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New Zealand money Americans have many ways to find the going salary rate for a specific job in a specific town. According to Lifehacker the most prominent are Glassdoor.com, PayScale, SalaryScout and Indeed. There’s no equivalent source of information for New Zealand.

The best to date is the Robert Walters information for Auckland and Wellington  available on seek.co.nz. The numbers are vague – with wide bands. Only a limited number of job titles are listed.

Nevertheless, you should be able to find enough information to make an informed guess about the going rate for a job from this data. What you won’t find is enough specific data to help you negotiate with a skinflint boss.

TradeMe also offers salary information. There’s a single page of data in the salary guide. You can drill down on the various categories to get more specific information.

Again, the data is more of a guide than a negotiating benchmark. Unlike Seek, TradeMe appears to take its data from listed jobs. The job categories don’t always match exactly. This makes it hard to compare the two sets of data. The salaries for communications jobs:

Seek results for Auckland

Job Title permanent contract
min max min max
Communications Manager 60 100 30 50

TradeMe provides even less information at the top level

Marketing, media & communications median pay $57k  range $35k – $100k

Clicking on the link gives the median pay and salary range for eight more specific job categories. You can find pay information in New Zealand. But it’s hard work.

Cloud computing, all about counting those pennies?

Employers in knowledge industries rarely talk about pay. They prefer remuneration.

Perhaps the idea comes from the early 20th century when Britain’s upper classes thought discussing money was vulgar.

Another explanation is employers live in a pretentious management-speak world where they use sesquipedalian – if you want to use that one at a dinner party make sure there’s no food in your mouth – words in the vain hope of impressing or intimidating the plebs.

Some recruiters belong to a generation who read the Reader’s Digest. They soaked up the fancy words from “It Pays to Increase Your Word Power” while waiting to have their teeth fixed.

The real reason they use long words is they aim to flatter and distract us.

Remuneration sounds posher than wages or pay.

There’s an implication that once you’ve progressed to the lofty heights of remuneration you no longer worry about petty things like checking to see if you’re paid a fair wage or going home before midnight.

To be fair, pay is just about money, while remuneration can mean a package of money and benefits. Mind you, some employers used to call this ‘a package’.

Nevertheless, the only way you can measure the real worth of remuneration is by converting everything back into cold hard cash.

In the good old days most Australian and New Zealand workers belonged to unions. Pay rises were negotiated centrally. Employers paid a fixed hourly rate for the job, higher rates for overtime and that was that. Each year the union representatives and the management would lock themselves in a smoke-filled room. They would order rounds of take-away sandwiches and hammer out an agreed pay rise.

Of course the process could get nasty. Strikes, lockouts, mass-sackings and even riots were not unknown. Pay bargaining was even tougher in America where negotiation sometimes involved guns. Generally negotiations would settle with an agreement that saw every worker in the organization getting the same percentage pay rise.

The managers negotiating with the unions  often got the same pay rises as union members. In those days merit pay and bonuses were relatively rare. As a young manager in the UK, I was once put in this position myself. Guess how hard I was with the union negotiators during that pay round?

Negotiate benchmarks

Also, non-unionised workers, or workers belonging to less powerful unions often got pay rises close to the rates negotiated by the stronger groups. A powerful group would establish the ‘norm’ and then everyone else would use this the benchmark when starting their negotiations.

In countries like Australia, Britain and New Zealand individual pay bargaining of earlier years gave way to centralised pay negotiations in the 1970s. Union leaders still trooped into smoke-filled rooms, but instead of facing local company management they would parley with members of the government and industry heads.

The economic reforms that swept the English-speaking world in the 1980s and early 1990s saw centralised bargaining give way to a system where individuals increasingly had to negotiate their own terms. New Zealanders went on to individual contracts. Many Australian workers – particularly those further down the pecking order were still reliant on centralised negotiations until relatively recently but most white-collar workers and polo shirt-collared knowledge workers have to handle their own negotiations.

Status quo

Employers prefer the new status quo because it allows them to reward valued employees more than people who contribute little to the bottom line. On the whole this is a good thing that few knowledge workers will argue with – during the boom years we all did well out of this system. Some of us did spectacularly well.

However, from our point of view the down side of individual salary negotiation is that it puts a lot of power in the hands of the employers. That’s because of the asymmetric information flow inherent in one-on-one salary negotiations. Information is central to any negotiation – if one side has better or more complete information that the other party, it is at a distinct advantage.

Companies usually have a policy of ensuring staff don’t talk to each other about their salary packages. In some companies, including places where I’ve worked, disclosing details of your remuneration with other staff is regarded as a serious offence. Of course employers have access too their company pay data so they can compare your package with other employees – they often also have access to pay information from other companies in their sector. Sometimes this is informal, though there are organizations that collect and sell salary data on an industry-by-industry basis.

You won’t get far finding this kind of information from job advertisements. Recruiters are often coy about salary levels. They don’t want to alert existing employees to how much extra they would be prepared to pay newcomers. You don’t often get to know what the salary for a job is until you are at a late stage of the recruitment process.

Armed with information

If you are a prospective employee, you need to get as much salary information as possible before entering negotiations. Indeed, you need to know if it is even worth bothering to negotiate. Likewise, if you are looking to negotiate a pay rise from your existing employer, you need to know what other people doing the same job elsewhere earn. This benchmark gives you useful ammunition. It also lets you know whether you should stay or move to a new position should your negotiation fail.

As far as I’m aware, there’s no equivalent of salary.com in Australia and New Zealand (if you know of one then email me). Salary.com is a US site. It shows data about what other people with your skill set earn in any  city or region.

The nearest thing I’ve found is when private research is published in a public forum. New Corporation’s Careerone often publishes this kind of data. Here’s an example of salary information for Australian jobs. Hays Recruitment offers some New Zealand salary information here along with more Australian data. If you hunt carefully you can find other sources. I’ll share any such similar sources that Knowledge Worker readers send to me.