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Article | Beyond Data

Four steps to convert survey data into action

Compensation Strategy & Design|Total Rewards
Beyond Data

August 2021

Data is the key to making a compensation plan that attracts and retains critical talent.

Having access to high quality and reliable compensation survey data creates a competitive advantage for your organization. It's a valuable resource that can help you create and maintain relevant, high-impact compensation programs that will solve various workforce and organizational management issues. You can leverage the results to generate insights, guiding your organization's pay decisions that will impact workforce effectiveness and productivity and, in the process, support business success.

Now that your data is available, it's time to turn those results into action. Here’s how you can do it.


  1. 01

    Source it

    First and foremost, you need to identify your specific compensation data needs. What problems do you need to address and what information do you want to know? Knowing the answers helps bring clarity to the specific data you need as you review the survey results. For example, when benchmarking pay trends for a particular job function, you could choose to access data-cuts from your immediate industry, a competing industry, or a specific geographical cut.

    For a more targeted approach, you can also choose to define a peer group report and pick the talent competitors that you lose talent to or attract talent from. Benchmarking other elements of Total Rewards such as long-term incentive (LTI) and short-term incentive (STI) levels or benefits, for example, will also help you ensure that what you’re offering is market competitive.

  2. 02

    Evaluate it

    Once collected, it's time to study and understand the survey results. Initially, you will want to understand at a high level how the market has moved and then start to drill down into different functional areas, contribution levels and by job. If you have dedicated compensation software to support the analysis, a quick update of the benchmarks you have previously created will enable you to see where you need to focus your analytical time and effort.

    Without dedicated software, you will need to develop Excel lookup tables and complex year-over-year analyses to understand market movements to find the insights and answers. In such a circumstance, collating the data for analysis can be a laborious task – especially when working from home across a VPN and likely only a laptop screen. Either way, your aim at this point is to define where to focus – which businesses or functions are struggling with pay issues and why.

  3. 03

    Analyze it

    Having defined the most acute issues, the insights you've collected at this stage should give you a better understanding of what's going on in the market such as the demand for hot jobs and their corresponding pay trends, or how current external factors are influencing pay. These insights can help you gauge what interventions might be needed to maintain market competitiveness and how much that is going to cost the organization.

    Numerous circumstances can cause changes in the market that drive new talent and pay trends. Most recently, the global COVID-19 pandemic has changed some talent markets possibly permanently; climate change risk is driving new trends; and, innovations in your industry will be driving demand for skills. Analyzing the data for these trends helps you understand the impact on your organization. "The demand for digital skillsets" is the headline and it seems insatiable, but the specifics need to be understood so you can pivot quickly to address skills shortages and talent leakage to ensure your digital transformation journey is not interrupted.

    Over time, these changes will create patterns that become valuable insights, helping you better understand market behavior and tendencies. Studying these changes and their impact will give your organization the chance to forecast issues and develop appropriate responses to mitigate risks.

  4. 04

    Act on it

    Now that the insights are in, it's time to decide and act on them. Where should you spend your limited budgets to get the most for your money. The balance between market competitiveness, individual or team performance and internal equity is always at the forefront of compensation strategies. Affordability and the principles you’ve set out in your reward strategy will help you strike the right balance as you consult with your finance and leadership teams to develop a strong business case using the data and insights you collected.

    Data is key to the business case, but so is your ability to build that data into a story that creates a compelling case for your compensation spending recommendations that will support your organization’s ability to attract and retain the talent it needs to drive your business forward.

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