10 Steps to Organizing Survey Submissions

It’s survey submission season once again, a time that many have come to dread. But why? There are numerous reasons, but many of the HR professionals we’ve spoken with give the same answer: They just don’t have the time or the manpower to participate. This is particularly true in smaller HR departments. Each year, as HR is asked to do more with less, many organizations opt to not participate, even though they know full well that they need the valuable market data surveys provide.

While other market pricing options certainly are available, from our perspective the traditional survey is still one of the best choices. In fact, given recent legislative changes, market surveys may be more important than ever. In some states and locales, it is no longer permissible to ask for the salary history of an applicant, and this movement is gaining traction across the U.S. Some states now require organizations to publish the salary ranges of posted open positions. Developments like these only increase an organization’s need for accurate market pricing.

Of course, a survey is only as good as the data it collects. As fewer companies participate and choose only to buy the results, survey publishers must draw from an increasingly smaller pool, thus weakening its overall value. To encourage participation, many publishers offer customers discounted fees and/or additional services and features if they contribute. Some publishers have taken the extra step of making participation a requisite for purchasing the published data and reports. But these methods of encouraging participation can also have a negative impact. For example, some organizations may be tempted to make hasty submissions, providing just enough data to secure a discount.  This may be worse than not participating at all, as it can pollute the survey data. Remember that old adage, “garbage in, garbage out”? Nowhere is that truer than in surveys.

The good news is that survey submissions need not be onerous and time-consuming. A little organization up front can go a long way at making the process more manageable. We’ve put together ten steps that we are confident will not only reduce the amount of effort it takes to participate in a survey but will assure a more accurate data submissions.

1.  Limit the Number of Surveys

Don’t try to participate in too many surveys. This is one of those situations where quality trumps quantity. Unless you work for a large company with a broad spectrum of professions, you will most likely only need three or four high-quality surveys. If that still seems like too many, prioritize the surveys based on their importance to your organization. If you have only enough bandwidth to participate in one, it is better to make a sound submission to the survey which serves you best than it is to spread yourself too thin across multiple ones.

2.  Review the Survey Materials Thoroughly

This step is akin to reading the instructions and organizing all the parts before assembling a bicycle or a piece of furniture. Doing so helps to insure a smoother, more efficient process. Review all the survey submission materials up front. Make note of key dates and any resources or information you might require from others within your organization. Give these people sufficient lead time. You don’t want to be scrambling around at the last minute trying to meet the submission deadline.

3.  Complete the Policies and Practices Section

This is a key component of any quality survey. Without it, you and the survey publisher will not be able to properly align your data to the appropriate industry, company size, revenue volume or geographic region(s). When the data are published, this step will save you significant time during your market analysis.

4.  Match Survey’s Job Families to Your Own

We find when making job matches, it’s easiest to work within a job family, regardless of your company’s reporting structure. Review the jobs within each family. Make sure your matches are based on content and not simply the name of the job family.

5.  Decode the Survey’s Leveling System

Most surveys will have a document with the number of job levels used for support staff, professionals, management, etc. There should be an explanation for each level that defines the level of responsibility and the typical education/experience required. Understanding the survey’s levels will give you a good sense of how jobs across multiple job families align with one and other. For example, an entry-level accountant should have many of the same KSAs as an entry-level professional in Human Resources or Marketing, even if they are all paid differently.

6.  Align Survey Levels with Your Own

Determine how your organization’s own levels/grades match to those of the survey’s. Don’t expect an exact match. For example, your company may have four levels of professionals while the survey has only three. That’s okay. The key is to focus on the level of responsibility, education and experience requirements and determine the best match. If you don’t have formal levels, review your company’s jobs for consistent degree of responsibility, education and experience for various functions. For example, look at the level of responsibility and requirements for Analyst, Sr. Analyst and Lead Analyst. Look for consistency across multiple functions and develop a structure. Decide and make a note on how much of a discount or premium you want to assign for the differences. You’ll need this when the data come back.

7.  Create a Level Comparison Chart

Create a simple chart by function or job family that demonstrates how your company’s levels compare to those of the survey. (See an example in Figure 1 below.) This simple tool will prove to be invaluable when it comes time to match your jobs to the survey.

Figure 1:

Not all of the levels within in a survey will align perfectly with those of your company. In this example, the company has onlyfour grade levels of professionals, while the survey has a fifth level (P-5).


8.  Match Your Jobs Based on Content

Compare the content of each of your jobs to the survey’s job descriptions. Keep in mind how your levels match to the survey’s. If at least 80% of the survey job content aligns with your own, that is a good match. In some cases, you will have a job that has greater or lesser responsibility or requires more or less experience than the equivalent survey job. You should still match the job but indicate that your job is “lighter” or “heavier” than the survey’s. There should be an indicator in the survey for “degree of match.” Some jobs will not have a match in the survey, and that’s okay. Do not force a match, and do not match based on titles alone.

9.  Add Incumbent Data Last

Once you have matched all your jobs based on content, the guess work is over. Now it’s just a matter of “plug ‘n’ play.” Populate the survey template with your incumbent data for all the jobs matched.

10.  Review and Submit All Materials

Always perform a final review for errors and omissions. Some survey houses can be picky and will contact clients regarding any potential anomalies. Catching something upfront may save you a phone call.