HR Compensation Looking Up in 2003

November 3, 2003 ( - Many HR professionals have been able to beef up their compensation in the last year - particularly top security honchos.

That was the bottom line of a new survey by Mercer Human Resource Consulting in conjunction with the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), according to a news release.

Topping the compensation charts was the position of top corporate security manager, which saw median total cash compensation soar 16% to $110,000. This is a result of the increased emphasis on corporate security over the past two years and the urgent demand for candidates with these skills, Mercer said.

Generally, the poll found that 2003 compensation movement was stronger than the year before for 12 of the most highly populated positions in the survey, representing some of the most common positions in HR. Of the 12 positions:

  • two positions experienced the biggest increases – 7.3% for senior human resource generalist and 7% for compensation manager
  • four saw pay increases ranging from 4% to 7%
  • three saw pay increases ranging from 2% to 4%
  • two saw pay increases of less than 2%
  • one saw a drop in pay compared to 2002 levels.

Among the same 12 positions 2002 compensation nudged up slightly for 11 of the 12 positions – typically less than 2% – and dropped slightly for the remaining position. The largest change among these 12 jobs over the year was a 4.2% increase for senior compensation analyst and general recruiter

Reflecting the growing use of HR service centers, senior HR service center representatives in 2003 saw compensation jump 12.7% to $42,900.

Several other positions experienced similar increases:

  • human resource specialist (up 12.3% to $45,000)
  • organizational development/training manager (up 10.9% to $102,800)
  • security specialist (up 10.7% to $38,000)
  • top corporate benefits executive (up 10.3% to $143,800).

Functional Compensation

The study shows that compensation levels within HR continue to correspond closely to functional areas (e.g., employee relations, benefits, training), particularly for professionals in middle and senior management. Among managers in HR, pay for executive compensation managers (median total cash compensation of $127,900) continues to outpace pay for all other managers. Also relatively high is pay for labor relations managers ($107,900) and organizational development/training managers ($102,800).

Executives with total cash compensation in the range of $90,000 to $100,000 include compensation managers, EEO/diversity managers, human resource managers, and HRIS managers. The next tier (median total cash compensation of $80,000 to $90,000) includes employment and recruiting managers, compensation and benefits managers, benefits managers, employee communications managers, and employee relations managers.

Managers with total cash compensation of less than $80,000 include training managers, relocation services managers, and payroll managers.

Another mid-level HR position – senior human resource generalist – also saw strong compensation growth over the past year (up 7.3% to $71,800). In addition to being the most common position in HR (accounting for nearly 7% of the 46,750 incumbents represented in Mercer’s 2003 survey), it is taking on added significance as organizations rethink HR service delivery models.

The findings come from 2003 Human Resource Management Positions , a module of the Mercer Benchmark Database. This compensation survey is conducted annually by Mercer in conjunction with SHRM.