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1. I will get to the idea behind my post title in moment. Stick with me, please.…So lately I am really enjoying the Department of Labor Blog. 1 It is sneaky entertaining, marrying my all-time favorite HR topic (comp) with a recent love (labor and employment law).

To the former point, I high recommend checking out the DOL’s new post (here) on the highest paid STEM jobs and the (growing) market for them. For the curious: The highest paying STEM role in the employment market today is that of a Petroleum Engineer (clocking in at just under $150k), while STEM jobs as a whole have an average base salary of $85,570 – nearly twice the average of all other positions ($47,230).

With that said, I’m sharing this DOL post because it’s a great example of just how much where you work – as defined by region and industry – matters. From the piece:

For example, computer systems analysts who work in motor vehicle body and trailer manufacturing might make $58,940 a year, but computer systems analysts working in support activities for mining might make $118,770.


Besides having a high concentration of systems software developers, San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California, also was the highest paying metropolitan area for this job, with an annual mean wage of $138,410. Wages for systems software developers in other metropolitan areas ranged from $52,720 in Lafayette, Louisiana, to $124,220 in the Oakland-Fremont-Hayward, California, metropolitan division. At the state level, wages for this job ranged from $68,580 in North Dakota to $124,070 in California.

^We’re talking about more than a 100% differential in pay for (presumably the same job as defined by title) dependent on where one lives and/or what sort of business one supports. Data points like those above really drive home for me the fact that – unless you’re a company with insane margins like Google/GE/Exxon Mobil etc. – trying to compete for top of market talent by making pay the primary value proposition is a losing play over the long run. Instead, for most companies having a great employer brand has got to be first and foremost about being a place where people are empowered and inspired to do great work. Otherwise, sooner or later most of your top performers are going to leave your organization if you aren’t a market leader on comp, right?

…I feel like this realization is misunderstood based on the way that most employers sell their jobs, though. Maybe it’s because job descriptions are written by HR folks instead of Marketing folks, but too often companies try and sell opportunities on title/comp/benefits when they aren’t really leaders there. Or they sell on job scope, which is great if you have an exceptional opportunity open but less compelling if you’re filling the same job (on paper) as a dozen other firms.

…There is also a problem with many jobs on a structural level. I say this because most roles are designed in a purely utilitarian capacity as opposed to keeping an eye on engaging… and when I say engaging I don’t define that as needing to get rid of the mundane stuff that is (on some level) part of most roles; but I do think that if you want engagement and retention in your workforce over and beyond what you can incentivize through remuneration and security, that your employees need to understand how their work fits into creating/supporting the product(s) you’re selling. And they need a certain degree of autonomy in how they do their work.

I know this is table stakes/obvious stuff to some, but I it gets missed far too often (even though doing it right can really be a source of competitive advantage).

Just a Tuesday thought stream…

As always, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.