How to Conduct a Salary Satisfaction Survey

While easier said than done, surveying your employees about pay satisfaction is totally worthwhile for both parties.


Why to Survey Your Employees about Pay

Simply put, it’s a major help to know if your employees are satisfied or unsatisfied, especially with their compensation. Knowing allows you to be proactive and offer pay raises (or other perks), if necessary, in order to maximize employee retention and productivity. There’s nothing more costly, culturally damaging or stressful than constantly scrambling to replace lost talent and solve productivity issues, all because of pay.

The fact that we’re in a candidate-driven market only magnifies the topic of pay. An improving economy and declining unemployment rate means job candidates can be picky. Let them pick your job opening—and choose to remain loyal—by offering them the most competitive compensation. After all, pay matters a lot, especially to the generation that’s dominating the workforce: the Millennial generation.

When to Survey Them

OK, when it comes to when, be tactful. While it may seem logical to launch a survey just prior to a new year (or fiscal year), it’s probably not your best bet. Why? For a few reasons.

First, at year’s end, you’re probably focused on budgeting, planning, production and/or seasonal volume. Second, as a leader, if you are in fact focused on the former list, your employees need to be ultra focused as well. And chatter about pay during such a hectic time could be an unwelcome distraction. Third, whether you have 50 employees or 5,000 employees, you need sufficient time to build the survey, screen it, launch it, collect the data and analyze the data. Trust us, that process takes a substantial (yet justifiable) amount of time.

While the perfect survey time will vary from organization to organization, keep in mind the above points and consider other unique variables before deciding. Always lean towards a nondescript time.

How to Survey Them
Now, this part—particularly communicating the survey and constructing the questions—is challenging, but can be executed exceptionally well with the right approach. Fortunately, we’re here to share that approach with you via the following dos and don’ts:



Clearly and transparently communicate why you’re conducting a pay satisfaction survey, specifically mentioning that it’s anonymous.

Be ambiguous or come off as secretive when announcing and communicating the survey, failing to mention that it’s anonymous.

Thoroughly explain the what, when, how and why from the top down, holding management accountable for survey participation.

Be less than sufficient in your explanation of the survey and act (namely towards management) like participation is optional.

Allow employees to ask questions and address them in a timely manner, putting to rest any concerns they have.

Ignore employees’ questions, creating apprehension and confusion before they even take the survey.

Make multiple choice questions clear and concise, with little gray areas or safe “in the middle” answers.

Provide many “in the middle” answers that allow employees to avoid difficult “yes” and “no” answers.

Ask enough open-ended questions so that employees can speak their mind and you can collect data you may not have expected.

Fail to ask open-ended questions and provide employees a platform to provide more subjective compensation thoughts.

Form a team that analyzes the survey results in a structured environment, providing you clarity on what employees think and how you can act.

Mishandle the survey results by having an unorganized collection of people reviewing them, causing confusion on how to interpret results and act.

Take action, whether significant or insignificant, on a personal level (granting, or not granting employee raises) and a company level (discussing survey findings openly).

Fail to take action on a personal level and a company level, leaving employees wondering if the survey was pointless—and perhaps leaving them pessimistic about the future.

How to Analyze the Data

Here’s the bottom line: You need a predetermined and objective team that works together to identify and resolve issues. That team should be a diverse group of “leadership” level employees with a proven track record of dealing directly with employees.

The group will likely include members of HR, but may also include representatives from all other departments. This way, there’s a blend of perspectives and thoughts; if everyone shares the same perspective, it could create unconscious bias and stifle progress around employee pay.

As this team analyzes the data, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. One, whichever platform was conducted to use the survey, it should offer various ways to organize the raw data. Do this. Look at the data through as many lenses as possible. It can’t hurt. Two, look for patterns. Sure, you’re going to find answers and open-ended responses that are at the extreme ends of the spectrum (such as outrageous salary requests), but you’re going to find far more answers that are similar to other answers. These patterns tell the story of employee satisfaction (or dissatisfaction).

How to Take Action

Now for the most important part: What in the world do you do? The answer will be in the data, and will also be affected by many of your business’s financial variables.

To take action, it’s imperative that your team is on the same page, or at least in the same ballpark. Dissension among your team could lead to total discord later, which trickles up, down and all around, negatively affecting culture. Whatever it takes—like a deliberating jury—hash things out. Next, consider the procedure for rolling out whatever change you do decide to make. This is when the scope of the project expands beyond your original team. Which members of the C-suite must approve your change? What must managers know? How long will it take payroll to implement these changes? What does finance need to know? You get the point…

Dot all your I’s and cross all your T’s, then double check. You’re already heading in the right direction!

There are salary surveys, and there are actual salaries. We can help with the latter too. Get your free copies of our Salary Guides—you’ll know exactly what everyone on your team should earn!

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