Not literally – consultants are generally good people. But their marketing teams might be sharing information that is making your job harder.

In the Fall, media outlets love to publish storied about the raises American employees can – or shouldn’t – expect. This article was in December, citing research from one firm’s salary increase survey. Every other major consulting firm had a news release or blog post summarizing their projections for 2018 pay increases (see here, here, here, here, and many others).

Guess what?

They all say the same thing.

That’s not a new thing. These same surveys have been reporting 3% for the U.S. for many years. So much so that every American worker knows it.

Lucky us, the compensation professional, who then gets to try and convince managers to give some people 2% so they can give that great talent 5%… when they know each person getting 2% is going to be upset. This is the premise behind the previous post about the annual merit process being broken. Common knowledge about what companies intend to spend creates expectations that are hard to live up to.

I won’t even get into the underlying challenges with those survey data points – they are what compensation professional believe the budget will be, companies think differently about what types of adjustments are provided in the process that uses that budget (all promotions, or just discretionary promotions to people not changing jobs), the reported values don’t necessarily include compensation changes that happen outside the purview of the “merit” process (and if a company does a lot of off-cycle moves or internal promotions, that 3% merit pool actually goes farther)… ok, so I guess I have gotten into the challenges. Let’s just say it’s imperfect data to begin with.

So here is a big (and arguably better) idea.

Don’t report the budget size and the average increase. Report on the median increase – what only half the population is likely to get more than. This is nearly always lower than the average (3 2% increases to give 1 5% increase… assume same starting salaries. Average = 3% and median = 2%) and would set a better expectation.

What do you say, comp consultants? Help us out? Or as Dr. Evil would say: