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Pay Systems

19 January, 2016 - 15:28
Figure 6.3 Sample Pay Scale for General Federal Jobs 

The first method to pay grade is to develop a variety of pay grade levels.  Figure 6.4 "Sample Pay Scale for General Federal Jobs"shows an example. Then once the levels are developed, each job is assigned a pay grade. When employees receive raises, their raises stay within the range of their individual pay grade, until they receive a promotion that may result in a higher pay grade. The advantage of this type of system is fairness. Everyone performing the same job is within a given range and there is little room for pay discrimination to occur. However, since the system is rigid, it may not be appropriate for some organizations in hiring the best people. Organizations that operate in several cities might use a pay grade scale, but they may add percentages based on where someone lives. For example, the cost of living in Spokane, Washington, is much lower than in New York City. If an organization has offices in both places, it may choose to add a percentage pay adjustment for people living within a geographic area—for example, 10 percent higher in New York.

One of the downsides to pay grading is the possible lack of motivation for employees to work harder. They know even if they perform tasks outside their job description, their pay level or pay grade will be the same. This can incubate a stagnant environment. Sometimes this system can also create too many levels of hierarchy. For large companies, this may work fine, but smaller, more agile organizations may use other methods to determine pay structure. For example, some organizations have moved to adelayering and banding process, which cuts down the number of pay levels within the organization. General Electric delayered pay grades in the mid-1990s because it found that employees were less likely to take a reassignment that was at a lower pay grade, even though the assignment might have been a good development opportunity. 1 So, delayering enables a broader range of pay and more flexibility within each level. Sometimes this type of process also occurs when a company downsizes. Let’s assume a company with five hundred employees has traditionally used a pay grade model but decided to move to a more flexible model. Rather than have, say, thirty pay levels, it may reduce this to five or six levels, with greater salary differentials within the grades themselves. This allows organizations to better reward performance, while still having a basic model for hiring managers to follow.

Rather than use a pay grade scale, some organizations use a going rate model. In this model, analysis of the going rate for a particular job at a particular time is considered when creating the compensation package. This model can work well if market pressures or labor supply-and-demand pressures greatly impact your particular business. For example, if you need to attract the best project managers, but more are already employed (lack of supply)—and most companies are paying $75,000 for this position—you will likely need to pay the same or more, because of labor supply and demand. Many tools are available, such as, to provide going rate information on particular jobs in every region of the United States.

Another pay model is the management fit model. In this model, each manager makes a decision about who should be paid what when that person is hired. The downside to this model may be potential discrimination, halo effects, and resentment within the organization. Of course, these factors can create morale issues, the exact thing we want to avoid when compensating employees.

In addition to the pay level models we just looked at, other considerations might include the following:

  1. Skill-based pay. With a skill-based pay system, salary levels are based on an employee’s skills, as opposed to job title. This method is implemented similarly to the pay grade model, but rather than job title, a set of skills is assigned a particular pay grade.
  2. Competency-based pay. Rather than looking at specific skills, the competency-based approach looks at the employee’s traits or characteristics as opposed to a specific skills set. This model focuses more on what the employee can become as opposed to the skills he or she already has.
  3. Broadbanding. Broadbanding is similar to a pay grade system, except all jobs in a particular category are assigned a specific pay category. For example, everyone working in customer service, or all administrative assistants (regardless of department), are paid within the same general band. McDonald’s uses this compensation philosophy in their corporate offices, stating that it allows for flexibility in terms of pay, movement, and growth of employees. 2
  4. Variable pay system. This type of system provides employees with a pay basis but then links the attainment of certain goals or achievements directly to their pay. For example, a salesperson may receive a certain base pay but earn more if he or she meets the sales quota.

How Would You Handle This?

You have been working for your organization for five years. After lots of hard work, you are promoted to sales manager. One of your first tasks is to develop goals for your sales team, then create a budget based on these goals. First, you look at the salaries of all the sales staff to find major pay discrepancies. Some salespeople, who perform equally well, are paid much lower than some sales staff whom you consider to be nonperformers. As you dig deeper, you see this is a problem throughout the sales team. You are worried this might affect motivation for your team if they find out what others are making. How would you handle this?

How Would You Handle This?

The author discusses the How Would You Handle This situation in this chapter