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    Developing Your Employee Compensation Structure

    The Relationship Between Job Descriptions, Salaries and Basic Employee Benefits

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    Develop an attractive employee compensation plan to hire and retain the best employees. When developing your compensation structure it is important to understand competitive salaries by profession and/or industry, basic employee benefits, and the relationship of job descriptions to salaries.

    Employees want to know how they can progress (through increased responsibilities and increased salary) in their jobs and within your business; they want a road map that will give them directions in terms of getting where they want to go.

    As much as it amazes me, employees will talk about their salaries to other employees. If you have not developed a salary structure and/or if you are not using a salary structure, this could cause significant turmoil in your business (if employees hear and believe they are not being treated equally or fairly, they will naturally be unhappy).

    Once you have a salary structure in place, review it with employees (not necessarily all the salary levels but rather where the employee 'fits' in the structure and what the employee would need to do, or learn, to move up in salary or benefits).


    In building your employee compensation and basic employee benefits program, look at your industry.

    A number of industries publish compensation surveys - salaries by profession (including basic benefits such as medical and dental but also including more tangible benefits such as phone, laptop, and car expenses). Also look at industry trade magazines and industry associations; they often conduct compensation surveys. Lastly, do not overlook the advantages of outsourcing to human resources firms who may have previously conducted a salary/wage survey in your industry and/or who you can hire to do a survey.

    As a small business owner, you do not need to re-invent the wheel; you need to search for the employee compensation and basic employee benefits data that is available, assess that data, and apply it to your situation as appropriate.

    Recognize that in order to compare your jobs to the jobs in the compensation surveys, you will need to have written job descriptions. Salaries are developed using a job description; this is the starting point for building your employee salary structure.

    Depending on the unemployment rate, the number of qualified candidates for your job, the area you operate in (businesses in remote areas often are challenging) and the need for specific job skills and training, you may need to provide or offer more than the compensation surveys indicate.


    Employee Compensation Examples:

    For example, if the average hourly wage for a skilled and experienced welder is $18 per hour, but there is a shortage of welders, you may want to structure your salary range for that position as:

    • $15 per hour for a junior, with limited experience;
    • $18 per hour for an intermediate, with good experience and skills;
    • Up to $23 per hour for an outstanding individual, with excellent experience, skills and knowledge: or $18 as the base and a $5 per hour incentive for hitting specific productivity targets.

    If you develop a progressive salary structure like this that is related to skills and experience rather than time on the job, than you must build in tests and/or standards to assess the individual's capabilities.

    Do not assess on gut feel alone: you may be incorrectly influenced by an individual who can 'talk the talk', but who cannot 'walk the talk'.


    Job Descriptions Salaries Benefits and More

    Salaries, wages and benefits must meet legal requirements in your area: many countries control and set minimum standards for hourly wages and benefits. If you are unsure what the standards are in your state, province, or region, contact your local government office or check out your local government website.

    Basic employee benefits that are often mandated by law are paid vacation, paid statutory holidays, overtime wages, pension plans (in some countries), unemployment insurance, workers' compensation. Benefits that are not mandated but are becoming more common are health and medical insurance, disability insurance, pension plans, extended vacations, leave of absence due to death in the family, sick leave, and more.

    It is important not to become overwhelmed by all the tangible employee compensation and benefit structure and costs that make it difficult for small businesses to compete with big business for good employees, but instead to develop an offer package for recruiting employees that is more than salary and benefits; such as job sharing, telecommuting, 4 day work weeks and 10 hour days, and other job elements designed specifically for the employee - and your business.

    And remember that once you've hired your employees, you want to train and develop them to be high performers, and then you will want to retain them. A strong compensation plan will help you hire and keep the best people.

    There are many good resources and specialists in this area of human resources. Contact one of the many capable employee compensation and/or employee benefits consultants available in your area if you need help or use the Contact Us form on this site for a referral.


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    Increasing New Employee Success

    New employees have a better opportunity for success when you provide a strong orientation for them on day one.

    But follow up on that orientation, make sure that they understand what's expected of them and that they have the training and the support to do well.

    During the first week, set aside some time each day to check in with them and debrief; listen closely to what they have to say and see if they highlight areas of business or process improvement: sometimes new employees see things that existing staff just don't see anymore.

    Be sure to communicate progress and expected results regularly. Provide a written summary performance review after the first month - not at the end of the probationary period - by then it may be too late. Make sure the summary provides both the good results and the areas for improvement - with feedback on how that improvement can be achieved.

    Communicate the organization's plan for the future and how the employees contribute to those plans and mission.

    Make sure that the culture of your organization is one that attracts the type of people you want working for you. Assess your environment objectively - or hire someone to come in and do an employee survey or assessment for you.

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    Performance Evaluation Best Practices

    Provide feedback regularly and consistently (and frequently for new employees or those that appear to be struggling).

    Recognize good work openly and in front of other.

    Consider poor performance as an area for improvement: focus on only one or two improvement areas at a time.

    Provide employees with the opportunity for input into their evaluations - this should not be a one-way communication effort, rather it needs to be a two-way effort.

    If there are action items that come out of the performance evaluation, and typically there need to be some goals or actions in each evaluation, then follow up - do not wait for a year to go by to check in.

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