The title of this post is the very reason why salary surveys, which are often as black and white and as number oriented as something can be, are often so fraught with emotion. When I survey the local market to place a competitive market value on a position or a set of skills, it is hard for the incumbents to not hear the results as the "value of me." This could not be any further from the truth.
Salaries and wages are purely business decisions. How a company chooses to position their wages in relation to the market is the result of considerations to include their business cycle, business goals, their ability to attract and retain quality candidates as well as their total compensation package. Some may choose to lag behind the market in base pay but make up the difference in bonuses, some may target their wage to be in the top 10% of the market, some may not be able to anything more than the stay above the bottom 10%. There are benefits and risks associated with each position or philosophy and as those are weighed, an informed business decision is made.
In the Federal Government, some of the decisions have been made for us (believe it or not!). We are funded by taxpayer money so we can not be a pay leader. Our position in the market is set for us. We can be market competitive and set our wages at the 50th percentile but no higher. Our flexibility is within our ability to define our market. Here is where we are particular about selecting the combination of facilities to survey that are similar in structure and design, that we compete with for employees and, because we are with commuting distance (albeit a longer one) of a major metropolitan area, we include facilities closer to the cities.
I know when I communicate the results of the survey, the elephant in the room will be the feelings of personal value. I know that, will acknowledge and respect that and will ensure I am able to explain the processes used and assumptions made. In the end, agreeing with my findings or not, they will know how I got to to where I am and that it is because we value our employees that we condut salary surveys. We value each and every employee and want to ensure each is compensated competitively for the job that they do.
Note: If you have been reading along with previous posts, the 7+ surveys I have in progress now is my "Task Number Four."