries, survey participation is also a great time to check that all of your reported jobs have been appropriately matched/re-associated with the corresponding positions.
  • You’ll have a better understanding of where to source your data. This can be as simple as knowing what you can extrapolate from your own HRIS compared with what data needs to be mined from other individuals at your company. In some situations, you may even have an export setting already created for specific surveys. Ideally, you’ll know exactly where to get the data you need, while others within the company will know what data is expected from them, saving everyone time, energy, and hassle.
  • Discounts! Of course, one can’t mention the benefits of survey participation without bringing up the savings. Discounts are a mainstay perk of participation, and the savings you receive on the most valuable salary benchmarking data only get better and better with each passing year. Mercer also offers savings via membership programs for repeat participants.

Tips for Repeat Participation

  • You should understand how your internal changes affect your data. It’s inevitable that changes will occur within your organization over the course of a year, but don’t forget to consider these changes when you’re submitting data. For example, if your company has restructured its IT department, this will definitely need to be modified in your next survey data submission to ensure appropriate job matches for your salary benchmarking. If you have previously participated, a major (or even minor) company change like this should be top of mind when you return for another year of participation. One of the most hazardous things repeat participants can do is simply select “Same as Last Year” without appropriately reflecting on their internal changes.
  • You must look out for external changes in the surveys you’re taking. Most HR data vendors make at least a few changes or updates to their questions each year to ensure that survey data stays as relevant as possible. Your data vendor should provide the necessary guidance on the changes and how they specifically apply to your company’s data; but savvy participants should still check that their submission is current and accurate and take the time to look each year and see what is different. For example, there might be some new jobs added to the survey that more accurately reflect your internal infrastructure than what you selected the year before. Or, conversely, the descriptions of a job you matched might be altered from the previous year. Again, these are all reasons not to simply select “Same as Last Year”! Mercer typically will highlight survey changes in the questionnaire.
  • You must know where your data gaps are. If you are a regular participant, then you’re probably familiar with the data that you get from the surveys you participate in, and you may even have started to notice some data gaps that you need to start addressing. If so, good! Just remember that only a participation veteran is going to have the intensive insight to see what company data gaps need to be filled, as well as what survey products can be used to fill in those gaps. With every year that you participate, you become that much more familiar with the process as a whole, which improves the quality of the data reported.
  • A particular survey may not meet all your needs. Over time, you will start to understand the reach and limitation of your vendor’s data. Instead of exhaustively searching for the survey (or grouping of surveys) that will give you the highly customized data you seek, there may come a time that you need a custom designed survey. This typically means that you might work with a survey vendor to conduct a survey on your behalf or investigate other custom surveys that might be available for your specific needs. If you are a regular participant, your vendor may even reach out to you to participate in a custom survey commissioned by another company, and therefore, you might be able to get access to narrowly focused data to use to your company’s benefit. In the end, it’s all about getting the best, most relevant results for your company.

Just remember that every year of participation makes it easier to submit your information and to stay adaptable to these changes. You gain efficiencies and value throughout the process.