Compensation Survey

One of the most asked-for data sets among county officials is comparative salary and wage information for benchmark positions.  County Commissioners, as policymakers, typically want to know how their officials and employees are compensated relative to peers in other like-organizations.  At the same time, county officials and employees want to know how their salaries and wages (and benefits) compare to their peers in other counties.  Truly everyone has an interest in compensation equity.  The question is:  how is this information best collected and reported so that it serves the interest of policymakers and employees?

Several years ago, the Association worked with an outside party to annually mail a fairly lengthy survey questionnaire to counties, asking that someone complete the survey of 50-60 benchmark positions by hand, reporting the salary ranges (typically, minimum, midpoint and maximums), as well as the incumbents’ salaries or wages before mailing it back to the KAC office.  While this worked, it was a very paper-intensive process on our end.  Compiling a single report meant using an entire ream of paper.  Compilation of the data was a gigantic project. Problem was:  the report was hardly printed and changes were already occurring, rendering the data in the report old.

Just a few years ago, the KAC transitioned to a subscription-based, online compensation survey system.  We searched and settled on an online system designed and maintained by Technology Net, Inc., (sometimes called “Tech Net”), a Utah company.  So, how does the current system work? Here is a quick overview:

  • The KAC has a license agreement with Tech Net in which, on behalf of our member counties, we have purchased the rights for designated persons (I sometimes refer to them as “correspondents” as they are our direct point of contact for the compensation survey) in participating counties to enter their compensation data (salaries, wages, employee benefits) for all benchmark positions into a database built and maintained by Tech Net.
  • Technical assistance to subscribing counties is offered by Tech Net partners.  They are real people with real knowledge about compensation practices.  Their names and telephone numbers are as follows:

Mike Swallow: 801.269.8977

Ken Topham: 801.230.3692

County “correspondents” need only call either Mike or Ken, identify themselves as the point of contact for their subscribing county in Kansas, and then spend whatever time is necessary by phone to answer their questions.

  • The compensation data reside in the cloud.  Subscribing counties, through the person designated, enter their data into the online database. The same person can also retrieve data by downloading compensation data in the form of reports.  The reports can be designed to pull data for like-counties, i.e. other counties with similar characteristics such as population, assessed valuation, etc.   As such, there exists no annual paper document summarizing compensation information for all benchmark positions.  If a county wants/needs data on only 2-3 positions, or 50-60 positions, the process is the same.  Obviously, the more counties who participate in the survey, the more robust is the data set.
  • Currently, in 2018, 38 counties have subscribed to receive the benefits of the online compensation survey system.  The annual subscription fee is $175.  If 90 counties participate, the KAC recovers its annual subscription fee of $15,750.  If fewer than 90 counties participate, the KAC must subsidize the system and the long-term viability of the system is weakened. 

What if the person who is entering the data or trying to retrieve the data through a report gets “stuck?”   That’s where Mike and Ken come in!  Mike and Ken are the persons to call to get “un-stuck.”  There is no need to spend anxious hours looking at a computer screen wondering how to enter or retrieve compensation data when Mike and Ken are as close as a telephone call away. Also, the KAC has broadcast webinars explaining the online compensation system which are available. For more information on the webinars, contact Dennis Kriesel on our staff (kriesel@kansascounties.org).     

Could the online compensation survey system program be simpler?  Possibly, and Tech Net is working on ways to simplify the look and feel of the database.  However, as for all data systems, keep in mind that “simpler” sometimes means that the system is not as functional as it could be and therefore less capable of meeting the needs of the users of the data.

Summary

Just like organizations handle all kinds of information, we build systems to help us handle increasingly complex data.  While compensation data are rather straightforward to some, there are nuances to consider.  Without considering some of the nuances, we can stray into the field of comparing apples with oranges or comparing unlike jobs.  This serves no one well. 

I invite all 105 counties to subscribe to the online system.  The annual fee is $175.  The fee is a bargain if it allows the governing body to make better, more data-driven compensation decisions. As of this writing, the following 38 counties subscribe to the system:

Northeast KansasNorth Central KansasNorthwest Kansas
AtchisonChaseEllis
JeffersonDickinsonGove
JohnsonGearyGraham
NemahaJewellPhillips
Unified Govt. – WY/KCKMarionRussell

SalineTrego

Washington



Southeast KansasSouth Central KansasSouthwest Kansas
BourbonButlerFinney
ChautauquaHarveyFord
CoffeyKingmanKearny
CrawfordKiowaLane
FranklinPawneeSeward
LyonRenoStevens
Miami
Sedgwick

Montgomery