Labor Market: Challenges and Complaints

Up to this point we have looked at how to make the labor market survey process successful.  We have discussed the questions to ask, how to structure the survey based on the information desired, and how to ensure the analysis gives us what we want.  Now, I want to turn toward some of the challenges that we all face when interpreting and relaying the market information.  Any time numbers are involved and we fail to receive the result that we hoped for we start to question the numbers.  It is similar to when the losing coach questions the officiating after a loss occurs and explains his or her team’s lack of success within the context of the calls made on the field.  If we do not receive the outcome we anticipated or meet our goal, we question the process. This trait is so ingrained in us that it is easy to make that argument before even seeing the results of the analysis.

What are the most common complaints? There are three that come to the forefront the most often:

  • Our organization is unique
  • My job is unique
  • Things have changed

Our Organization is Unique

One of the most common statements I hear from employee groups is that their organization is completely unique.  Although most organizations have some unique components, processes, or structures, most organizations have more in common than unique characteristics.   Part of our very human nature is to define ourselves through a complex identity related to place, group, and interests.    This instinct or comfortable perception helps us feel part of something and is an important part of most organizational cultures.  Nevertheless, while it is beneficial for organizational cohesion when present at the organization- wide level, it does not define the labor market place only the organization’s placement in the market.  In other words, as unique as we want to be in the market, all it does is define our perceptional positioning among new hires and our turnover rate among those seeking new opportunities.  As a result, uniqueness does not preclude our organization from market forces, it is just one portion of what helps place us in the market.

My Job is Unique

The typical follow up to the first concern is regarding the individual jobs of the organization.  Basically, the comment is normally something like: “no one does it like we do work here, so you really can’t compare us to anyone.”  Most of us want to believe we offer something that combines unique skills and abilities that could not be found in another living soul.  Again, this is part of the identity definition we all create of ourselves.  Most analysis shows that there is more variation in jobs than organizations.  A common cause for job uniqueness that has been exacerbated by the recession is job blending.  As most organizations shrank their workforce, the number of tasks each employee performed increased.  In some cases, the increase was more volume, but in others it was new tasks outside of the typical work assigned.  The best ways to address blended jobs in the survey process is to collect data for components of the jobs and use the highest paying as the comparable or combine and weight the components.

Things Have Changed

A survey of any type is a snapshot in time.  The market is always changing.  If during your process you feel the market has changed significantly since the snapshot was taken, then aging or adjusting the data may be necessary. Another more time consuming option is to recollect the portion of the data that might have changed.  A good rule of thumb in calculating the impact of change is to examine the amount of elapsed time and the cost of living change during the period.  The cost of living amount can be utilized as a multiplier to “age” the data.  Another option is to examine a secondary survey collected more recently and examine where the reviewed jobs fall in the newer survey.

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