Your Local Wage Survey is a Gold Mine

Does your area have a local wage and/or benefit survey? Do you participate? You should! Here’s why and how. 

National wage reports are helpful to study the big picture of economic growth, but these reports might not (probably don’t) reflect the small picture of your business in your community. Further, a 2021 study found that U.S. workers may get 19% less than federal estimates:

Some tools, like CompAnalyst and SHRM, offer comprehensive data (for a hefty fee) that can be helpful in determining pay ranges and comparing company wage data to industry benchmarks. We use resources like these for some larger compensation analysis projects. Even still, we use data from the local wage survey to further validate and strengthen our recommendations. 

Community-based benchmarks are critical for organizations to attract and retain talent. Our area is heavy in aerospace and defense contractors, and the competition for talent is fierce. Many of these organizations rely almost entirely on the local wage and benefits survey to drive compensation decisions year-to-year. This year especially, organizations are looking for real-time information about how the wage and benefits landscape has changed in the last 6-12 months. 

Now, I’ll drop a note here to acknowledge that companies with multiple locations throughout the U.S. and/or multinational operations might have more limited local decision-making power. We work with many multinational organizations in our community, and the local wage and benefits survey is the most impactful resource for local leaders to demonstrate the need for changes to their top leadership. It might take longer to move the needle, but starting with meaningful, local data goes a long way. 

In support of my argument that local wage and benefit data is invaluable, we regularly receive questions from businesses, chambers of commerce, economic development agencies, local governments, etc., about wage trends in our area. This data is not just for wage decisions in individual companies; this data is used in city and county economic and workforce development decisions. 

Below is a snapshot from a report we recently provided for the local chamber. They wanted to know if there had been an increase in median hourly wages, particularly in manufacturing.

The wage and benefits survey we administer annually collects aggregate data for Production, Maintenance, and Warehouse positions. Comparing the local wage data as of 01/01/2020 with local wage data as of 01/01/2021, we were able to discern if and how much hourly wages grew for these job categories. This information helps business and community leaders make informed decisions to attract and retain people and their families. 

So here’s my point: local wage surveys benefit you personally

…as an employee who wants to be paid fairly 

…as an employer who wants to attract and retain talent 

…as a citizen who wants to live in a thriving community 

If you hold a role at your organization with influence over internal compensation decisions, or even if you don’t, I encourage you to participate in local wage surveys on behalf of your organization. When more businesses participate, the data is more robust and meaningful for individuals, organizations, and communities. 

If you aren’t sure if your local community offers a wage/benefit survey, a good place to start is your local economic development agency (EDA) or chamber of commerce. For our readers in North Alabama, you can learn about our work with local wage and benefit surveys here.


Jillian Miles Massey

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