"HR pays well" they said... but what constitutes "well"?

Hello everyone,

I have recently learnt a curious fact, that you can look up anyone's salary freely in Norway to ensure an absolute tax and reward transparency. Whereas in the UK the topic of pay has always had a tinge of controversy, coupled with being mildly squirmish when asked about own pay. 

My angle on this is a little different. I have seen people on this forum say different things, such as "HR pays well" or "Well, we're obviously not in it for the money..." 

... which brings my question. What constitutes "well" for you (in the UK)? I know there will be regional discrepancies, but overall, what would you say is a good salary for an entry, mid and senior level HR professional? Is it £20k, £30k, £100k?

I wish I could make this into bands and put in into anonymous survey mode!

  • Hi Maria,

    Look at GlassDoor, you can find out whatever you want regarding salaries. Really useful resource.

  • In reply to Teresa:

    Thanks Teresa - I use Glassdoor like a bible ;)
  • In reply to Maria:

    To be honest (and its only my personal view) I treat Glassdoor the same way I treat the bible - the source of interesting stories but not necessarily a work of fact to be relied upon
  • In reply to Maria:

    Given Keith's remark, that is probably wise.......
  • In reply to Keith:

    Jobs have popped up on our Glassdoor page that we don't have (Research scientist was one. We really don't have any of those) and salaries that are considerably higher than we actually pay. I contacted Glassdoor about this as I thought it would cause upset amongst current employees and they refused to amend it. They said the information came from a reliable source.
  • Surely, as HR professionals, we should be the first to understand that a truly good compensation package is about a great deal more than the number at the bottom right of the payslip.

    HR is well rewarded if:

    1. We get to do a job we enjoy and which gives us satisfaction.
    2. We feel our advice is valued and we contribute meaningfully to the success of our organization.
    3. We have a sense of personal control over our workload.
    4. We have opportunties to learn and develop.
    5. Our work aligns with our personal values and aspirations.
    6. We have enough time not working in which to build relationships and enjoy experiences.
    7. We can pay our bills and plan for the future.

    Only one of those has anything to do with the number on the payslip.
  • In reply to Robey:

    Robey, I couldn't agree more and I also value all those things, of course. However, from a practical (cynical) viewpoint, when I am applying for a new HR role, the one thing I can find out for sure before I start is the salary (if I'm lucky). I won't know if the role brings me a sense of satisfaction, control over workload, support from senior management etc until I'm two months in by which point I'm in far, far too deep. The amount of information you can tease out of your interviewers is extremely limited, and is also meant to be all about what I can offer and all about them, and anything you do get to ask will get a rose-tinted answer.
  • In reply to Keith:

    Hah, I agree, Keith. I read all that's there when I am researching a company, but I do find people are prone to exaggerating their pay sometimes, and HR people in particular aren't that keen on sharing their info, so often you'll see everyone else's pay data but HR's. Another thing is that whoever left the company and left a review may have been there 25 years and benefitted from long service pay awards, so what the company offers to new recruits could be drastically different (but you wouldn't know because most job ads don't publish salaries).

    From my workplace's Glassdoor things look pretty accurate from those people who reviewed us.
  • In reply to Maria:

    So to answer the exam question rather than the wider philosophical debate around intrinsic and extrinsic reward....

    I would say your best bet is to see if you can get one of the detailed salary surveys that look in depth at HR salaries. this will give you your best analysis of real salaries.

    My starter for ten (based on my gut instinct and no science) and perhaps slightly influenced by my South East centric views is that

    A good salary for an

    Entry level £18-22K. Higher in Central London. Higher end/higher if well qualified or part of some program/scheme.

    Mid level - harder as covers all manner of ills. A BP likely to be 45-65K. A smaller HRD (really BP) 50-70K. Specialist roles varied very widely

    Senior level  - Senior BP 55-80K, Small to Mid HRD 75-100K, Bigger HRD 100K+ Biggest HRDs 150K++

    Not claiming these are right just my gut instinct of where much of the market is.

    Certain sectors will traditionally pay at higher ends (Banking always used to) and certain towards lower end (public sector)

    At very senior end of market parts of the public sector are artificially capped at something like 120K where as comparable jobs in the private sector would be 20-30K more. 

  • In reply to Keith:

    Thank you, Keith, I much appreciate you sharing your views (I also have a London bias if I'm honest when I think about salaries).
  • In reply to Keith:

    Fair point, Keith.

    From here in the West Midlands, I'd agree with the entry point and senior values, but mid-level is much more variable. Similarly-skilled managers in either standalone or small-team leader roles can command anything from £21k to £50k.
  • In reply to Keith:


    Exactly! I wouldn't use it on an individual company basis because it's open to, shall we say 'bias' by current and ex employees. But as a general guide to salaries for a particular role in a particular area - such as H&S managers in Dorset - I've found it really useful. It's also good for comparing jobs, for example when planning a pay scale.
  • In reply to Robey:

    Wholly agree with you Robey. One of my hobby-horses is making sure that management and staff are aware of the totality of their package : cash elements, benefits (soft and hard) working environment, career opportunities..... Provided the cash elements are comfortably (but not excessively positioned) the factors that deliver retention are to be found in these other areas. Let's not forget that companies like Google and Microsoft pay fairly low salaries, but people are queueing up to work for them because of the working environment.
    Total Reward Management is seriously uder-utilised by companies and by HR so they rarely extract the maximul from the packages they choose to offer
  • In reply to Ray:

    because of the working environment

    Eh. From those I've spoken to, it's more because it's seen as a mark of excellence on a CV to have these names on it. Google, especially, is struggling because it recruits high-quality talent and then can't retain it because, once the employee has the professional "scalp" of Google they immediately begin planning their next career step.

    I gather than Microsoft has done a lot better in recent years by abandoning trendy Silicon Valley culture and being more data-led.
  • In reply to Robey:

    Indeed Robey, but remember that the modestly paid Google/Microsoft model accepts high turnover of people - it also benefits from fresh ideas and views cycling in and out of the organisation on a regular basis.
    The exceptions to this treatment are for those mega-talents with clearly identified potential to add major value. For this latter group little or no expense is spared in efforts to retain them. Consequently - from their point of view - not retaining ambitious people who are not in the "added-value/mega-talent" category is not a problem....
    Of course this voluntarily chosen model is relevant to Google/MS context and should not be blindly copied as (shock, horror) "best practice" - it is simply "best fit" for them in the context they face today :-)