How to use salary survey data

Salary surveys are a hugely useful tool for HR professionals and employers. When used effectively they can provide information that can prove critical in making sure a business’ recruitment and retention strategy remains competitive.

Our Greater Peterborough Salary Survey, produced in partnership with Paydata, is a great example of a salary survey that provides reliable and accurately analysed data on local salaries. The 2016 survey, for instance, analysed base pay trends and benefits provision at 24 local organisations, which employ some 5,000 people in Greater Peterborough.

With the results of our latest salary survey now available, I’ve suggested a few questions we think every HR professional should ask before using a salary survey to ensure the data is relevant to their recruitment and retention:

What will you use the salary survey results for?

It is important that you are clear on your objectives when using salary survey data. It will help to guide you towards the information that is of real benefit to your company. For example, consider whether you will use the salary survey to inform:

  • company-wide salary changes or benefits provisions;
  • department specific salary assessments;
  • the introduction of a new role and its base pay,
  • or local recruitment.

For each of the above examples you would be looking to use different data sets to provide you with useful information. For example, to assess benefits provisions you would require a salary survey that looks beyond base pay and also offers data on benefits such as holiday entitlement and private medical provision.

Is the data reliable?

Some salary surveys may not be conducted or produced by survey experts, resulting in the data being unreliable or misleading. It’s important that you know:

  • how the data is gathered;
  • the number and type of participants,
  • and whether the data is analysed alongside other data sets to corroborate its reliability.

What role does a salary survey play in management decision-making?

Always use salary surveys alongside managerial judgement. Salary survey data can be hugely useful but only when it complements managerial judgement. Whenever considering salary changes, also look at factors such as:

  • the individual’s contribution;
  • the risk to your business that any salary change could pose,
  • and how the business as a whole and specific departments are performing.

Have you got all the information?

It’s always worth checking that you’re receiving all of the information available to you in a salary survey. For instance, with our Greater Peterborough Salary Survey participants receive exclusive access to a break down of base pay per job role.

Participants can also attend a Pay Club meeting where experts from Paydata and the local HR community discuss the results and delve deeper into what they could mean for local businesses.

Do you know what sort of data to look out for?

Always note that market ranges (e.g. year-on-year comparisons) presented in salaries for base pay are generally considered more robust than those relating to variable pay. This is partly due to the way that data on bonus and incentive payments lags behind the market because it reports on the last bonus or incentive paid.

Have you checked the relevancy to your organisation?

There are many different types of salary survey out there. Some may focus on one industry, others may look at particular sectors and some, like ours, will look at local businesses.

Always make sure you know what type of companies participated in the survey and check the data is still relevant to your objectives. For example, if you want to analyse whether your salaries are competitive at a local level (great for recruitment purposes), then choose a local salary survey that includes a range of local companies.

If you’re interested in finding out more about how we conduct and produce our salary survey or are interested in participating in future surveys, please read more here or call us on 01733 235 298.

About the Author

Anne Corder

Anne Corder


Whilst still actively handling recruitment assignments, Anne specialises in Human Resources with many years of experience in that sector. She blogs on wider recruitment issues affecting both candidates and clients, commenting and offering tips and advice to help achieve the right outcomes.